Last summer numerous greater shearwaters washed up on the South side of the Vineyard. A few of these birds were sent to Tufts Veterinary School for a necropsy to determine the cause of death. We finally received a bit of information on two of these birds. In both cases the cause of death was emaciation-they just starved to death. Nobody can determine why they didn’t have enough food. Was there a lack of food because the birds arrived earlier than the food fish due to warmer weather? Both reports showed that the birds were juveniles, so had these youngsters not learned to feed well enough to survive? It is rewarding, however, to know that the death of these birds was not due to oil or other chemical pollution.

Bird Sightings:

Rob Bierregaard reports that Homer, one of the first ospreys he fitted with a transmitter, is on his third trip south. Rob added that Homer was his hero!

Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens were birding at the Gay Head moraine on Sept. 16 and spotted not one, not two, but three blue-headed vireos. They also saw three different thrush species. The only one they could accurately identify was a wood thrush. They noted that great-crested flycatchers were still around at that time. The best sighting, however, was of a yellow-billed cuckoo. Following the wise suggestion of Scott’s mother, to never pass by a bench with using it, Scott and Penny relaxed on a bench on a rise along the trail by the pond at the Gay Head moraine. Shortly after they sat, a yellow-billed cuckoo landed in a tree next to them and proceeded to devour a caterpillar.

I checked with Bob Shriber and he and Vern Laux on Sept. 21 at Aquinnah spotted 2 mourning warblers, an American redstart, a yellowthroat, a yellow warbler and heard a northern waterthrush. They also spotted the lark sparrow and four American kestrels. Their best birds were four common nighthawks that flew over the Gay Head Cliffs at dusk.

Sally Anderson birded Aquinnah and Blacksmith Valley on the 22nd and had five brown thrashers, a house wren and two American kestrels. On Sept. 25 she returned to Aquinnah and spotted a western kingbird, three sharp-shinned hawks, a northern harrier, a brown thrasher and a number of northern mockingbirds.

On Sept. 23 Bob Stymeist came to visit Allan Keith and do some hard core birding for a couple of days. They started on Chappaquiddick and totaled 73 species highlights of which were:

Blue and green-winged teal, northern gannet, great and snowy egrets, osprey, sharp-shinned hawk, merlin and peregrine falcon, solitary sandpiper, willet, dunlin, short-billed dowitcher, 10,000 tree swallows, yellow, yellow-rumped, pine, black-throated green, prairie and blackpoll warblers as well as American redstart, northern waterthrush and common yellowthroat. At Katama Allan and Bob added American golden-plover, whimbrel and Wilson’s warbler. At Aquinnah American kestrel, hairy woodpecker, warbling vireo and blue-winged, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue and palm warblers were added.

On Sept. 24 Allan Keith and Bob Stymeist returned to the field and started in Squibnocket where they spotted gadwall and barn owls along with many other species. In Oak Bluffs they added wood ducks, black-crowned night heron, and in Tisbury a red-bellied woodpecker. A great couple of birding days before the rains!

Tim and Sheila Baird had a red-breasted nuthatch return to their feeder for the first time since spring on Sept. 29.

The release of the immature bald eagle by Gus Ben David was fabulous. Gus reported that Paul Schultz spotted the eagle feeding on a road-killed rabbit at Katama on Sept. 30. If anyone else spots the eagle, please call Gus or the bird hotline. Gus also reports that he has 8 wild wood ducks visiting him at the World of Reptiles and Birds.

Suzanne Kimball of Edgartown spotted a ruby-throated hummingbird on Sept. 23. Mary Lu Keep still had a ruby-throated hummingbird as of Sept. 26. So far this is the latest date for our little feathered friends.

Felix Neck birders can still enjoy willets and yellowlegs in the marshes and Coopers and Red-tailed hawks at the woodland edges as well as an occasional turkey vulture. The barn owls have all hatched and are wandering around in the box, not always in front of the camcorder. The red-breasted nuthatches have returned to the Neck’s feeders and woods.

On Sept. 30 several birders were at Aquinnah including Allan Keith, Lanny McDowell, Bob Shriber, LuAnn Johnson and friend Nancy Clum. The combined efforts included eleven species of warblers, four species of vireos, Baltimore orioles, yellow-bellied sapsucker, dickcissels, bobolinks, clay-colored and swamp sparrows and the first juncos of the fall. At Katama LuAnne and Nancy spotted two whimbrels and American golden plovers.

Later the same day Allan Keith had a scarlet tanager and a black-throated green warbler at his home in Chilmark.


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail

Susan B. Whiting is co-author of Vineyard Birds and newly published Vineyard Bird II and led bird tours for Osprey Tours for 30 years to Central and South America.