A rare Wilson’s plover arrived on-Island May 18. It was discovered by Liz Baldwin and Luanne Johnson, the team from Biodiversity Works that is monitoring piping plovers and American oystercatchers on many of the Island beaches. They spotted the Wilson’s plover at Squibnocket and found it was keeping the company of a piping plover. Turns out the Wilson’s plover is a female and the piping plover a male; ah the odd couple! Wilson’s plovers are a southern species and have only been found on the Vineyard a handful of times. Prior to 1984 there were only seven records, and since then six. These sightings are more common in the months of May and June and probably are birds that overshot their southern nesting areas.

Wilson’s plover’s breeding range in the United States is the Gulf of Mexico coast and up the East Coast, as far as Delaware. Part of the population of Wilson’s plovers spends the winter in Florida, others migrate to Brazil and Peru. It is a treat to see these southern species. It is just one of the many southerners that have graced our presence in the last twenty-five years.


Bird Sightings

Gus Ben David would like to repeat the request that anyone seeing an osprey nest on a power or telephone line please contact him at 508-627-5634. Last week a pair of osprey started constructing a nest on a pole on Chappaquiddick’s North Neck. The nest caused a short and power outage. Please report nests such as these to avoid unnecessary power outages and financial burdens that can be caused by unreported nesting activity.

Dick Jennings and Gus Ben David completed the Island-wide osprey survey. First, however, we must give you the good news about the Vineyard osprey, Belle. She was seen in Savannah, GA on May 13; next she “jetted” up to Massachusetts in six days and was spotted between Acton and Concord, Mass. on May 19. Belle arrived on-Island May 22 and was last spotted off of Barnes Road by the Lagoon. You go girl!

The results of Dick Jennings and Gus Ben David’s osprey survey show that there are 76 pairs of ospreys actively incubating eggs. Seven pairs did not return from last year, but to equal that out, eight new pairs showed up. There are nine housekeeping pairs which do not lay eggs, but do build nests and figure out if they are compatible.

Last year there were 71 active breeding pairs of ospreys with fourteen failures, due in large part to weather. It will be interesting to see how the 76 pairs do this year. Thanks, Dick and Gus for your hard work.

Deb Ben David spotted a red-headed woodpecker in her yard at the World of Reptiles and Birds on May 20. Gus Ben David noted that this is the seventieth species for their yard list. Gus added that he has been keeping track of barn owl pairs on the Vineyard and figures that there are over thirty pairs at present. There are two new pairs the Ben David family helped. Shane Ben David erected a barn owl box on the Edgartown Water Department property, and that box has a pair of barn owls incubating four eggs. The barn owl box in the field at the World of Reptiles and Birds has five young.

The Potter Family, Robert, Edo and Hatsie, heard a chuck-wills-widow in the pines at the edge of their Pimpneymouse Farm on Chappaquiddick on May 18, 19 and 20.

Dale Carter of Chappaquiddick reported seeing a blackbird that was only a bit longer than a red-winged blackbird at her feeder. She at first thought it might be a rusty blackbird, but on further consideration figured it was probably a Brewer’s blackbird. If anyone on Chappy sees this bird, take a photo. Dale also had both a pair of purple and multiple house finches at her feeder on May 19 and 20.

The black skimmers are still around. Liz Baldwin spotted the pair at Little Beach in Edgartown on May 20. On May 21 the pair had moved to Sarson’s Island in Sengekontacket Pond as Jerry and Sandra Twomery reported seeing them there.

Deb Carter of Katama photographed a great crested flycatcher in her yard and had trouble identifying another bird. The bird in question was a female red-winged blackbird. This bird, which looks like a big sparrow, is misidentified more than any other bird. Check it out in your field guides if you haven’t seen one because maybe you have.

Other arrivals include ruby-throated hummingbirds at Poucha Road on Chappaquiddick by Kate Greer on May 10, and one near Long Point on Tisbury Great Pond by Vivien Stein on May 18. Vivien also spotted a male Baltimore oriole the same day. Michael Oliveira reports that indigo buntings, two rose-breasted grosbeaks and one Baltimore oriole arrived at his Indian Hill feeder between May 10 and 12.

Allan Keith went to find the Wilson’s Plover on May 18 after he heard the news, and found it. The next day Allan took me to Squibnocket late in the afternoon and we found the plover again. Liz Baldwin took Lanny McDowell and Warren Woessner to find the Wilson’s plover on May 20 and the bird was found and duly photographed.

The Coastal waterbird staff of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is submitting a weekly bird report. Here are some highlights for the week of May 16 to 23.

State Beach: Piping Plover-no more than two, American Oystercatcher-no more than three, not counting the two chicks on Big Gravel (an island in Sengekontacket Pond) and Willet-two to three.

Lobsterville Beach: Piping Plover-1. The crew also spotted six Surf Scoters and two Bank Swallows at Lobsterville.

Quansoo: Short-billed Dowitchers, dunlin, sanderlings, and black-bellied plovers. The staff counted six piping plovers, and seven American oystercatchers, including two chicks.

Harthaven: Suzan Bellincampi and crew spotted 32 roseate terns.

Felix Neck: Phillip Hunziker spotted one saltmarsh sparrow.

Suzan Bellincampi also noted that the staff mentioned that Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroat were seen at all locations, Prairie Warbler were seen in the State Forest and at Lobsterville, and that a pair of pine warblers are nesting near Suzan Bellincampi’s house on the Felix Neck property.

Eleanor Waldron and Barbara Pesch discovered that the northern harriers that had been nesting at Priscilla Hancock Preserve for many years did not return this year. Larry Hepler has seen both male and female harrier hunting at Quansoo Preserve; most recently he spotted the male hunting the front field on May 22. We can only hope the harrier pair moved to a new location to the east of where they traditionally nest.

Warren Woessner, Flip Harrington and I birded Norton Point on May 17. We were joined by Lanny McDowell and were pleased to see the large number of terns by the breach. We figured there were easily 500 birds, the vast majority being roseate terns along with common and least. We spotted one of the black skimmers, three snowy egrets, semipalmated and piping plovers, greater yellowlegs, least and semipalmated sandpipers and a short-billed dowitcher, to name a few. The day before, Flip Harrington and I saw a red knot on Sarson’s Island, and on May 18, Warren and I saw the usual cast of characters at Waskosim’s Rock including watching a hairy woodpecker carrying food into its nest hole.

Ginny Jones reported several American oystercatchers on Tississa Point on Tisbury Great Pond on May 22. And the ruby-throated hummingbirds finally visited our Quenames feeder on May 19.


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to birds@mvgazette.com. Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.