I really wowed her with my aerial flight and super sputtering call. Sometimes I get dizzy flying that zig zag pattern, but it gets me a mate every time. It was a nice nest we built, on top of a utility pole in the open country in Idaho. My spouse helped me collect weeds, twiglets and grass which we fashioned into a nest the shape of a cup. We even lined the nest with feathers and animal hair to make a soft cushion for the eggs. My spouse laid four beautiful eggs which were off white with speckles of lavender, black and brown. Almost 20 days later the eggs hatched and for the next 16 days I barely remember a thing. My mate and I were so busy feeding the young I barely got any sleep! Our youngsters finally fledged and flew the coop. Now it was our turn to relax and to catch up on our sleep and feed ourselves.

I decided to wander a bit further east than I usually do. I got caught in a strong westerly blow and ended up in a place I didn’t recognize. I know I crossed over a big river at one point and then over more land and then came to a big body of water that seemed to have no end. The next thing I knew I was on some pretty yellow flowers on top of a cliff that was multicolored and had a strange round building that during the night flashed white and red lights. The food was plentiful, but I didn’t see any other western kingbirds around. If the food hadn’t been so plentiful, I might have been lonely — I was too busy hawking insects to mind being the only western kingbird around.

I remember my grandfather saying that his father once had flown far to the east and landed in a state called Massachusetts. That was in October of 1887. I found out later that the first time any of my kin arrived on the Gay Head Cliffs was in November of 1921. I also discovered that many other western kingbirds have been visiting Martha’s Vineyard annually since the 1920s. We even have remained on the Island for the annual Christmas Bird Count (1984) and one year remained at a feeder in North Tisbury until February 1953!

I think that I will head south soon as I hear the insects disappear here pretty soon and hopefully I can find other western kingbirds in Florida and if not, I know I can find buddies in western Mexico and Costa Rica. In the meantime I will hang around Aquinnah and feast on the insects here.

Bird Sightings:

The western kingbird was first seen in Aquinnah on Lighthouse Road by Warren Woessner on Sept. 2. It was seen again by Lanny McDowell, Allen Keith, Pete Gilmore and Katharine Colon by the Aquinnah Shop on the Gay Head Cliffs on Sept. 8.

Sept. 2 Allan Keith birded Squibnocket and spotted a northern waterthrush, an American redstart, three yellow warblers, a yellow-bellied flycatcher and both warbling and a Philadelphia vireos.

Robin Bray spotted a prairie warbler at Katama on August 30.

I received a nice e-mail from Terry Appenzellar catching me up on the bird life around Crystal Lake this summer. Her report included two pair of green herons that produced young and taught their offspring to fish and fly, a young belted kingfisher learning how to fish, and more recently a great-blue heron. The most fun for East Chop residents has been a juvenile red-tailed hawk which, like most teenagers, spent a good deal of its time shrieking. It learned to shake the water from its wings, although Terry described the move as a rain dance. The young red-tail even used the Appenzellar bird bath for a dip.

Lanny McDowell and Allan Keith birded Aquinnah again on Sept. 3. They had two Cooper’s hawks and Cape May, prairie and pine warblers.

Tim Simmons was at Black Point and spotted three whimbrel, one ruddy turnstone, an American oystercatcher, large numbers of tree swallows and four barn swallows on Sept. 4.

An upsetting but natural report from Chappaquiddick: Steve Feinberg called Dick Jennings to say he had found an osprey that had been decapitated. Dick Jennings contacted Rob Bierregaard and Rob verified that the death of the osprey was the work of a great horned owl. It seems that a great horned owl’s favorite food is brain and they will kill another raptor in order to provide them with this food of choice. Two other ospreys have been killed by being tangled in monofilament line. With the derby starting on Sunday, I hope fishermen will dispose of their monofilament line properly.

Tom Hodgson called to say that a young ruby-throated hummingbird impaled himself in the screen of his porch on Sept. 8. He gently removed the bird’s bill from the screen and the hummingbird flew off posthaste.

August 31 and Sept. 1 Chip and Susan Strang heard a screech owl at Quansoo. On Sept. 5 they spotted a tufted titmouse in their bird bath at Quansoo and a female redstart at Black Point. The following day they had hundreds of tree swallows and a great blue heron at Black Point. There have been 14 turkey vultures moving from the Fischer Farm in West Tisbury across Tisbury Great Pond and cruising around Quansoo and Black Point all summer.

Pete Gilmore and Lanny McDowell hit Katama on Sept. 7 and spotted nine golden plovers, one buff-breasted sandpiper and a female peregrine falcon. On Sarson’s Island they spotted a Foster’s tern.

Sept. 8 Allan Keith birded Aquinnah early and spotted a magnolia warbler and a mystery Empidonax flycatcher along with the western kingbird. He continued on to Katama where he spotted six golden plovers and then on Norton Point he hit a tern bonanza: two Sandwich terns, a black tern, two Foster’s terns, an Arctic tern and 120 common terns! He also spotted eight whimbrels and one red knot. Pete Gilmore and Lanny McDowell arrived at Aquinnah a bit later in the morning and found a brown thrasher, a Cooper’s hawk, common yellowthroat, bobolinks and Blackpoll and prairie warblers.

A great sighting by Whit Manter: he spotted a common nighthawk at Farm Neck on Sept. 8.

Rob Bierregaard e-mailed to say that Mittark and Penelope have left the Vineyard. One is in Rhode Island and the other on the Cape Cod. Homer is still on the Island! Maps will be updated soon at bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/migration08.htm.


Please report bird sightings to the bird hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail birds@mvgazette.com.