It was early May and the migrating birds, Felix Neck Bird-a-thon and our garden were calling us home to the Vineyard. We thought we were headed home from Big Bend, Texas, however the bird buggy (and we) had a different idea. How could we not bird the famous Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge or South Padre Island while we were in West Texas? We decided to leave the bird buggy behind for a day, rent a car and head to South Padre Island and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
It was another O’dark hundred awakening and blowing like stink when we arrived on South Padre Island. We walked to the side of the building and found photographers and birders lined up next to bushes that graced the edges of the center. One of the birders said ”watch where you step,” and we looked down to find an American redstart about five inches from our feet. We paused there for a while and had Tennessee warblers, many more redstarts, and black and white and magnolia warblers dancing around our hiking boots. Joining the warblers were eastern wood-pewees, least and ash-throated flycatchers, eastern kingbirds and bronze-headed cowbirds. We moved a bit further on and were astounded by the warbler parade: yellow-breasted chat, ovenbirds, worm-eating, prothonotary, Nashville, hooded, Cape May, northern parula, magnolia, bay-breasted, blackburnian, yellow, chestnut-sided, black-throated green and Wilson’s warblers, all inches from us. Binoculars were not necessary!
We couldn’t resist going out onto the boardwalk. Our best birds out there were a clapper rail, tricolored and little blue herons, white-faced ibis, roseate spoonbills and a Mississippi kite. Our South Padre morning made it possible to see 95 species, 19 of which were warblers, in a morning essentially without binoculars!
Don’t forget the bird-a-thon, Felix Neck’s annual fundraiser where teams of birders spend 24 hours trying to spot the most species on the Island and the rest of Massachusetts. It will kick off at 6 p.m. on May 17. Go online for more details at massaudubon.org.
Flip Harrington was in our Chilmark kitchen the morning of May 14 when a ruby-throated hummingbird came to the window, looked in, flew to where the hummingbird feeder had been last summer and fall, and then flew back to the window and looked at Flip. We can take a hint! We immediately mixed up a batch of hummingbird food and set out the feeder. Within 20 minutes the female hummingbird was back. It is nice to be home and be wanted! We also still have a pair of red-breasted nuthatches and the gray catbirds are on the oranges we put out for the Baltimore orioles. We saw one oriole in the yard, but none at the oranges yet. Our most exciting news is that the owl box, that Lanny McDowell built for us and that Davis Solon added a perch and outside wall exit, now has a pair of barn owls!
And speaking of barn owls, Suzan Bellincampi asked me to tell you that the Felix Neck barn owls are now online, so check it out at ustream.tv/channel/felix-neck-owl-cam.
Felix Neck still has a screech owl hanging out in the wood duck box at Turtle Pond. A new bird garden has been installed at the Neck, too! The Coastal Waterbird Program is monitoring American oystercatcher and piping plovers and have found that there is still the usual problems with unleashed dogs at many of their sites. Please, dog owners, keep your dogs on a leash on the beaches as they will chase plovers, oystercatchers, terns, black skimmers or any other beach nesting species!
On May 9 Ken Magnuson photographed an ovenbird at Menemsha. The same day Michael Ditchfield photographed a prairie warbler at Waskosim’s. John Banks has his first ruby-throated hummingbird at his Oak Bluffs home.
On May 10 a wave of migrants arrived on Island. Ken Magnuson saw four Baltimore orioles at the Edgartown Golf Course and several yellow warblers. Rob Culbert heard great-crested flycatchers, red-eyed vireos, black and white and black-throated green warblers and a northern parula in his Tisbury yard.
Allan Slater saw what he has identified as a swallowtailed kite on May 10 over the Chappy point. At about 11:45 a.m., it flew over our job site quite low. The forked tail and white underbody were clear to me. With all the other migrants appearing, this is probably exactly what Allan saw.
Penny Uhlendorf of Pilot Hill in Tisbury and Rick Karney in West Tisbury also had Baltimore orioles arrive in their yards on May 10. Rick reported his first ruby-throated hummingbird that day as well.
Matt Pelikan did his birding on a bike ride around Lambert’s Cove Road on May 10 and found yellow and a few yellow-rumped warblers as well as northern parulas, and heard black-throated green warblers warbling near his office window by the Wakeman Center. Matt also found that gray catbirds had arrived. Jeff Bernier found that the black skimmers had returned to Norton Point on May 10 and he also photographed prairie and black and white warblers the same day. He also found a blue-winged warbler at Waskosim’s and photographed it. Ken Magnuson photographed probably the same bird or its mate on May 12.
Charles and Martha Schmidt had a rose-breasted grosbeak at their 7 Gates home feeder on May 10. Gary Mirando photographed a great-crested flycatcher through his screen door in Vineyard Haven that day.
The following day Adam Debettencourt had a rose-breasted grosbeak at his Oak Bluffs feeder.
Bob (Wax) Iwaskiewicz and Betty Joslow had a close encounter with a brilliant yellow warbler on May 11 at Betty’s Lighthouse Road home in Edgartown. Janet Sigler saw a pair of catbirds on May 11 for the first time this season on her property near the Edgartown Great Pond.
Matt Pelikan had a flood of roseate terns off Woods Hole on May 11 while Jeff Bernier was spotting roseate terns in with least and common terns at Norton Point. Jeff noted that most of the roseate terns were banded.
Constance Alexander watched a flight of swallows descend onto the Squibnocket parking lot where they rested between hawking insects from the surrounding vegetation. She spotted barn, bank and tree swallows in the group, and also a yellow warbler in the nearby bushes.
On May 12, Robert Green had three Baltimore orioles at his Watcha Path home. Nancy Rogers of Vineyard Haven had her first barn swallows of the season.
On May 13 Lanny McDowell photographed rough-winged swallows at Sengekontacket.
Two unusual sightings: Heidi and Ronnee Schultz had a white-crowned sparrow at their West Tisbury feeder on May 14 and Ken Magnuson had a pine siskin at the Edgartown Golf Course the same day.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard bird hotline at 508-645-2913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.