Grin, sharpie, modo, rump, red nut, limey and bobo — what kind of gibberish is that? No, it is not baby talk or profanity, but nicknames that bird watchers have for certain species. Grin for the majestic peregrine falcon, sharpie for the sharp-shinned hawk, modo for the mourning dove, rump for the yellow-rumped warbler, red nut for red-breasted nuthatch, limey for English or house sparrow and bobo for bobolinks.

Bobos are an everyday occurrence flying over the Gay Head Cliffs of Aquinnah in the fall. They are almost always in loose flocks and announce their arrival by their call, which sounds like “pink” as they pass overhead. If you are used to seeing bobolinks in their spring plumage — a study in black and white except for the back of their head which boasts a golden sheen — you will not recognize the fall version. The autumn bobo looks somewhat like a big buffy-yellow and black sparrow. It frequently settles on one of the nineteen species of goldenrod found on the Island and blends in quite well. We hardly ever see bobolinks in the spring; however there are probably thousands of bobos that pass over the Vineyard in the fall. Enjoy fall migration at Aquinnah; you never know what may fly in or by!

Bird Sightings

On Sept. 14 Rob Culbert observed a northern waterthrush at the Morning Glory Farm compost pile — plenty of bugs there to eat! Then, on Sept. 18 Rob and his birding group found chipping sparrows, a palm warbler, an eastern phoebe and heard an eastern wood pewee singing from within the State Forest. The following Saturday, Sept. 25, Rob and his group braved Norton Point in the southerly winds, but most all the birds were hunkered down, save a flock of sanderlings and laughing gulls. On Sept. 27 Rob took the ferry to America and in Woods Hole he spotted a couple of late-staying common terns.

On Sept. 15 Diane Emin called to say she watched a black-throated blue warbler on her West Tisbury deck.

On Sept. 18 Bert Fischer sighted seven American wigeon in Squibnocket Pond.

On Sept. 22 Flip Harrington and I watched two black-crowned night herons fishing on Tisbury Great Pond. The following day Lanny McDowell, Flip and I birded Aquinnah and then went for breakfast at the Aquinnah Shop. We tallied up quite a list of raptors, many while we were enjoying our breakfast. The hawks we saw included four merlins, five harriers, four sharp-shinned hawks, one turkey vulture and two red-tailed hawks including one that settled on the Aquinnah Shop porch banister right next to a table full of diners! We also observed one clay-colored sparrow, 75 bobolinks, 16 cedar waxwings and 70 American robins, two brown thrashers, both white and red-breasted nuthatches, and a red-eyed vireo.

On Sept. 24 Lanny McDowell visited Eel Pond and on Little Beach he counted 142 black-bellied plovers, 260 sanderlings and three short-billed dowitchers.

The next day Pete Gilmore went up to Aquinnah and then to Squibnocket. At Aquinnah he spotted one osprey, bobolinks perched on goldenrods and heard a dickcissel. Squibnocket provided Pete with good looks at two northern gannets, Forster’s terns, 13 surf scoters and a steady stream of white-winged scoters that Pete figured were 120 in number. Flip Harrington and I went to Black Point to see what birds were there. We observed one black-crowned night and four great blue herons, four Forster’s terns, five eastern phoebes, one palm warbler, seven northern flickers, one merlin and two peregrines.

Andrea Hartman watched a ruby-throated hummingbird around her feeder on Sept. 25. She said the level in the feeder was down the following day, so one or more may still be in her neighborhood. Whit Manter spotted an American kestrel at Pond View Farm. On Sept. 27 Whit watched a mixed flock of 30 birds, including chipping sparrows, eastern bluebirds and palm warblers. Whit watched two sharp-shinned hawks and seven blue jays having a dog fight over Whit’s End on Sept. 29.

On Sept. 26 Gus Ben David spotted a male American kestrel near Greene’s fields in West Tisbury. I called Gus to have him help me with an identification of a group of five ducks that Alice Cruikshank spotted at Quansoo the same day. I could not figure out what she was seeing from the description, but Gus did. Alice spotted five domestic muscovy ducks. These are not the elegant black and white wild muscovys one sees in Mexico, Central and South American but “designer” ducks as Gus calls them. The five-some that Alice spotted was probably an escape from someone’s collection off-Island.

Suzie Bowman called to say there was a great egret in the Felix Neck marshes on Sept. 26. Tim and Sheila Baird counted two great egrets flying over Sengekontacket on Sept. 28. In their Edgartown yard, Tim and Sheila Baird had a yellow-bellied sapsucker, hairy and downy woodpeckers on Sept. 27. They mentioned that their hummingbirds returned the same day.

Sept. 26 Flip Harrington and I went to Aquinnah where we met up with Laurie Walker, Katharine Colon and Janet Holladay. We found one northern harrier, two sharp-shinned and one red-tailed hawk, three merlins and one peregrine falcon. We counted fifteen northern flickers, twenty-eight American robins, two yellow-rumped, five blackpoll and two palm warblers, one swamp sparrow and one white-crowned sparrow and several bobolinks. Unfortunately we also counted a flock of over fifty brown-headed cowbirds. At Hariph’s Creek we added a great blue heron, a great egret and a belted kingfisher.

Sept. 26 Allan Keith counted two pied-billed grebes, two gadwalls and eight American wigeon on Squibnocket Pond.

The morning of Sept. 27 at the edge of Tisbury Great Pond I spotted one osprey, ten chipping sparrows, six eastern bluebirds, one downy woodpecker, five northern flickers, two pine warblers, a white-breasted nuthatch and two belted kingfishers. Later in the day Tomas Diagne and Lucy Keith Diagne joined Flip Harrington and me at Black Point. We enjoyed watching two great blue herons, one Cooper’s and one red-tailed hawk, a pied-billed grebe, a mallard and four green winged teals.


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

Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is