Feeding birds is a great way to draw birds close to your house, at least in theory. I add that last phrase because several observers have commented that there are not many birds and that the seed in their feeder is not being eaten.
Natural foods must be fairly abundant this fall, which may explain why bird seed is staying in the feeders. I have not started to feed the birds yet, but the inquisitive chickadees have not visited the deck in search of the feeder. Every fall they seem to hang out where the feeder will appear, prompting me to put it out and fill it.
Are our winter resident dark-eyed juncos around yet? So far it seems that only Tom and Barbara Rivers have juncos at their feeder. They first observed their juncos on Oct. 8, but only a few of those birds are still around. I observed a flock of juncos passing through Vineyard Haven on Oct. 4 and have not seen any since.
All you feeder watchers, please let us know who is frequenting your feeder. Are there any tufted titmice or white-throated sparrows or something out of the ordinary like a red-headed woodpecker?
The best bird of the week is a western kingbird, which Cindy House studied for half an hour on Oct. 27 at Wasque Reservation next to Pocha Pond. She observed its typical kingbird behavior of flying from a perch high in an oak tree in search of insects, then returning to the same perch. This western species is always a good find on the Vineyard. She also observed a northern harrier at Wasque and northern gannets offshore. On Oct. 28 she also observed about 20 harlequin ducks in the surf at Squibnocket.
Walt Looney reports 10 black-crowned night-herons roosting in the trees at Sheriff’s Meadow in Edgartown on Oct. 25 — there were four adults and six younger birds that were born last spring. This little pond is one of the most reliable places to see these herons, since they roost there every winter.
Gus BenDavid reports that bufflehead have showed up on both Farm Pond and Sengekontacket Pond.
Lanny McDowell found a stilt sandpiper on the tidal flats at he southwestern corner of Tisbury Great Pond on Oct. 26. Other shorebirds there included dunlin, white-rumped sandpiper, semipalmated plover, black-bellied plover and a small juvenile sandpiper that was either a semipalmated or a western (it is not always possible to tell these two similar shorebirds apart). At Aquinnah on Oct. 27, he joined Allan Keith and their highlights included a vesper sparrow, black-throated green warbler, and orange-crowned warbler.
Albert Fischer found some good birds in Aquinnah on Oct. 28, including three black-crowned night-herons, six hooded mergansers, two wood ducks, eastern bluebirds, an eastern phoebe and a brown thrasher.
Ken Beebe reports about 30 northern gannets fishing in Menemsha Bight on Oct. 28.
Finally, Tom Rivers observed the first red-breasted nuthatches of the season at his Chilmark feeder on Oct. 28. Time will tell whether this species will be as incredibly abundant as it was last winter.
Please remember to call the bird line at 508-627-4922, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, to report your sightings.
Robert Culbert is an ecological consultant and bird tour leader living in Vineyard Haven.