The weather on the proposed date (Jan. 3) for the Christmas Bird Count wasn’t fit for man nor beast. Rob Culbert made an excellent decision and moved the count to Tuesday, Jan. 5. The only problem with this change was that some participants were unable to join us as they were working. We were very shorthanded. However, the Vineyarders who participated should be proud, because even with a much reduced crew at the end of the day the unofficial total number of species seen was 115. Now that is a lower tally than CBCs of milder winters but was the same as Cape Cod. Cape Cod usually has the highest number of bird species seen on CBCs statewide. Rumor has it that Nantucket had the highest count in the state this year with a total of 118. So we were only three down from the “top dog.” The Vineyard had the best weather of any of the state CBCs, and with a few more participants we probably would have bested Nantucket!

The overall number of birds both at feeders and in the field is down. This is not surprising, what with frozen ponds and Arctic blasts that undoubtedly sent birds to open water or further south. Still and all there were some special birds seen, including a black guillemot seen off Menemsha, a killdeer along the Menemsha Pond shore, three ruddy turnstones at Tashmoo, a fox sparrow and great horned owls at Pilot Hill, a winter wren in Aquinnah, a northern shrike at Squibnocket, a palm warbler and greater yellowlegs at Town Cove in West Tisbury, a woodcock at Turtle Brook Farm in Chilmark and a group of two American pipits, two horned larks and four Ipswich sparrows all hunkered down in the wrack line on Lobsterville Beach close to the west Menemsha jetty.

It was interesting to find the number of long-tailed (oldsquaw) ducks much higher than in the past. Usually Nantucket boasts huge rafts of these sea ducks, but this year they are off Chappaquiddick. Hmm, I remember that the reason that Nantucket wasn’t to have wind turbines off their coast was due to the large numbers of long-tailed ducks that spend the winter there . . . . Birds have wings and move, so overall migratory and wintering ground patterns must be considered before the final placement of wind turbines is decided.

The above are just some highlights of the Vineyard’s 2009 CBC. Rob Culbert will be writing up the final numbers for the Gazette soon. Thanks go to all that helped with the CBC whether at the feeders or in the field. Happy New Year!

Bird Sightings

Back on Dec. 19 Janet Norton had a female shoveler in her duck pond in Edgartown. Dec. 22 Jean Levin called to report eastern bluebirds at her Menemsha house. The same day Susie Bowman spotted a mystery warbler at Lambert’s Cove. We are still working on the identification of same.

A Christmas present for Rob, Anne and Wendy Culbert were two brown creepers that visited their yard. Dec. 28 Warren Woessner spotted two snow geese and 50 snow buntings at the Farm Institute in Katama. The following day Warren spotted a meadowlark at the Farm Institute and two ring-necked ducks at the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station.

Charlie Finnerty had a hairy woodpecker visit his Tea Lane feeders on Dec. 29. The next day he had eight red-winged blackbirds at his feeder and 24 robins in his yard.

Jan. 1 Gail Mone called to report 15 red-winged blackbirds at her Long View sunflower feeders. Lanny McDowell was at Black Point the same day and spotted and photographed two beautiful tundra swans. These birds used to spend the winters on the Vineyard and Nantucket in small numbers but have not been seen since 1992. Nice to have them back!

Tundra swans return to island after 18 years. — Lanny McDowell

Laura Wainright sent me a collection of great photos of a Baltimore oriole that was on her sunflower seed feeder in Lambert’s Cove. She saw the oriole first on Jan. 3 and then again on the 6th.


Please report your feeder or field sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to