The bird sightings for the Island are confirming the prediction that there will be many winter finches flying south this fall/winter. Allan Keith shared with me a winter finch forecast for 2010-2011 which explains about the key crops that affect the finch movement. If white spruce, white pine, hemlock, mountain ash and white birch have poor seed production the finches will head south to find more feed.

Many of these species have poor seed production this year. The finches that we already are seeing in numbers are purple finches and pine siskins. The red-breasted nuthatch is not a finch but depends on the same species of food. We are seeing an amazing number of these passing by and at our feeders. Species we should watch for include red and white-winged crossbills, common and hoary redpolls and evening grosbeaks. Another nonfinch species that depends on evergreen seeds we should keep our eyes open for is the Bohemian waxwing. Keep your feeder stocked with black oil sunflower seeds for these winter visitors.


It is nice to have good news about ospreys after losing three birds at the beginning of the month. Rob Bierregaard e-mailed to say that Belle, a Vineyard juvenile, left the Island around Oct. 21 and, in Rob’s words, “took a rather exciting path to points south.” To see her route check out the maps on the following Web site

Gus Ben David and crew erected the 126th osprey pole on the Vineyard near Larsen Lane in Chilmark. Gus added that he is seeing red-breasted nuthatches at his World of Reptiles and Birds.

Whit Manter saw a vesper sparrow at Pond View Farm on Oct. 19. At the opening of Tisbury Great Pond later the same day Whit spotted a single golden plover and a very late piping plover. Warren Woessner was at Norton Point the same day and counted 10 black-bellied plovers, a single dunlin, five sanderlings and many laughing gulls. At Katama Warren added a merlin, a pied-billed grebe in Herring Creek, a swamp sparrow, a white-crowned sparrow and several yellow-rumped warblers. Kathy Flemming has a leucistic black-capped chickadee visiting her Oak Bluffs feeder.

Inland, also on Oct. 19, Matt Pelikan at spotted an incredible number of sparrows at Whippoorwill Farm. His estimates were 100 song sparrows, 20 swamp sparrows, 11 white-crowned sparrows, three chipping sparrows, three blue grosbeaks and six indigo buntings. He also saw palm, yellow-rumped and Blackpoll warblers and a flock of about 60 brown-headed cowbirds with a few red-winged blackbirds mixed in. Marge and Len Green of Connecticut and Aquinnah sent me a photo of three great egrets they took at West Basin in Aquinnah also on Oct. 19.

Lanny McDowell counted 11 killdeers at Nat’s Farm, one meadowlark (probably eastern) at the Farm Institute and one peregrine falcon at Norton Point on Oct. 20. The next day he counted and photographed eight eastern bluebirds at Quenames. At Aquinnah around the Gay Head Cliffs Bob Shriber and Allan Keith counted hundreds of American robins, Nashville warblers, two pine siskins, 100 house finches, an eastern bluebird, indigo buntings and 30 white-crowned sparrows. The raptors Bob and Allan saw included four merlins, one turkey vulture, and seven sharp-shinned hawks. They commented that all three species of scoters were offshore.

On Oct. 21 Bob Shriber counted five harlequin ducks, all three species of scoters and three red-throated loons at Squibnocket. He also spotted northern gannets fishing offshore. At Menemsha Bob added a great egret, a white-crowned sparrow and a Blackpoll warbler. The next day he birded Lobsterville and counted a large number of northern gannets working offshore. He spotted a merlin at Squibnocket and a sharp-shinned hawk off State Road in Aquinnah. On Oct. 24 Bob found both pine siskins and purple finches as well as white-crowned and swamp sparrows, Eastern bluebirds and red-breasted nuthatches at Aquinnah. At Tisbury Great Pond Bob found a dunlin, black bellied plovers, palm and yellow-rumped warblers and a northern harrier.

Anne Lemenager e-mailed me a few sightings from the Farm Neck and East Chop areas. Anne has been seeing a grebe (probably pied-billed) in the pond at the 15th hole at Farm Neck for three weeks. Helen Green and Anne spotted a northern harrier near the 14th hole on Oct. 25 and a great blue heron the day before. In the Oak Bluffs harbor on Oct. 24 Anne spotted her first common loon and white-winged scoters off the Inkwell in Oak Bluffs. Anne also spotted a couple of red-breasted mergansers off East Chop on the Oct. 25. Tim Colon sent me a photo, which he took on Oct. 24, of a red-tailed hawk perched on the road marker at the corner of Atlantic and Herring Creek Roads in Katama.

Bob Shriber spotted the first of the season snow buntings at Aquinnah on Oct. 25. He also counted hundreds of American robins and several greater yellowlegs flying overhead at the Gay Head Cliffs. White crowned sparrows were in good numbers at the Head as were common grackles, white-crowned sparrows, and yellow-rumped warblers. Finally Bob added a merlin and a purple finch to round out the morning at Aquinnah. At Cranberry Acres Matt Pelikan found a fox sparrow and counted a dozen ring-necked ducks and 20 wood ducks. Lanny McDowell spotted two tern species from the ferry on Oct. 25. They were too far away to identify and probably were either common or Forster’s.

Joan Jenkinson had both male and female purple finches at her North Road, Chilmark feeder on Oct. 25.

Bert Fischer reported that 150 scaup species arrived in Squibnocket Pond around Oct. 7. On Oct. 23 Bert had a white-throated sparrow arrive at his Aquinnah feeder. On Oct. 25 Bert had six pine siskins on his thistle feed and also a red-breasted nuthatch. Both are rare visitors to Bert’s feeders. Bert also was pleased to see his tufted titmice return after being away since spring. On Oct. 24 Bert watched a merlin capture and devour a small bird, while on Oct. 26 Bert counted six horned grebes, four green-winged teal on Squibnocket Pond and counted 12 dark-eyed juncos along his grassy road. Michael Stutz added that he spotted a dark-eyed junco as well as three tufted titmice at his Aquinnah feeder on Oct. 24.

Dick Jennings took his son fishing on Chappaquiddick on Oct. 25. He sent me a great photo of a peregrine falcon sitting on the dunes, which Dick said was one of two they saw. The father-son team also spotted two northern harriers, two sharp-shinned hawks and a Cooper’s hawk. No fish were caught however.

Lanny McDowell counted 11 pine siskins at his West Tisbury feeder on Oct. 27.


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