An entertaining e-mail from Bob St. Germain reminded me that it is that time of year again. I must give my annual lecture on the importance of keeping a distance from bird nests and also slowing down on the roads. Birds passing across the Vineyard roads are undoubtedly carrying food for young at this time of year. If you hit one, then the nestlings or fledglings will have difficulty surviving.

If you find a young bird out of the nest, you have three options. You can leave it alone if it is capable of flimsy flight or if it is just hopping about, catch it and place it up in a tree or shrub away from predators. If the young bird is not capable of flight try to find the nest and carefully, with gloved hands, return the youngster to the nest. If you cannot find the nest you can make a nest yourself and place the nestling into it. Chances are the parent will find the misplaced “child” and nurture it. Empty hanging baskets or old Easter baskets work well as a base, then use your imagination to line the basket. The main idea is to protect the young from predators in hopes a parent will find the nestling.

If you are on the beach and a tern starts dive bombing you, move away from the area as this is the tern’s method of letting you know you are too close to its nest. The killdeer and American oystercatcher let you know you are close to their nests by giving a broken wing display which you are to follow. The bird is leading you away from its nest with this action. Piping plovers will become very vocal when you are close to their nests, so be aware of a talkative plover and move away.

Oh yes, the e-mail. Bob wrote that he has been unable to use his outdoor shower as there were avian visitors: a nest of fledgling American robins. Bob claimed that he hadn’t been able to take a shower for two weeks. Lucky for Bob, his friends, neighbors and family, the robins left the nest on Tuesday, June 5. Hope you had a good long hot shower Bob!

Bird Sightings

Last week I reported that Richard Cohen joined Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore at Norton Point. The third birder was Bob Cohen, not Richard.

Pete Gilmore went looking for the Sandwich tern that Alex Greene had seen in Harthaven on May 30. He missed seeing it but was treated to a view of a black tern in full breeding plumage. We rarely see black terns in the spring and hardly ever see them in breeding plumage as they are more common in the fall after they molt. At the other end of the Island, Tim Johnson took a photo of two terns on a piling in Menemsha; one a common tern and the other a Forster’s tern. Forster’s terns are a fall visitor to the Vineyard. Most breed in the center of the United States and Canada, although a few nesting colonies are found along the southeast coast. There are no records of Forster’s tern nesting on the Vineyard.

Laughing gulls are around this spring and summer. They have been seen at East Chop, Mink Meadows and Menemsha and at Sengekontacket Pond. Jeff Bernier spotted one at Harthaven on June 1. Tim and Sheila Baird had one at Sengekontacket on June 5. Alex Greene, one of the Felix Neck’s Coastal Waterbird staff, spotted one at Mink Meadows in full breeding plumage the week of May 28 and has been seeing up to eight birds around Harthaven daily last week.

Reports of young piping plover chicks, willet chicks and young American oystercatchers have been reported by the gals at the Biodiversity Works and the Felix Neck coastal waterbird staff. They are being seen from Aquinnah to West Chop and Harthaven to South Beach. No reports from Chappaquiddick.

A surprising number of ruddy turnstones are still being seen on Island. These colorful shorebirds breed in the high Arctic and most have passed through the Vineyard by now as they usually start nesting in June.

Alex Greene reports a red-eyed vireo singing at Felix Neck, a wood thrush by Chilmark Chocolates and a blue-winged warbler nearby.

Pete Gilmore, Lanny McDowell, Flip Harrington and I wenrt over to Chappaquiddick on the evening of June 1 to try to hear the Chuck-will-widow. We drove down toward Mytoi and heard a couple of whippoorwills. Not to be defeated, we continued on and right by the by TTOR’s check-in station we heard not one but two Chuck-wills-widows. Geoff Kontje and Norma Costain also heard one by their Chappaquiddick home on May 28. Other reports of whippoorwills have come from Dodger’s Hole (Jackson Keith) and Oak Bluffs (Rosemary Knowlton Hildreth)

On June 2 Flip Harrington, Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore and I spotted several short-billed dowitchers in the salt flats at Sengekontacket Pond. Alex Greene also spotted these dowitchers in the same spot. This is getting late for these Arctic breeders. Maybe they know something we don’t.

Ruth Welch heard a bobwhite by Webquish Pond on Chappaquiddick during the last two weeks of May.

Larry Hepler reported seeing a male harrier hunting the Quansoo fields both early morning and dusk on May 31.

Genevieve Jacobs reported a partially leucistic common grackle at their home off Buttonwood Road in West Tisbury. The grackle had a white patch on its neck and a few white tail feathers.

Gus Ben David has been called on for help with seven osprey pairs that are attempting nests on chimneys. They all have been housekeeping pairs that drop a few twigs on the chimney then move off and maybe return. These are pairs that are just practicing and will not nest until the following year. Gus will not put up an osprey pole until he is sure the pair is serious about nesting. And speaking of ospreys, the latest report from Rob Bierregaard is that Snowy, the male tagged last season on the Vineyard, is spending his first year in the llanos of Venezuela. Belle has returned to the Vineyard and is hanging around the coves on the West Tisbury side of Tisbury Great Pond.


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 co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is