The Vineyard experienced a mini fallout last week. We are not talking nuclear, but bird! If there is a strong wind that comes from the southwest in the spring, birds coming up from the southern U.S. and Central and South America are carried on their way north at a good clip. Then if the wind comes around from the north, the birds basically hit a wall and stop. If the migrating birds are over the Island at that time they fall out onto same. The indigo bunting is the bird species that fell out in the largest number on the Island, scattering patches of electric blue from Chappaquiddick to Aquinnah!


Bird Sightings

On April 10 Andrea Hartman heard pine warblers in the pines by the Quenames house and then saw one, on the ground under the feeders. On April 14 Andrea got buzzed by a barn swallow at Quenames; by April 16 there were four or five barn swallows around the barn. Andrea also spotted a chipping sparrow by the feeder and two Eastern phoebes. Andrea added that she might have seen the bald eagle on April 14 over the Quenames fields.

Alan Willens reports that after a couple of weeks of periodically sighting a lone osprey in the vicinity of Harthaven beach and the nest pole, the pair is back and around the nest. Alan added that the ospreys were more skittish than he remembers from past years. Perhaps when they are on eggs they will stay put.

And speaking of ospreys, Dick Jennings reports that Belle, the osprey from Chappaquiddick, is in between the Gulf of Venezuela and Lake Maracaibo. She is presently not moving, most likely a rest stop before crossing the Caribbean to the Dominican Republic. The map shows her movements.

Rob Bierregaard, on his Web site on osprey, adds: “Our first “teenager,” Belle (Vineyard young from 2010) is on the move. She left her South American “wintering” range (seems a bit strange to call where she’s been for the past 18 months a ‘winter’ area — but it will be from now on as she gets into the normal, adult cycle of five months on the breeding grounds, five months in S.A., and two months migrating).” For more information on Belle and the other ospreys that are part of the study done by Rob, Dick Jennings et al., visit

Polly and Tommy Bassett spotted their first ruby-throated hummingbird on April 18. Three days later, on April 21, Daniel Waters had his first ruby-throat of the season on his Christiantown hummingbird feeder. Two days after that, on April 23, Jan Richards watched a ruby-throated hummingbird in her Christiantown yard.

Rand and Adam Burnett were birding on Chappaquiddick last weekend and found prairie warblers on April 17 and 18 at Mytoi and on April 17, 18 and 19 they heard a whip-poor-will. On East Beach on April 20 the Burnetts watched four horned larks fly in and two of them proceeded to conduct courtship behavior. Rand and Adam counted three pairs of piping plovers on East Beach and one pair on Katama Bay.

Tom Scott reports that a male and female bobwhite visited his Oyster Pond bird feeder on April 18.

Captain Buddy Vanderhoop took photos of a large white gull he saw at West Basin, Aquinnah on April 20. He sent the photos to Lanny McDowell, who verified that the gull was a glaucous gull. The same day Happy and Steve Spongberg and guests watched a brown thrasher cross Tea Lane, Chilmark. On April 24 Happy spotted a winter wren at the junction of Tea Lane and Middle Roads.

Matt Pelikan was surprised to hear a red-breasted nuthatch calling in the Manuel Correllus State Forest on April 20. This nuthatch has not been seen at feeders this winter, but if it was calling is it planning on nesting?

Tom Rivers heard a whip-poor-will at his Tea Lane, Chilmark house on April 21 and Rob Culbert heard one at the State Forest Frisbee field the same evening.

Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens noticed that their wren nest vase was not only occupied by Carolina wrens, but that they already had young that the adults were feeding on April 24. Jeff Bernier sent a photo of a Carolina wren that appeared to have a dark patch on its belly, which Vineyard birders, especially Penny Uhlendorf, recognized as a brood patch. That is two early nesting Carolina wren pairs!

Joan Mancuso of Bluebird Lane in West Tisbury watched a scarlet tanager bathing in her bird bath on April 22.

Luanne Johnson reports that the first piping plover nest of the season is in Aquinnah on Dogfish Bar as of April 22.

And down for the great indigo bunting fall out! It started on April 21, when Adam Bettencourt spotted two male and then later a male and female indigo bunting by the Bryant house on the Chilmark/West Tisbury line. Then on April 22 Laurisa Rich reported a male indigo bunting on Squibnocket Ridge, Chilmark. April 23 the sky opened up and down came the indigo buntings. Sue Silva spotted a male on Indian Hill and commented it was next to her Virginia blue bells (a flower), which are a similar color! Nancy Hugger and Kate Greer had male indigo buntings on Chappaquiddick in their respective yards; Janet Sigler, on Edgartown Great Pond (a female arrived later in the day); Laurie Clements had both a male indigo bunting and blue grosbeak in her Look Street, Vineyard Haven yard. Nancy Weaver reported two blue grosbeaks at the Polly Hill Arboretum on April 23 and 24, as well as indigo buntings, which were photographed by Jeff Bernier on April 24. Deb Cini had both male and female indigo buntings in her Pin Oak, West Tisbury yard. Sue Silva said by April 24 she had two males and one female indigo bunting, and the following day four males and two females in her Indian Hill yard!

Wink Winkleman reports two blue grosbeaks in his East Chop yard on April 24.

Lanny McDowell spotted a Swainson’s thrush near Tashmoo, Vineyard Haven on April 25.

Fallouts are hard on the birds but interesting for birders, so watch your weather patterns and 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 II. Her Web site