Capt. Flip Harrington took a crew of six of us offshore in his M/V Dovekie on July 18. At one point we were 60 miles offshore, yet the bird life was lackluster to say the least. The most numerous species was the Mother Cary’s Chicken or Wilson’s storm-petrel. We spotted around 135 of them. Next in line were the greater shearwaters, at 25 strong, and lastly the Cory’s shearwater, of which there were two. We had a few of great-black-backed, herring and laughing gulls, double-crested cormorants, common loons, and near Noman’s Land, common eiders. We were all shocked at the huge numbers of double-crested cormorants that were loafing on the cobble beach at Noman’s Land. There is a small colony of common terns near the old dock and among the semipalmated plovers and least sandpipers on the wrack line was one pectoral sandpiper.
We spotted one sea turtle which we figure was a loggerhead. It was a beautiful day offshore even though we didn’t find a great variety of birds or any rare ones.
July 19 marked the annual Vineyard butterfly count. Matt Pelikan was the coordinator and reports that 34 species were seen and 1,064 individuals. Matt added that this number was average or a bit below for the count. The American copper was the most numerous at 298 individuals; the common wood nymph came in second with 257. Notable were 28 coral hairstreaks.
There were two excellent finds. One was a white-M hairstreak which looks quite dull brown when the wings are folded, but is iridescent blue above. This individual was found and photographed by Judy Holland and Alex Greene at the head of Tashmoo. Congratulations you two, it is a new species for the count and the first documented record of the midsummer flight for this species on the Vineyard. Matt Pelikan photographed a Horace’s duskywing which is also very rare on the Vineyard. Unlike the hairstreak, this butterfly is plain brown and relatively boring — at least from my point of view.
Eric and Molly Peters found a bird that had been tangled up in a piece of fish net. They carefully removed the netting and took the bird to Gus Ben David at the World of Reptiles and Birds. Gus checked the bird out and found it was not damaged and suggested the bird be released. The “patient” was a common loon and Gus told the Peters that loons cannot take off from land, so the bird should be released on the water. So, on July 6 the common loon was released in Vineyard Haven harbor and was last seen going out into the Sound. All’s well that ends well.
On July 16, Paul Goldstein and Tim Simmons were walking the South Beach between Quansoo and Black Point and found a dead sooty shearwater. They also spotted three piping plovers, three American oystercatchers and two willets as well as several species of sandpipers and two species of plover.
Tom Rivers watched a single black vulture soaring over the road by the Martha’s Vineyard Airport on July 18.
Happy and Steve Spongberg watched not one, not two, but five immature Eastern towhees taking turns bathing in the Spongbergs’ bird bath on July 20. Towhees usually lay only three to four eggs, sometimes five and rarely six. Looks like the Spongbergs have good habitat for Eastern towhees.
On July 22, the Chilmark Community Center bird walkers visited Herring Creek, Lobsterville Beach, Red Beach and West Basin, all in Aquinnah. We saw and heard forty-four species. The best birds of the morning included spotted sandpipers, one roseate tern, green heron, a pair of ring-necked pheasants, laughing gull and belted kingfisher. The most fun was watching the young ospreys in the Lobsterville nest learning how to fly and fish!
Suzan Bellincampi reports from Felix Neck that the barn owl has now laid nine eggs! The owl keeps on laying. Suzan figures the first of this clutch will hatch in two weeks as she laid her first egg on July 2.
Allan Keith birded Cape Pogue and Wasque on July 21. He also visited the possible merlin nest and found that the female was still around and scolding. He noticed a nest in a pine tree near where the female was, but never saw the second bird nor did he see any bird on or go to the nest, so there is still no confirmation of the merlins nesting. Allan saw most of the shorebirds we have all been seeing, but did mention that there were spotted sandpipers as well as four piping plover (two adult and two immature) at Norton Point. All spotted least, one roseate and 20 to 30 common terns (many of which were banded) by the breach on Norton Point. Along the shore toward Cape Pogue, Allan spotted snowy and great egrets, a black-crowned night heron and a juvenile yellow crowned night heron.
Dick Jennings mentioned that he is still seeing the adult yellow-crowned night heron near Tom’s Neck. One wonders if there is a nest of yellow-crowned night herons out there?
Scott Stephens mentioned that he had an immature bird land on his boat off of Noman’s Land on the July 11. When he checked his bird book back home, he discovered that the bird was an immature bobolink. That is an early migrant!
Rob and Wendy Culbert were at Great Rock Bight on July 18. They did well with flycatchers as they heard Acadian, and saw great-crested and wood pewee. They also spotted yellow warbler and common yellowthroat at Great Rock Bight. At Peaked Hill, they spotted eastern bluebirds and at Quansoo they did well with the shorebirds, including semipalmated, Western and least sandpipers, semipalmated and piping plovers, greater yellowlegs and least, common and one roseate tern.
On July 20, Rob and Wendy Culbert took their group to Little Beach in Edgartown, where their best birds were three spotted sandpipers and two laughing gulls and a green heron. At the state forest, they added red-eyed vireo, blue-winged warbler, cedar waxwing and house wren.
Please report your bird sightings to the bird hot line at 508-627-4922.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and newly published Vineyard Birds II.