Well, it seems to me that shorebird migration is early. I have always considered July 4 the date for the beginning of the movement of sandpipers, plovers, dowitchers, knots and the like as they head south for their winter haunts. But the shorebirds came through the Vineyard earlier, their young have hatched earlier (and now are on their own), so why not head south earlier?
Not necessarily the case, says Brian Harrington, late of the Manomet Bird Observatory and a red knot expert. Brian told me that there is often a flurry of shorebird sightings in late June. He added that these June shorebirds are in what he calls tacky plumage — the red breast of the red knots are mottled, or the black of the dunlin’s bellies are not solid black. These birds are young of last year who have migrated part way to their potential nesting areas in the tundra and now are heading south. Brian added that the birds might be adults headed south, but it is important to check out plumages to determine if the individual is a young of last year or an adult of this year. This makes shorebird watching a bit more challenging, as if it isn’t already!
Lanny McDowell is having a show presenting his new paintings and some of his bird photographs, opening on June 30 at the Tashmoo Spring Building (the old Tashmoo Water Works) located off West Spring street. The opening is from 4 to 8 p.m. and the show will continue through July 4.
Dick Jennings sent me a photograph he took on June 20 of four red knots that he took while giving the Cape Poge trip for the Trustees of Reservations. True to Brian Harrington’s comments, the knots did have mottled red breasts, so were probably last year’s young.
Rob Culbert spotted a greater yellowlegs on Sarson’s Island during his Saturday, June 23, bird walk. The same day Jami Rubens, Warren Woessner and Lanny McDowell birded Norton Point and spotted black-bellied plovers, dunlin and sanderlings, along with the locally nesting species (willets, piping plovers and American oystercatchers). They also saw saltmarsh sparrows, two black skimmers and a Bonaparte’s gull in winter plumage. Here again I would wager that this gull was the young of last year that migrated part way up to the tundra and now is hanging out with the rest of the summer visitors to the Island.
Deborah Swanson birded Lambert’s Cove on June 25 and found two spotted sandpipers, three species of terns (least, common and roseate) a green heron, and a little blue heron. A little blue heron was also seen at the second hole of the Edgartown Golf Club on June 22 by Bill Post and his wife. Little blue herons are usually found on-Island in the spring and fall, not summer. This is a southern heron that is expanding its range, so,, as with the great egrets, we should watch for the possibility of the little blue herons breeding on-Island.
Luanne Johnson spotted a greater yellowlegs at Lambert’s Cove on June 25. Sarah Mayhew spotted three black skimmers at Norton’s Point on June 24.
Gus Ben David wants to let people who have small Koi or goldfish ponds know that sooner or later ospreys or otters will find these ponds and fish them. Recently an owner spotted an osprey carrying off one of their Koi from their small pond next to their back porch. Hoping to stop further fishing by the osprey, the owner strung monofilament line over the pond. Unfortunately once an osprey or otter finds a source of food they will return, and return the osprey did. The result was an osprey that was tangled up in monofilament line. Luckily, Gus Ben David was called and was able to free the wing that was wrapped in the line. Gus wasn’t sure if the bird had been harmed, so was happy to see the bird fly off after it was freed. Gus suggests that people either put netting over these small fish ponds, not monofilament line, or branches in the pond to cover the water.
And speaking of ospreys, William Waterway watched a red-tailed hawk chase an osprey which was carrying a fish until the osprey dropped its prey. The red-tail swooped down onto the dropped fish, sampled the sixteen inch striped bass the osprey had dropped and then, not being a piscivore, flew away. However, the good news is that William also saw the red-tailed hawk eat a young skunk!
I received another message about bobwhite this week. Randy Rynd heard a bobwhite at her home near Thimble Farm in Tisbury on June 25. Randy exclaimed that she hadn’t heard a bobwhite in years although she used to. I had to check with Gus Ben David as I felt there was an increase in bobwhite sightings and hearings on Island. Gus said that several people have been purchasing far- raised bobwhite quail and releasing them. Gus was aware of releases in Edgartown and Chilmark and probably there have been more. He also added that the bobwhites that were released last year had a better chance of surviving last winter due to the mild winter. Gus noted there are still small pockets of resident bobwhites in suitable habitats Island wide.
Myron Garfunkel heard a whip-poor-will at Scrubby Neck on June 21. Randy Rynd has a pair of barn owls with young in her barn in Tisbury.
Natalie Woodruff shared a super photograph of a pair of ospreys with young. Bill Post reported the osprey pair at Caleb Pond on Chappaquiddick has two chicks. Terry Appenzellar is pleased to announce that after 15 years with no ospreys on the pole and three years with a pair of ospreys that were housekeeping, the osprey pair at East Chop has two young!
Great egrets continue to be seen Island-wide. Dick Brown said that a second great egret arrived at Meshaket Cove on Edgartown Great Pond on June 23. Linda Ziegler spotted two great egrets on the island in the lagoon off Maciel Marine on June 22.
Rob Culbert was surprised to see a mixed flock of 200 common eiders and all three species of scoters off Aquinnah on June 27. He also had brown thrashers fly across the road in two different locations on Lighthouse Road in Aquinnah the same day.
Chris McCloud found a red phase screech owl on Middle Road, carefully captured it and took it to Gus Ben David on June 24.
Wayne Fitzmaurice e-mailed to say he had seen razorbill swimming along the shore at Tashmoo Beach on June 26. I hope he can get a photo of this alcid.
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.