Peter Huntington will be glad to hear that not only was the scissor-tailed flycatcher that he spotted at Pond View Farm last week found again, but it was photographed. Wendy Elsner found the scissor-tailed flycatcher cavorting with eastern kingbirds in the dunes off Edgartown Great Pond on July 8. She was able to take several photos of the birds. This is approximately the tenth record of this southern flycatcher on the Vineyard since it was first seen in 1942! Most of the other sightings have been in the early spring or fall. Chances are this bird came up on all the southerly winds we have been experiencing, although it could have been around since May!

Bird Sightings

I’ll start with a couple of older sightings: Wendy Elsner spotted a black tern at Dogfish Bar on June 10 and on June 27 and 29, Wendy watched black skimmers flying west across Edgartown Great Pond. Wendy commented that the skimmers were again “migrating” west across the pond on July 5, 6 and 8. The black skimmers may be nesting on another beach west of Norton Point as these sightings were in the afternoon.

Tom Engley reported black skimmers between Oyster and Watcha Pond on July 5 — maybe they are nesting in that area? Tom also photographed a common yellowthroat that is nesting in the area and watched an eastern kingbird snacking on berries.

John Christensen’s sighting of the Wilson storm petrel was off Tashmoo on June 29. Another pelagic species was seen by two observers, David Stanwood photographed a parasitic jaeger that was harassing a small gull in Buzzard’s Bay on July 3, and Wendy Elsner watched a parasitic jaeger being mobbed by the least terns in the tern colony at Edgartown Great Pond on July 1. Sadly, Wendy found five dead greater shearwaters on South Beach in early July. Yet another pelagic report comes from Bob Birrer who found a dead Manx shearwater on the Katama Bay side of Chappaquiddick near the southeast corner July 4.

Laurie Reese sent me a photo of what she thought was a cross between a turkey and a peacock that she took on Abel’s Hill in Chilmark on June 22. Then Hans Solmssen, also of Abel’s Hill, called me to say he had a female peacock at his house on the 2nd and 3rd of July. I checked with Gus Ben David and with the photo that Laurie took and Gus was able to identify the bird as a female blue peahen. Now, a peahen is the female name for a blue peafowl. The male peafowl is a bird we know as a peacock. So someone’s female “peacock” has gone on a walkabout to Abel’s Hill. On July 3 Fred Phillips watched a black skimmer skimming and an American oystercatcher looking for food on the Chappaquiddick side of Katama Bay. On July 5 he reported a turkey vulture. On July 4 Sally Hamilton counted 14 turkey vultures lined up on fence posts along the field beyond Seven Gates Farm in West Tisbury. Young birds are being reported from the barrier beaches to the woodlands of the Island. Bert Fischer spotted an adult Virginia rail with a chick in the meadows near Squibnocket on June 30. Jeff Bernier photographed young black skimmer chicks on the beach at Norton Point on July 5 and then American oystercatchers at the same location on July 8. Rick Karney has young gray catbirds hanging out on a shrub near his West Tisbury home and there are probably young hummingbirds amongst the number of hummingbirds visiting his two feeders.

Terry Hass called to say she had an eastern screech owlet on her back porch off Blue Barque Road in Chilmark on July 7 and what should she do? I asked if the bird could fly and she answered that it could, so I recommended she leave it alone. It was making noises which I figured were begging calls. Probably the adults are trying to wean the owlet and the owlet doesn’t like it. Sarah Vail of Halcyon Way in West Tisbury reports July 8 that there is a family of eastern screech owls nesting over her porch. There are three owlets and one adult she is observing. Sarah added that the owlets move each year from the owl box to the tree next to it on July 1. The box no doubt becomes too small for three youngsters and two adults!

It is always fun to show a visiting birder around. On July 6 Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore and I took Mark Seaman from Atlanta, Ga. out to Norton Point. We spotted 27 species including seven greater yellowlegs, one lesser yellowlegs, 11 short-billed dowitchers and a least sandpiper. On July 7 Warren Woesser went out to Norton Point and found three least sandpipers, 24 short-billed dowitchers, one greater yellowlegs and one semipalmated sandpiper. On July 8 I joined Warren on Norton Point and although we got side-tracked watching the tugs trying to tow the yacht Running Free off the beach, we still found 24 species. We counted 10 least sandpipers, one laughing gull and one black tern but the real treat was to count over 120 short-billed dowitchers moving from east to west and to see both common and least tern chicks.

Black terns have been seen in a couple of areas recently, Ken Magnuson photographed one in mottled transitional plumage at Norton Point on July 7 and Warren Woessner spotted two in the same area the same day. On July 8 Liz Baldwin spotted two black terns at Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah in breeding plumage, and Warren Woessner, Tamara Martz and I spotted one at Norton Point on the same day.

Jeff Bernier sent a great set of photographs that showed the difference between a great and lesser yellowlegs that he took on Norton Point on July 8. Jeff also photographed a banded roseate tern on Norton Point on July 7.

Wendy Elsner reported flushing a goatsucker on a dirt road coming from Edgartown Great Pond on July 7. From the brief view and description, the bird she bumped into was probably a whip-poor-will. The next day Wendy counted five semipalmated sandpipers on the flats of Edgartown Great Pond.

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

Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is