May 27, what a day! First to visit a part of the Vineyard I hadn’t birded in, and next to be called to verify that there was an American white pelican sitting on a dock in Chilmark Pond!

Pete Gilmore of Hopps Farm Road in West Tisbury, has birded with Seven Gates resident David Tobias off-Island. Pete stopped by our barn recently with friend Bob Cohen to look for our elusive barn owl. The owl wasn’t around unfortunately. Pete asked if Flip Harrington and I would like to join him on a birding trip into Seven Gates on the invitation of David Tobias and his wife Liz Micheels. We gladly accepted.

We started at David and Liz’s home where we found an elegant male wood duck floating in their pond. A female northern parula warbler was intent on pulling some strands of wool off the lilac bush next to the Micheels/Tobias home and barely paid heed to the gawking humans. Lanny McDowell and Melissa Keeler joined us and we headed out to explore some of the birding hot spots of Seven Gates. We went to Harlock’s Pond, walked a path around it, and drove to an overlook on to Vineyard Sound known as Site 19, thence to the beach access. We frequently stopped along the maze of roads in the area when we heard or saw something good. A pair of northern bobwhite strutted in front of the car on the road. We spotted a male scarlet tanager flying in to Site 19 and watched a prairie warbler carrying nesting material between a stand of phragmites and cedar trees. A single laughing gull in full breeding plumage flew along shore headed up-Island. In a delightful hour and a half we spotted 39 species of birds, were introduced to two new Vineyard birders and enjoyed their habitat.

Bobwhites on a walkabout during the birdwalk at Seven Gates Farm. — Lanny McDowell

Later on I was putting a chicken in the oven when Pete Gilmore called to say he and Lanny McDowell were on their way to Mary Jane Pease’s house on Chilmark Pond. She had called Lanny to inform him that there was an American white pelican sitting on her dock in Chilmark Pond. Off went the oven and Flip and I grabbed our binoculars and headed for Abel’s Hill. We arrived and Mary Jane greeted us and pointed out to the end of her dock. There was a white feathered blob. The bird had its head tucked so we could not see the bill. We crept down trying not to scare the bird before Lanny and Pete arrived. The double-crested cormorants that were flanking the white bird took off and suddenly the blob lifted its head and sure enough there was the yellow bill and the pouch of a white pelican! Lanny, Pete, and Pete’s wife Cathi arrived with cameras in hand and proceeded to take multiple photographs.

Now as I sit to write this I have calls on my answering machine about a leucistic sparrow seen by Bob Blacklow and Rob Culbert by Crystal Lake in Oak Bluffs and Mary Jane Pease announcing the American white pelican. I then checked the emails — one via the Vineyard Gazette — from Jeanne and Hugh Taylor of the Outermost Inn who said they have a leucistic American robin hanging around the inn. Hugh said that the “normal” robins don’t trust this strange looking robin so whenever the leucistic robin moves, it is flanked by two “normal” robins. The next email brought another odd sighting — this time an Egyptian goose spotted by Ken Magnuson at the Edgartown Golf Course! I checked with Gus Ben David of the World of Reptiles and Birds to see if Gus owned any Egyptian geese and if so, had any gone on a walkabout. Gus doesn’t own any Egyptian geese so we will have to try to figure out where this European goose came from.

I checked the records and found that there have only been two other sightings of American white pelicans on the Island, one in October of 1973 and the second in November of 1993. You will note in Lanny’s photos there is a round disc attached to the upper mandible of the American white pelican. This grows on both the male and female white pelicans as they go into breeding plumage. This disc disappears after the eggs are laid and the male and female share incubation.

Bird Sightings

Rob Culbert heard and then saw a fox sparrow on Moshup’s Trail on May 24.

Pete Gilmore had two flyovers of small groups of pine siskins near his Hopps Farm home in West Tisbury on May 23.

On May 25 Bob Cohen and Pete Gilmore spotted a very red red knot on Norton’s Point.

Back on May 9 Laurie Walker had a rose-breasted grosbeak at her Abel’s Hill home.

Penny Uhlendorf discovered that her Carolina wrens “true to form” started a second nest while still feeding the fledglings from their first nest. The first nest was in the woods, the second in a clothes pin bag hanging on her porch.

Pam Weatherbee found two black skimmers settled in on an island near the town dock on Sengekontacket Pond while kayaking on May 24.

Constance Alexander had a flock of chimney swifts greet her as she entered the Tisbury School parking lot on May 25.

Ken Magnuson sent a photograph of a black-crowned night heron he took at Katama Bay on May 24.

Nat Woodruff sent several nice shots of a sanderling in breeding plumage from Sarson’s Island on May 25.

Mary and Arthur Kentros spotted two adults and two juvenile American oystercatchers at Long Point on Tisbury Great Pond on May 26.

Jeff Bernier continues to watch and photograph food transfers between the male and female northern harriers at Katama. Hopefully that pair of harriers will fledge at least two or maybe three young.

Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to