Betsy Wice asked about this year’s butterfly count. The Vineyard’s butterfly count took place almost a month ago, on July 17. Six people participated including yours truly. It was hot, in the mid-80s, which is good for butterflies, but the wind was too strong. Butterflies don’t like to be blown away, so stay grounded in high winds.

The butterfly watchers ended up spotting 33 species which Matt Pelikan, who is the organizer, said is about average for the count. The most common butterfly spotted was the common wood nymph with 139 seen; second was the little American copper (120) and third was the monarch (90). The two rarest species seen were the oak hairstreak and the Eastern comma with only one of each recorded. If you are interested in seeing the complete list, send me an e-mail at

Bird Sightings

Morgan Hodgson e-mailed me the following: “As an inveterate reader of Bird News year-round, I am sad to make my first report to you of a sighting of what I assume is a dead fledged osprey. We found it on Lobsterville Beach in the sand directly in line with the osprey nesting perch during a walk Friday afternoon. At least one adult osprey is still on the nest — we have seen her (him) doing what seems to be an unusual amount of wing flapping the past two days (we live just off of Red Beach.)”

The bird the Hodgsons saw on the nest is an immature that is exercising his or her wings to develop flight muscles. Eventually he or she will take to the air. Unless the dead osprey was collected and taken to Gus Ben David we will never know what happened to it. Chances are it may have hit a telephone line, but that is just a wild guess.

Morgan added “On a cheerier note, my husband and I counted 10 great egrets on Wednesday morning (August 10) in the marsh on the way to West Basin.”

Jeff Bernier has been busy with his camera. On August 14 he took two awesome photos of a marbled godwit that he saw on Edgartown Great Pond. Vineyard Birds II states the marbled godwit is a rare fall transient on Island, but I will have to change my mind as it has been appearing annually for the past three years.

Rob Culbert e-mailed me his sightings for the first part of August. On August 6, his birding tour found either some early migrating or large families of flycatchers at the state forest headquarters. Five eastern kingbirds, seven to ten great crested flycatchers, all in a small clump of cherry trees, hawking insects and eating wild cherries, and an eastern phoebe. Rob and crew also spotted a common yellowthroat as well as three solitary sandpipers on the pond.

On August 10 Rob had an immature bald eagle fly over as he waited in the traffic at the blinker lights in Oak Bluffs. The eagle flew from Island Alpaca up and over Goodale’s pit. On August 11, he observed a ruby-throated hummingbird at Waterview Farm — Rob mentioned that he only sees them there in their southward migration. The highlights of his Saturday, August 13, guided birding tour were a laughing gull at Sarson’s Island, along with the more usual ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, semipalmated plovers, American oystercatchers, willets, and common terns. At Herring Creek Farm the group had lots of brown-headed cowbirds and European starlings, as well as both tree and barn swallows.

Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore, Flip Harrington and I birded Cape Pogue on August 12. The highlights of our trip were a saltmarsh sparrow at Dyke Bridge, five Forster’s terns, two roseate terns, more than 50 common terns, a whimbrel on the shore and white-winged scoter and common eider in Cape Pogue Pond. We also saw a flock of more than 500 tree swallows including one albino which was being constantly harassed by “normal” tree swallows. The regular assortment of shorebirds was present as well as ospreys and northern harriers.

Flip Harrington and I had a belted kingfisher at Quansoo on August 11. We had not seen one all summer!

Larry Gile joined me on a birding trip to Little Beach on August 14. We saw the normal selection of shorebirds plus an immature yellow-crowned night heron, a spotted sandpiper, a laughing gull, and at the Farm Institute we spotted several eastern kingbirds.

The Chilmark Community Center bird walks on August 16 also went to Little Beach, where we were pleased to see the first juvenile shorebirds joining the adults which had already arrived from the tundra. The crisp plumage of the semipalmated and least sandpipers really stood out compared to the muddled or worn plumage of the adults. It was a good comparison.

Todd Follensbee e-mailed to note that while at the Gay Head Lighthouse on August 11 he watched a hawk hovering at the edge of the Cliffs. The bird was probably a red-tailed hawk as this is a common fall occurrence at the Cliffs. And speaking of the Cliffs, Flip Harrington and I were up there the evening of August 16 and spotted an osprey, several eastern kingbirds and a flock of cedar waxwings. There were also many monarch butterflies settling in for the evening in the alders next to the Homestead.

Lanny took a photo about a year ago at Katama, of a baby kingbird that Vineyard and off-Island birders eventually concluded was an eastern kingbird. However, Matt Pelikan and some others found this a troublesome call; Matt just read a discussion of an apparent western/eastern kingbird hybrid found in Ontario, and given that a western kingbird had been hanging around the Vineyard in late spring last year, another look at that odd juvenile was made by Matt. His comment was: “Hmmm. The underparts and breast still look very odd, and the proportions may be odd for eastern (kingbird), too. But the tail markings are all eastern. Have to ruminate on this, and look at some other photos. Interesting bird, in any case.”

Lisa Wright e-mailed me from Cuttyhunk to say there were ruddy turnstones over on that island on August 11.

Tom Rivers watched two chimney swifts fly over his Tea Lane home on August 10. He doesn’t see them during the summer; migrants no doubt.


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to

Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds 2. Her Web site is