Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s annual osprey festival is set for April 4 from 9 to 11 a.m. (with a rain date of April 5) and guess who will be there? Felix Neck’s osprey. We have a pair. The male arrived on the morning of March 31 just in the nick of time. The female joined him on Wednesday. Come celebrate the return of the sanctuary’s osprey as well as many others that have returned to nest on the Island. You will discover facts about the fish hawk through a variety of activities including a talk about native birds by Rob Culbert. Crafts, guided walks and talks will whet your appetites. You can grab lunch foods, baked goods and beverages and munch away while enjoying live music by the Flying Elbows. The cost for members is $3; $6 for nonmembers.
Gus Ben David and his osprey pole crew put up the 124 osprey poles on the Vineyard. Gus wanted to alert people who see ospreys putting sticks on any power poles, transformers or lines to contact him immediately at 508-627-5634. He has a crew that gracefully puts up a platform and moves the sticks. If this is not done, the ospreys and their young are in jeopardy. So please call Gus if you see an osprey trying to make a nest on a power pole or transformer.
Osprey reports abound. Rob Culbert spotted one at Quansoo on March 26. Scott Stephens spotted his first flying over Pilot Hill in Vineyard Haven the same day. Penny Uhlendorf saw a pair on the Woods Hole harbor pole on March 24.
Alan Willens spotted a single osprey perched on the nest pole in the middle of Harthaven Beach on March 31. Alan mentioned that the Harthaven nest has been used for the last several years and he has watched the osprey pairs over the years. He felt that the bird he spotted on the 31st didn’t look the same as either of the pair from last year. It will be interesting to see if this is indeed a new bird or one that is thinned down from migration. There may be some fireworks if the original pair returns to find an interloper.
On the subject of raptors, David Damroth took some great shots of an immature (second year) bald eagle at Blacksmith Valley in Chilmark on March 28. David added that the local population of American crows was harassing the eagle as it spent an hour eating a fish.
Around March 16 Bert Fischer spotted two saw-whet owls in his apple orchard in Aquinnah. He took his wife Linda out that evening with a flashlight and Linda had a great view of the little owls. On March 27 Bert saw his first killdeer of the season and on March 24 a merlin conducted an aerial assault on his feeders. Bert’s brown thrasher has been out in the open frequently in the last few weeks. Bert noted that the waterfowl in Squibnocket Pond are building their nests. Has spring finally sprung?
Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens started hearing the brown creeper’s melodic springtime song on March 28 at Pilot Hill. A few days later a second brown creeper flew into the area and an irritated “zip” call was heard by Penny and Scott. No doubt the two were vying for territory.
Warblers have made the news. Deb and Gus Ben David sent me a photo of a northern parula that was feeding on their suet cake at the World of Reptiles and Birds on March 30 and 31. Now that is definitely a migrant. We had no spring records for northern parula in Vineyard Birds II; however the Birds of Massachusetts by Veit and Petersen have records for elsewhere in the state for the last days of April and first week in May. This is a very unusual and early record.
Another migrating warbler showed up at Pilot Hill on March 29. Patricia Carlet called Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens as well as Bob Woodruff to describe a bright yellow bird that was at her feeder. The description fit a prothonotary warbler. It seemed early for this warbler, but in fact Dorothy Packer spotted one at her feeder in 2005 on the same date, and Bert Fischer saw one in Aquinnah on March 31, 2000.
But winter still has a hold on the Vineyard and Nantucket. Two snowy owls were still on Nantucket last week and Glen and Rosemary Jackson still had around 150 pine siskins at their feeders near Chicama Vineyards as of March 29. On March 30 Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens spotted a dozen white-winged crossbills working the top of the pine trees at Ripley’s Field. Scott and Penny still had one pine siskin at their Pilot Hill feeder on March 30.
And speaking of snowy owls, Whit Manter spotted a snowy owl at Long Point in West Tisbury on March 27. He is quite sure this is the same bird that has been there for the last four months. At Aquinnah Whit spotted a first year Iceland gull off the Gay Head Cliffs on March 22. Squibnocket was a good birding spot for Whit on March 31 as he saw an adult peregrine falcon, a female Barrow’s goldeneye and a large number of red-throated loons gathering up to head north to breed. He estimated there were 100 red-throated loons in several flocks offshore.
Tim and Sheila Baird drove down to Katama on Monday March 30 and there was a snowy owl. Wow, what a year for this awesome owl.
Dale Carter of Chappaquiddick has several sightings this week. On March 25 she saw her first-ever tufted titmouse and first-of-the-season female red-breasted nuthatch. On March 27 her first male red-winged blackbirds arrived and the next day the female red-winged blackbirds and common grackles joined the male. On March 29 the male red-breasted nuthatch arrived and on March 30, Dale’s best sighting of the week, a male indigo bunting, arrived and promptly started arguing with his reflection in Dale’s window. The same day she also had a brown-headed cowbird arrive and the first great egret was in the marsh.
American oystercatchers continue to be in the news. Robert Ambrose spotted a pair at Katama on March 22 and Alan Willens spotted a pair at the entrance to Hart’s Harbor. This pair is probably the one that has nested there in the past.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard bird hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.