The occasion was the 25th annual St. Catherines Island Foundation Christmas Bird Count. Flip Harrington and I have participated in 10 of the 25. We were to fly from Boston to Brunswick, Ga. spend the night with a friend and drive north to Half-Moon Marina. The marina is where visitors to St. Catherines are to congregate and board motorboats that whisk them to the island.
I had made reservations on Cape Air for the evening well in advance as our flight to Brunswick left at 6 a.m. A Logan hotel was booked and our Boston-Georgia boarding passes had been printed. I thought we were so organized. We packed and even had a nice shower and went to Cape Air’s desk at around 5:15 p.m. for our 6 p.m. flight, chatting about the great dinner we were going to have at Legal Sea Foods before we went to the hotel.
The best laid plans of mice and men . . . The gal behind the Cape Air desk announced that there was no 6 p.m. flight. The last one was at 5 p.m. I pulled out the Cape Air printout and found that the font was so small that I misread the time. If I had looked at the arrival time I would have seen that it was 5:35 p.m. Oops, plan B. We drove to the SSA and luckily there was a boat shortly after we arrived. We called Cousin Bea and told her the car would be at the Stop & Shop parking lot, not the airport. I checked the bus schedule . . . not good. A call to White Tie Limo was our savior. The driver and car met us at Woods Hole, and just shy of two hours later we were at the hotel. So much for the lovely dinner; instead we ate chowder and salads at the bar, went to the room and asked for a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call.
Up at 0’dark hundred and into the shuttle. We took the two bags to be checked to the desk and headed for security. Off with the shoes, belt, cell phone; computer out. Flip’s carry-on was stopped, checked and rechecked as we both worried we would miss the flight. Finally a TSA man found Flip’s Leatherman tool at the bottom of this pack, confiscated it and we were off at a run. We boarded the plane and met up with Brad Winn, who was also going to participate in the St. Catherines Christmas Bird Count. We finally relaxed and took a snooze. We arrived at Brunswick and Brad and Flip’s suitcases arrived, but not mine. What did I do to deserve all this? Luckily Delta was on the ball and the suitcase arrived at our friend’s house before we took off to St. Catherines.
The day of the Christmas Bird Count dawned clear and balmy. Our team covered much of the south side of the Island and produced many shorebirds and waterbirds. It was so warm we commented that we should have brought swimsuits. When the day was over we had a good number of species, but very few of each. Our total when we tallied all the groups’ sightings was 140 species, which is a respectable count. There was nothing special bird-wise, but it is always great fun to bird, eat and chat with a group of birders that we see only once a year!
Jeff Bernier started out on Dec. 13 to photograph at Squibnocket. He found that his camera was not functioning properly, so went home to rectify the problem. He made his way back to Squibnocket in time to get some fabulous shots of 12 purple sandpipers, a seal and an outstanding sunset. Jeff also counted 20 hooded mergansers on Squibnocket Pond.
On Dec. 15 Happy Spongberg was filling her feeder off Tea Lane when she heard a winter wren. The next day while driving past Seven Gates a yellow-bellied sapsucker flew across the road in front of her.
Tim Leland called to report seeing an osprey flying over his Wasque Point property on Dec. 17.
Lynne Silva and Laurie Walker both called to comment on the Chinese goose that has been frequenting the Mill Pond. I checked with Gus Ben David and he said the name of the bird in the Mill Pond is a brown China. These geese come in two forms, white and brown. They are domesticated and Gus said they are used to weed fields, strawberry fields in particular. Gus said they do not eat the strawberries nor step on them, but weed the strawberry patches. Gus said probably the same Chinese goose was reported a year ago in with a flock around Sengekontacket. He has no idea where it came from, but probably from a farm.
Laurie Walker and her husband Don Reese spotted a barn owl crossing South Road near Blue Barque Road on Dec. 16.
Lanny McDowell photographed an Iceland gull on the jetty north of the Inkwell in Oak Bluffs on Dec. 17.
Kate Greer sent me two photos of a merlin she took at Wasque on Dec. 18. The same day Lanny McDowell tracked down an odd looking bird and after photographing it determined it was a very pale first year female pine warbler.
William Waterway sent a photo of a thrush he took on Dec. 19 to the birding crew. After much back and forth it was decided the bird was an immature hermit thrush.
Dec. 16 Dick Knight saw the flock of what he thought were pine grosbeaks in with eastern bluebirds and a yellow-rumped warbler and decided what he was seeing was a mixture of American goldfinches and house finches, not pine grosbeaks.
Martha Moore reported a red-winged blackbird on the eastern shore of Tisbury Great Pond on Dec. 20. And Lanny McDowell heard a gray catbird near the Mill Pond and spotted two American widgeon on the Mill Pond. At 3 a.m. on Dec. 21 Lanny heard a great horned owl at Tashmoo.
Merry Christmas and don’t forget the Vineyard’s Christmas Bird Count on Jan. 2.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.