It is very weird for this Island girl to spend a week at 8,000 feet and walk in snow in June. Last week I attended the American Birding Association Conference in Snowbird, Utah.
The mountains were spectacular but so was Salt Lake. The variety of habitats I visited was mind-boggling.
The most stunning was a trip to Mirror Lake and Bald Mountain Pass. We drove for about an hour from Snowbird (which is located north of Salt Lake City.) We stopped at Bald Mountain pass which is at 10,700 feet. I was having a little trouble breathing at first. After a few minutes I became accustomed to the altitude and began to walk slowly to the base of Bald Mountain so that I might see some of the high mountain pass and boreal forest special birds. I was not disappointed as we spotted black rosy-finches high on Bald Mountain where these finches feed at the edge of the snow line. Luckily the day was bright and sunny and the birds were feeding so we were able to watch them through our spotting scopes.
Other birds we spotted were mountain chickadees (which unlike our black-capped chickadee have a bold white eye line), stunning all-blue mountain bluebirds, three-toed woodpeckers and pine grosbeaks, to name a few.
Antelope Island is the largest island in Salt Lake and is a completely different habitat from the mountains. The causeway to the island is an excellent place to watch shorebirds and we spotted snowy plovers and the most incredible sight of thousands of Wilson’s phalaropes swooping and rising in tight flocks. I had never seen so many phalaropes in my life. We also watched American bison and American pronghorns as well as rock wrens that sit on rocks and pump up and down and sage thrashers that perch on, you guessed it, sagebrush.
Salt Lake City, Snowbird and its environs are fascinating and provide some great birding, but it is great to be back on the Vineyard.
The walk-about continues. This time the pea hen was spotted in Basil Welch’s backyard near Menemsha in Chilmark. Basil also mentioned that the osprey nest on Chilmark Pond has at least one chick.
Lanny McDowell took a photo of a molting scarlet tanager at Waskosim’s on May 29, so the bird Sally Anderson spotted was probably a scarlet tanager, not a late-staying summer tanager. By the way, if you want to see Lanny’s photos in brilliant color, visit mvgazette.com and click on the Bird News.
It was Tim Judge, not Tim Church who spotted the black skimmer and various shorebirds at Sarson’s Island last week. Tim also thought he spotted a red-necked grebe at Quansoo on June 25. This would be a very unusual sighting and without others seeing it or photographing it, well . . . Additional sightings by Rich Stanton of the Massachusetts Coastal Waterbird Program include June 5, a blue-winged warbler singing by Chilmark Store; June 6, non-breeding laughing gull at Tashmoo; June 7, dunlin in breeding plumage at Black Point, and 50-plus bank swallows nesting at Lucy Vincent’s Beach and also a belted kingfisher nesting.
I received a call on June 18 from Pete Enrich to say that he watched a fledgling belted kingfisher struggling to get back up on the bank at Lucy Vincent’s Beach. These kingfishers nest in holes in the sandy cliffs. Hopefully the youngster will survive and we will see a family of belted kingfisher fishing around Chilmark Pond.
More Stanton sightings: On June 10, a willet foraging on Chilmark Pond and four roseate terns at Mink Meadows; on June 11, two ring-billed gulls at Quansoo and also a laughing gull in breeding plumage; on June 12, alder flycatcher were heard and seen at Oxcart Road in Aquinnah and at Stonewall Pond in Chilmark.
Rich also spotted two spotted sandpipers and a willet foraging at Stonewall as well as a salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow.
Stephanie Kelleher and Rich have been tracking prairie warblers for me. Stephanie has found prairie warblers singing at Cedar Tree Neck and Tashmoo. Rich has had them singing at Chip Chop, Lobsterville, Lambert’s Cove, Long Point, Scrubby Neck, Quansoo, Black Point, Chilmark Pond, and Hariph’s Creek in Chilmark.
Jean Levin and Trudy Dix were nicely awakened by a whippoorwill calling between 4:30 and 5 a.m. on June 27. Jean added that this is the first time in many years she had heard this nocturnal call in the Menemsha Heights.
Jean added that she watched a collection of common yellowthroats, cedar waxwings, eastern towhees and gray catbirds feeding on a cherry tree near her Menemsha house.
Tom Engley called to report seeing an adult bald eagle at Oyster/Watcha Pond on the 28th of June.
Clare Gesualdo called to say she had indigo buntings in her Edgartown yard around June 14 and had never seen them before. Thanks to Rob Culbert’s article last week, she was able to identify them. Clare also was thrilled to see Eastern bluebirds on the boxes that she erected six years ago.
Clair Rogers watched two black-crowned night herons hunting at the pond at the end of Fuller street in Edgartown on June 28.
Sarah Saltonstall reports that a great egret is still fishing at Lobsterville as of June 29.
Peter Cramer watched an adult downy woodpecker which was upside down on a tree, feeding a young downy woodpecker at Quansoo. It is a great time to watch bird behavior as many Vineyard nesting birds are feeding young. We have six baby barn swallows in one nest at Quansoo.
Please report your bird sightings to the bird hot line at 508-627-4922.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and the newly published Vineyard Birds II.