At Thanksgiving, I want to extend my thanks to the people who have made an effort to save or create the Vineyard habitats. Without the open spaces, marshes, meadows and woodlands, there would be no place for my favorite creatures, birds.
A quick guide to the birds you might see during your Thanksgiving holiday weekend is in order. If you are arriving from away (off-Island), your first opportunity for bird watching would be on the trip across on the ferry. Different species of gulls can be seen in both Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven harbors. In the winter months these gulls are more likely to be Bonaparte’s or ring-billed gulls — although the herring and black-backed gulls are still around. Rafts of common eiders can be seen as you enter Vineyard Haven outer harbor. Near the sea wall along the causeway to Oak Bluffs look for red-breasted mergansers.
The trip to Oak Bluffs, if you are headed in that direction, takes you over the bridge. Check the waters of the Lagoon, on your right, for bufflehead and if you are lucky, common goldeneye. Sunset Lake on your right as you enter Oak Bluffs can host mallards and perhaps a great blue heron. Continuing on you come to the Inkwell beach where a flock of brant are feeding along the shore, during their annual winter visit.
Nessie has gone into hibernation for the winter, so you will not see her on Farm Pond. Instead there will be a flock of Canada geese patrolling the waters along with a few hooded mergansers diving for fish. Sengekontacket Pond and State Beach are great bird habitats. Take time to walk the beach and check along the shores of Sarson’s Island for lingering black-bellied plovers, sanderlings and dunlins. There will be sea ducks (eiders and scoters) on the Nantucket Sound side and bufflehead, red-breasted mergansers and hopefully common goldeneye on the pond side.
Take a ride out to Katama during your stay. If you visit the Farm Institute check the field for black-bellied plovers, killdeers and mourning doves. Northern harriers and red-tailed hawks hunt these fields and if you are lucky perhaps a peregrine falcon. Bluefish Point gives you a view of Norton Point. Check for late staying terns and shorebirds on the flats and for black ducks in Katama Bay.
A stop at one of the fire lanes in the Manuel Correllus State Forest as you head up Island is worthwhile. Species you might see include black-capped chickadees, white and perhaps red-breasted nuthatches, golden and, with luck, ruby-crowned kinglets. Check the Mill Pond in West Tisbury for mute swans, mallards and perhaps green-winged teals. A walk around Polly Hill Arboretum might produce cedar waxwings, American robins and American goldfinches.
Menemsha harbor affords a closeup and personal view of common eiders as they fish the channel. Double-crested and perhaps great cormorants hang out on the pilings and offshore are common loons. Aquinnah’s diverse habitats give the bird life ample areas to feed in the winter. Along Moshup Trail there will be yellow-rumped warblers feeding on the bayberries. Various species of sparrows are foraging along the grassy strips at the edge of the road as well as northern cardinals. Song and white-throated sparrows are the most common, but others could be mixed in, so keep a sharp eye out.
The Gay Head Cliffs are a great place to look offshore for flying skeins of all three scoters, common, white-winged and surf. Check the waters at the base of the Cliffs for these scoters and common eiders as well. It is always good to check the telephone lines along Lighthouse Road for mourning doves and blue jays. Menemsha Bight from Lobsterville Beach is a good location for both common and red-throated loons and gulls and the shoreline may have sanderlings.
View Squibnocket Pond as you head down to the Squibnocket Beach parking lot. Ducks that have been seen there include American wigeon, gadwall, green-winged teal and mallard. If you are fortunate, pied-billed grebes may be feeding along the edge of the pond. Offshore from the Squibnocket parking lot, watch for northern gannets and red-necked and horned grebes.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving and are local, fill your feeders so people can enjoy the birds. If you are from away, check out feeders of local friends or visit Felix Neck and see what bird species join us for the Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy!
Charlie Morano — the younger — spotted and correctly identified a palm warbler in his yard on Nov. 12. Palm warblers are late-staying warblers on the Vineyard and have been seen on Christmas bird counts.
Luanne Johnson flushed three black-crowned night herons at Maley’s Pond in West Tisbury, Nov. 13. Then, on Nov. 14, at Self’s Pond on Chappaquiddick, Luanne found a dozen green-winged teals, about the same number of hooded mergansers, a few mallards and black ducks. Offshore Luanne watched northern gannets foraging the same day.
Bonnie George and others enjoyed seeing a great blue heron on the Mill Pond on Nov. 18. Happy Doran was pleased to see a harlequin duck amongst the common eiders off West Chop on Nov. 19. She also spotted two red-tailed hawks around the West Chop Woods.
Tara Whiting, Lanny McDowell and I have enjoyed the six to fifteen eastern bluebirds at Quenames. Flip Harrington and I had our first red-bellied woodpecker and golden-crowned kinglet of the season in our Chilmark yard on Nov. 17 and on Nov. 19 a hairy woodpecker and hermit thrush arrived. On Nov. 20 we spotted a lone cedar waxwing in our rose bushes. At Blackpoint on Nov. 21 Tara Whiting watched both male and female buffleheads and a hooded merganser fishing.
Also on Nov. 21 I joined Pat Hughes, Hal Minis and Sue and Ron Silva for a walk at Cedar Tree Neck. We spotted a belted kingfisher, Bonaparte’s gulls, northern gannets, golden-crowned kinglets, common, white-winged and surf scoters and common eiders. When I returned home there was a purple finch in with my house finches and I found a message that Lanny McDowell had seen pintails, long-tailed ducks and an immature little blue heron at Quansoo. I drove to Quansoo and found the immature little blue heron in Crab Creek.
Dan Greenbaum sent an e-mail with a photo of a cattle egret that was feeding around the horses in Keith’s field in Chilmark on Nov. 22.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds II. Visit her Web site vineyardbirds2.com.