It is no coincidence that we start seeing migrants after we finally have some warm weather. It is about time on both counts!
Ned Casey both heard and observed an osprey from the Ocean Heights boat launch ramp; it was flying toward Harthaven. Susan Wilson also saw an osprey. Both of these sightings were before the previous early date of March 14 (from 2004). David and Eleanor Stanwood watched an Osprey hovering over Duarte’s Pond on Lambert’s Cove Road on March 16. It caught a big trout near the southern end of the pond, making the fisherman across the water look jealous. That same day, Megan Sargent observed an osprey at the Lilly Pond near the Chilmark Overlook.
Lanny McDowell and Ken Magnuson both observed pale red-breasted nuthatches at their feeders on March 15 and 16. Both report that these are the first ones they have seen in months, so I presume they are migrants rather than winter residents.
On March 13, Gus Ben David reported a killdeer was on his property. It was the first time he had observed a killdeer in his yard; it is the 73rd species he has observed there! Ken Magnuson also observed a killdeer March 14 at the Farm Institute.
There have been numerous reports of red-winged blackbirds returning and singing on their breeding grounds.
The American oystercatchers are back, too. On March 12, both Vasha Brunelle and Roger Cook spotted the first American oystercatchers of the year, all on the west arm of the Lagoon.
My bird tour on the afternoon of March 15 found the season’s first tree swallows; at least five of them were skimming over the water at the head of the Lagoon. Along with American wigeons was a solitary American coot, which may have been a migrant but it might have been the same individual that was observed on the Christmas bird count, even though I do not recall any reports of coots since then. We went on to the west arm of the Lagoon and found three American oystercatchers; one at Ferryboat Island and two at the very tip of Hines Point.
A warm evening and last week’s report that Frank Creney observed a woodcock foraging in his yard on March 5 encouraged me to check out the best down-Island site for woodcocks — the frisbee golf course in the State Forest — at dusk on March 15. There were two American woodcocks peenting and performing their courtship flights. Yeah for signs of spring!
On March 9, Kate Scott found the following ducks in the Lagoon: eight common eiders, one male common goldeneye, two American black ducks, four red-breasted mergansers, and an assortment of both bufflehead and Canada geese. She enjoyed watching them dive into the water. There were a couple of turkey vultures in the area too.
Ann Deitrich observed a northern flicker at her suet feeder for a few days around March 10. Also that day, Susan Straight saw a pair of red tails perched together in a large oak in a meadow along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. They took off and circled around the meadow before flying away. Almost all the red-tails are now paired up in anticipation of the coming breeding season.
Lanny McDowell found a very dark and husky sub-adult peregrine dining on a hen common eider at Norton Point on March 11. He has also found other remnants of raptor meals, probably snowy owl leftovers including a red-breasted merganser and a surf scoter. On March 13 Jeff Bernier spotted probably the same peregrine at Katama, where he also observed a merlin chasing a yellow-rumped warbler; the warbler got away. As of March 17, the peregrine was still hanging out in the Katama area.
Ken Magnuson observed two short-eared owls at Katama on March 12. On March 14 he found a short-eared owl carcass at the Farm Institute, but on the evening of March 16 there were two of them hunting the Katama airfield.
On my March 15 bird tour I found at least six fish crows at the Tisbury Marketplace. They were constantly calling, and their nasal-sounding calls contrasted with the robust caws of the American crows that were along the shoreline of Lagoon Pond. The fish crows are also slightly smaller, but that is a difficult field mark to use even if the two species are side-by-side.
Jeff Bernier observed three horned grebes actively feeding near the Memorial Wharf in Edgartown Harbor on March 17.
There are lots of birds around, so please get out looking for them, and be sure to report your bird sightings.
Robert Culbert leads guided birding tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.