Fall bird migration is beginning. Shorebirds are arriving daily and the appearance of northern waterthrushes (a warbler that doesn’t nest here) and peregrine falcons is a true indication that our feathered friends are headed south. Common nighthawks which are members of the Caprimulgidae (Goatsucker) family should be arriving soon. These are hawklike birds which capture insects on the wing with their huge mouths. They hunt in the daylight hours unlike their cousins, although the early evening seems to be their favorite time to move. They can often be heard before seen. Their call is a nasal “peent.”

Bird Sightings

This week I received several reports of erratic behavior by hummingbirds. First there were numbers of hummingbirds buzzing around people’s feeders and next they disappeared. It is not clear whether we are experiencing waves of migrating hummingbirds through the Island or that our resident and breeding hummingbirds are venturing forth from our feeders to sample nectar from plants on occasion. Usually the breeding ruby-throated hummingbirds leave the Island around the first week in September.

Jeff Verner has had up to five hummingbirds around his greenhouses in Edgartown. One puzzled him and me for quite a while. The hummingbird in question appeared to have a forked tail and until Lanny McDowell reminded me that the male ruby-throated hummingbirds have forked tails, which show up while perched, Jeff and I were trying to “make it” into a broad-billed hummingbird or some other exotic species. No such luck!

And the waves indeed may be starting. Flip Harrington spotted a peregrine falcon over the Allen Farm in Chilmark on August 7. The same afternoon Bea Whiting and I watched a peregrine fly over our heads by our garden at Quansoo.

Tim and Sheila Baird spotted a peregrine falcon as they drove down Atlantic Drive at Katama on August 19.

Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore watched a pectoral sandpiper picking insects off a dusty miller plant at Norton Point on August 7. They also spotted a single red knot amongst a flock of short-billed dowitchers.

Bill Buckley photographed a family of screech owls back on June 27 in Edgartown at the edge of the State Forest next to the Vineyard Golf Course. And speaking of screech owls, Gus Ben David received a screech owl that had hit a window about a month ago. Gus has cared for it and now feels that the bird is ready to return to the wild, so he will release it shortly.

Jules and Gus Ben David both commented that their tufted titmice that had been around all winter have disappeared. Gus and I feel that they will return after the insects have gone. Many species of birds switch from a seed diet to an insect diet when they are rearing their young to insure the proper amount of protein!

Whit Manter has been conducting a breeding bird census on the east side of Tisbury Great Pond. One interesting sighting he shared with me was of a male indigo bunting which was singing daily in the early morning by his mother’s house off New Lane. Whit was never able to spot the mate or any young. We hope the male will find a mate for next season.

Scott Stephens spotted a northern waterthrush at Duarte Pond on August 1st. Penny Uhlendorf was thrilled to hear two northern bobwhites around her house at Pilot Hill. She noted that they hadn’t heard bobwhites for years and hopes they are making a comeback! Scott and Penny were at the Katama Airfield on August 17 and spotted five whimbrels.

I took the Chilmark Community Center bird walkers to Tisbury Great Pond on August 18. We answered a question I posed last week. We counted not one, not two, but four marbled godwits on the flats. We also spotted two white-rumped sandpipers and both greater and lesser yellowlegs. There were still around six piping plovers feeding on the flats.

Shorebird goodies continue to arrive. Pete Gilmore and I spotted a Baird’s sandpiper in with semipalmated and least sandpipers at Black Point Pond on August 14. We also had a marbled godwit and ruddy turnstone at Tisbury Great Pond and had a migrating chimney swift fly overhead.

The same day Lauren Avery spotted a whimbrel, a lesser yellowlegs, a willet and American oystercatchers at Chilmark Pond. Offshore she saw a white-winged scoter.

Lindsey Allison and Peter Cory spotted a large flock of 14 great egrets at the Narrows on Cape Pogue on August 14.

Rick Stanton who was with the Coastal Waterbird Program last summer has returned for two weeks to work on roseate terns. He spotted a buff-breasted sandpiper up in the dunes at Norton Point on August 17.


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