Whoa, where do I start? This long weekend brought several goodies for the Vineyard birders. It all started on Thursday, August 30, when Dick Jennings, who runs the Cape Pogue trips for The Trustees of Reservations, called in the morning to say he had spotted a marbled godwit at Cape Pogue the day before and was able to get a photo of the bird the next day. Great excitement resulted.
This shorebird, sporting an extra long two-toned bill, has been seen only five times in the fall since 1984. Usually only one marbled godwit arrives on the Vineyard shores at a time. There have been two exceptions to the solitary sightings. The first was three birds seen at Squibnocket in 1936 by R. Hornblower and H. Atkins and the second was 12 seen by Allan Keith at Sengekontacket Pond on Oct. 24, 1994.
At dinnertime the same day, Catherine Deese called to say that she, her son Brian Deese and Eddie Barrett were watching an albino tree swallow flying around the Seven Gates Fields with a huge flock of tree and barn swallows. Shortly thereafter Eddie and Brian arrived at the house with a video of the bird that Brian had taken: a very pretty and different looking swallow. Catherine, Brian and Eddie never saw the bird again but they have a nice video to remember the sighting by.
Then, on Sunday, Sept. 2 Bob Shriber called me from the Gay Head Cliffs to say he had spotted a yellow-headed blackbird. Lanny McDowell arrived at Aquinnah as Bob was describing where he had seen the bird — by the lighthouse and then in the circle — and was able to get photos. Flip Harrington, Jane Grawe and I drove up to Aquinnah, but were unable to spot the bird. Bob and Lanny figured the bird had flown off the Gay Head Cliffs headed south with a flock of red-winged blackbirds.
Finally, Whit Manter called on Tuesday, Sept. 4 to report that a western kingbird was on the fence line at Pond View Farm. This western species usually appears on the Island after a westerly blow.
Scott Stephens was south of Noman’s Land on August 23 and spotted eight red-necked phalaropes and a juvenile gannet. On his way back into Menemsha he counted 11 ospreys.
Rena and Ozzie Fischer showed me the photographs of the strange northern cardinal they spotted at their feeder. Judy Miller read about this strange cardinal and called to say she had seen a similar bird in her Vineyard Haven yard. Recently at the Gay Head Moraine land bank property I spotted a molting male cardinal and it appeared to have a dark head. So my conclusion is that the Fischers, Judy Miller and I are seeing northern cardinals in molt.
On August 31, Jane Grawe and I met with Lanny McDowell and Allan Keith and went out to Cape Pogue and Wasque. We spotted the marbled godwit. Other shorebirds of interest we saw that day were three whimbrels. We spotted a Cooper’s hawk, an American kestrel and two merlins. One merlin looked as though it had been shaken and stirred in a bucket of water. This hawk probably had been caught in a rain squall and was hanging around Wasque trying to dry off. We also spotted three black terns over Cape Pogue bay and red-breasted nuthatches at the pines at Wasque.
Tree swallows, both albino and regular, are in the news. Both Larry Hepler and Erin Gray reported huge flocks of tree swallows moving at the beginning of September. Larry watched the flock over the fields at Black Point hawking insects on Sept. 1 and Erin observed a large flock moving down Vineyard Sound from Chappaquonsett on Sept. 3. This is the time of year that the swallows group up to feed to fuel up for their southern migration.
Jane Grawe had an early sighting of three dark-eyed juncos on Sept. 1 at Quansoo. I joined her later and we added pine, prairie and black and white warblers and a common yellowthroat. The same day Allan Keith found two female green-winged teal at Squibnocket Pond.
Ann Berger called to say that she had spotted an American bittern at the Edgartown end of Katama Bay on August 31.
On Sept. 2, several birders were observing at Aquinnah. Alan Sgroi, Laurie Walker and Katharine Colon spotted Wilson’s, black and white, and prairie warblers and common yellowthroat. Laurie and Katharine were lucky enough to spot the yellow-headed blackbird that Bob Shriber first spotted. Laurie and Katharine continued on to Lobsterville where they spotted a female ringed necked pheasant with 10 chicks. There were still four ospreys in the area and bobolinks and red-breasted nuthatches are a daily sight around the Vanderhoop Homestead. Alan Sgroi continued birding at the Gay Head Moraine property and spotted a male black-throated blue warbler.
Bob Shriber, Flip Harrington, Jane Grawe and I birded the Gay Head Cliffs and the Gay Head Moraine property on Sept. 3. We spotted black-throated blue, prairie, magnolia and chestnut as well as the first tufted titmouse I had seen in Aquinnah. At the pond at the junction of Lighthouse and Lobsterville roads, we saw a solitary sandpiper and two wood ducks. We spotted a good selection of raptors including osprey, northern harrier, merlin and sharp-shinned hawk. Bob Shriber mentioned that he had seen a blue-headed vireo at his house in Aquinnah on Sept. 2. Allan Keith added that he spotted a Nashville warbler on Moshup Trail on Sept. 3 and at Squibnocket he added a Magnolia, Wilson’s and Blackpoll warblers and a warbling vireo as well as two sharp-shinned hawks.
Again on Sept. 3, Dick Knight counted 13 great egrets and two great blue herons at Poucha Pond on Chappaquiddick.
On Sept. 4, Alan Sgroi spotted a yellow-billed cuckoo and both eastern wood pewee and phoebe at Felix Neck.
Allan and Winkie Keith went to Cape Pogue on Sept. 4 and spotted brant, yellow-bellied flycatchers, red-breasted nuthatches, male Cape May warbler and two least flycatchers.
Matt Pelikan reports two green herons, a dozen wood ducks and a single female ring-necked duck at the pond by Cranberry Acres. He also noted that eastern kingbirds and chimney swifts have disappeared and headed south this weekend.
Whit Manter mentioned that he had watched a very young Cooper’s hawk chasing an adult and begging food by the West Tisbury Fire Station and baseball field a couple of weeks ago.
Please call in your sightings to the bird hot line at 508-627-4922.