Katherine Colon and Laurie Walker three weeks ago reported a sharp-shinned hawk sitting leisurely on the Colon’s back porch on Skiff avenue in Vineyard Haven. Lanny McDowell in stealth mode fully stalked and photographed the sharp-shinned hawk which has been haunting his West Tisbury feeder. Katherine hadn’t seen her sharpie for a while and then during a walk on Feb. 15 found this hawk harassing a flock of house (English) sparrows at the other end of Skiff avenue.
What to do? You say you spend tons of money to buy bird food and what happens, a sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawk decides to use your feeder as its hunting and feeding grounds.There isn’t anything you can do aside from running outside and flailing your arms, shaking a broom and cursing! Hopefully the hawk will become discouraged, but don’t forget hawks have to eat also.
Sharp-shinned hawks are not on the Island year-round. They migrate through in both the spring and fall, although it is the fall migration in October when we see the largest numbers of this lovely accipter. In the past a few of these hawks would over-winter on the Vineyard and more recently, with the increase of bird feeders, the number of winter residents has dramatically increased. Enjoy the sharp-shinned hawk and its larger cousin, the Cooper’s hawk —they have their own agenda to survive.
It is exciting when a bird puzzle is solved. Bob Green of Watcha Path in Edgartown reported an electric yellow bird at his feeder back on Feb. 4. It was thought to be a yellow warbler but was proven differently. It took teamwork; Bob took a photo and had a friend download it and send it on an attachment to Lanny McDowell. Lanny checked out the photo and discovered that it was the spitting image of a bird that he, Bob Shriber and Whit Manter had seen and photographed at Pond View Farm in West Tisbury on Oct. 5, 2009! So Lanny sent his photo from October (which was in the Oct. 16 Bird News) to Bob, and bingo — the identification was confirmed. The bird is a saffron finch. This lovely South American songster is a cage bird escapee and has taken advantage of Bob Green’s feeders. Bob keeps the feeders full for his yellow bird and as of Feb. 17 the finch has returned daily. It will probably make it through the winter if it has survived this long. We still are not sure who lost the saffron finch.
Tara Whiting watched a northern harrier swoop across the West Tisbury cemetery field on Feb. 4. John Banks spotted an eastern phoebe on Feb. 10.
Suzie Bowman of the Panhandle in West Tisbury called to say she had been meaning to report that she has a pied or leucistic song sparrow at her feeder that possesses a white primary wing feather. This song sparrow has been a regular at the Bowman feeder all winter.
Phyllis and Bob Conway of Chilmark had a good count of birds between Feb. 12 and 15, including four mourning doves, 20 black-capped chickadees, two chipping sparrows, eight white-throated sparrows, seven blue jays, eight American crows, one white-breasted nuthatch, two dark-eyed juncos, four downy woodpeckers, eight northern cardinals, one red-tailed hawk and one merlin. Good backyard count, Conways!
Matt Pelikan spent last weekend in the field for a change. Around Ocean Heights he spotted a gray catbird, two brown creepers and four golden-crowned kinglets. At the head of the Lagoon there was a female pintail. Near the Rod and Gun Club Matt counted 40 American wigeon and two hooded mergansers. At Katama Farm he counted 20 horned larks, 40 snow buntings, one male and one female northern harrier, a turkey vulture and five savannah sparrows. On Feb. 14 Matt hiked Wompesket and spotted eight titmice, four golden-crowned kinglets and a flock of about 20 red-winged blackbirds. Matt commented that they were singing from the trees in a shrub swamp and he feels pretty sure they were migrants.
Valentine’s Day delivered several feathered friends to birders around the Island. As they crossed on the ferry,
Nancy and Warren Hartwell counted over 1,000 common eiders in Vineyard Sound
Lynn Buckmaster had her first hermit thrush appear in her Christiantown yard on Valentine’s Day. Tom and Barbara Rivers of Chilmark had two eastern bluebirds and a hairy woodpecker arrive for their Valentine gift. Neither of these species had visited the Rivers’ yard in years.
Luanne Johnson and Nan Harris birded during the weekend of Feb. 13 and 14. Their best birds were purple sandpipers at Squibnocket Beach, Harlequin ducks off West Chop and ring-necked ducks at the head of the Lagoon.
Luanne and Joe Smith of Cape May birded Chappaquiddick on Feb. 17. They were surprised to count 12 horned grebes off East Beach in groups of two and three. There were many eastern bluebirds in the cedars as well as numbers of yellow-rumped warblers.
Please report your bird sightings to the Island bird hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds.com.