I joined Allan Keith on July 20 and we did the mid-Island area for the butterfly count. The Vineyard butterfly count is organized by Matt Pelikan each year. It was hot and windy but we still were able to find 18 species. The total number seen by the butterfly counters was 31 species and 579 individuals. The skippers and hairstreaks were the most numerous, and for me the most difficult to identify. I learn another butterfly each summer!
Luanne Johnson of Biodiversity Works emailed to let us know that their crew has seen two piping plovers with color bands on July 17 and 18. Luanne spotted a banded male at Chip Chop the evening of July 17, and another was spotted wearing color bands and a radio transmitter the next day at Edgartown Great Pond by Wendy Elsner.
Luanne added: “These piping plovers are part of a study on plover flight paths between ocean beach and back dune foraging areas in order to determine how high they fly when moving between foraging habitat and nesting habitats.”
And from the woman conducting the study: “The Atlantic coast population of piping plovers has more than doubled since 1986 due to intensive management efforts across the breeding range. The development of wind power in coastal areas poses a potential threat of collision mortality that could reverse this recovery effort. This project is designed to quantify flight behavior during the daytime and during periods when birds are most at risk of collision (i.e. poor weather and nighttime) in order to evaluate the potential impacts of building turbines at or near piping plover breeding sites.
New Jersey birds were marked with two color bands on the upper legs and Massachusetts birds were marked with one color band on each upper leg. Colors used this year include yellow, orange, green, black, gray, light blue and blue. If you see a marked piping plover, please write down the location, date, behavior of bird, a detailed description of the bands and send to: Michelle Avis, State University of New York – Syracuse. You can email her with your information at email@example.com.
Linda Mariano called to say she had seen her first “Maryland” yellowthroat near the entrance shack of Wasque’s Trustees of Reservations properties on July 17. I hadn’t heard common yellowthroat called “Maryland” since I was a young birder starting out, so it was a nice reminder.
Matt Pelikan spotted eight lesser black-backed gulls feeding in patches of seaweed while he was traveling on the ferry off West Chop on July 18.
Christie Coon emailed to report that she had seen four American oystercatchers by the West Chop lighthouse. She was able to observe that two had bicolored bills and ,with a field guide, realized they were juvenile oystercatchers. She also spotted sanderlings and one semipalmated plover.
Mary and Arthur Kentras spotted five cedar waxwings at the Long Point Reserve on July 22.
Ken Magnuson sent an amazing photo of a red-tailed hawk who had caught and was eating a gray catbird. The photo was taken at the Edgartown Golf Club on July 23.
Several people have spoken to me about the dearth of hummingbirds at their feeders this summer. Conducting a quick poll, I found that Bob Fogelson, Allan Keith and Jan Pogue complained about the lack of hummingbird activity. On the other hand Rick Karney, Penny Uhlendorf, Sarah Mayhew, Charlie Kernick and Sioux Eagle had just as many hummingbirds at their feeders. Sioux Eagle mentioned that she had five females jockeying for a sip of “nectar” from her feeders in West Tisbury. Rick, Sarah and Charlie are also in West Tisbury but Penny is in Tisbury. Penny mentioned intense sibling rivalry among the immature and the adult females while the male sat by on the fence watching, no doubt with a jaded eye! Seems the Chilmark feeders are not attracting the activity they have in the past. Let me know if you have the same or less hummingbird activity around your feeders.
Jeff Bernier sent several photos of red knots as well as adult black terns he took at Norton Point on July 21.
Ken Magnuson sent a nice photo of a solitary sandpiper that he took at Tisbury Great Pond on July 21.
Sarah Mayhew and I were invited by Gerald and Linda Jones and their daughter Courtney to boat from their house on Edgartown Great Pond out to the “cut” — the opening to the ocean — on July 18. We had a lovely introduction to the coves of that Great Pond and then on the flats we found a good selection of shorebirds. We counted six piping plovers, a flock of 20 sanderlings — some still in their russet breeding plumage — short-billed dowitchers, semipalmated plovers, least and semipalmated sandpipers. Several common and a few least terns flew over, but the real treat was a flock of ring-billed herring and black-backed gulls that were in a feeding frenzy on the ocean side of the cut, pigging out on what looked like silverside minnows or maybe sand lances. They were rushing into the breakers to snatch a bait fish and then rushing back to the shore. Just offshore of the feeding frenzy swimming in the waves, bass and bluefish were visible. No doubt they were getting their fair share of the bait as well.
On July 22, Bill Lee birded on a walk from West Basin to Red Beach in Aquinnah. Near the jetties he spotted four American oystercatchers.
On the flats near Picnic Point he found five white-rumped sandpipers (the first of the season), 10 sanderlings, 25 semipalmated and 20 least sandpipers as well as a family of four piping plovers and one single a bit further down the beach. Bill also counted 200 terns on the flats, around 150 common terns, 50 least and a few roseates. At Red Beach, Bill found 20 semipalmated plovers, 10 semipalmated and 15 least sandpipers. Two ospreys flew over Bill’s head during his walk.
I led my first of four Chilmark Community Center bird walks on July 23. It was a bit foggy at Quansoo but we still found a variety of shorebirds, the best being a ruddy turnstone and a spotted sandpiper. We also found American oystercatchers, short-billed dowitchers, greater yellowlegs, semipalmated plovers and both semipalmated and least sandpipers.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.