The Vineyard is a huge maternity ward for birds at this time of year. I have e-mails and phone calls galore about young birds in people’s yards, at their feeders and along the roadside. It is a pleasure to hear the youngsters learning to sing their songs and the adults singing, perhaps with pride, over their brood. The birth of a black skimmer on Norton Point, verified in a photograph by Jeff Bernier, is exciting. This species has an interesting history in Massachusetts. Jeff’s photo was taken on July 3. It seems black skimmers bred on Muskeget Island (off Nantucket) in 1830, according the Birds of Massachusetts by Veit and Petersen, and then not again for one hundred years! Now black skimmers breed on various spots on Cape Cod but in small numbers. The Norton Point chick is the first for the Vineyard!

Thanks to Chris Murphy and Wayne Fitzmaurice who verified the presence of the razorbill that Emmett Carroll spotted in Menemsha Pond early this summer. Wayne Fitzmaurice saw the razorbill off Tashmoo on June 26, and then on June 27 he photographed a razorbill east of the Tashmoo inlet, swimming along the beach. Chris Murphy spotted the bird swimming off the Brickyard on the North Shore of Chilmark on June 30. This is probably the same razorbill which cruises up and down the north shore and enjoys fishing there, too.


Bird Sightings

Jeff Bernier, with camera ever ready, took a shot of a glossy ibis as it flew from Crackatuxet Cove to Katama Bay on June 27. This is a bird that bred once in Aquinnah and probably has bred on Chappaquiddick. The bird Jeff photographed might be a non-breeding summer straggler. Two days earlier, on June 25, Jeff spotted a yellow-crowned night heron on Katama Bay. Alex Green spotted a yellow crowned night heron at Katama on June 28. This is another bird that has nested on Chappaquiddick in the past but not recently to our knowledge.

Black terns don’t usually arrive on-Island until the fall, but Jeff Bernier photographed a single bird on Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah on June 30. At the other end of the Island, Warren Woessner spotted a Sandwich tern in with common and roseate terns at Norton’s Point on July 3. He also spotted three short-billed dowitchers and a single black skimmer fishing.

Sarah Mayhew had a rare opportunity on July 3 and took advantage of it. Off Lobsterville beach in the sound, she photographed a greater shearwater sitting on the water and then taking to flight. These pelagic birds are hard to see from land and are usually observed from boats offshore. Nicely done Sarah!

The crew from Biodiversity Works, Luanne Johnson and Liz Baldwin, are still interested in sightings for belted kingfishers. On June 26 Flip Harrington and I were enjoying a visit to Robin and Caroline Woods on North Road when we first heard and then spotted a belted kingfisher fishing over their pond. Chris Murphy added that he has a kingfisher over his North Road pond yearly, and that his daughter Hope found a belted kingfisher fledgling on the Chilmark/Aquinnah line many years ago. Then on the first of July, Flip and I heard and saw a belted kingfisher by Big Sandy on Tisbury Great Pond. The next day, July 2, Joannie Ames heard the distinctive rattle and saw a belted kingfisher over her Seven Gates pond. She added that she sees a kingfisher every year. On the other hand, Joannie noted she had fledgling eastern bluebirds for the first time in her memory around her yard.

Both Gus Ben David of Oak Bluffs and Tom Rivers of Chilmark commented that there has been quite a flash of color and activity in their yards with the young birds, including northern orioles, eastern bluebirds, tufted titmice, American goldfinches, American robins, Carolina wrens and ruby-throated hummingbirds. Both men noted that there are large numbers of nesting chipping sparrows on-Island.

Susan and Chip Strang heard a whip-poor-will by their home off Quansoo Road on June 29. On July 3 Flip Harrington heard a whip-poor-will calling near our home on Tisbury Great Pond.

Belle. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Tom Rivers heard bobwhite calling on Greenhouse Lane in Chilmark on July 1.

For those of you that do not log on nor automatically receive updates from Rob Bierregaard about the ospreys he had fitted with transmitters, you might want to log on to to see the migration route of the Vineyard’s Belle and, best of all, the photograph that Mark Lovewell took of Belle as she cruised around Deep Bottom Cove on Tisbury Great Pond. The photo clearly shows the transmitter. This is the first time an 18-month old osprey has been photographed with transmitter showing!

Both Luanne Johnson and Rob Culbert have seen brown thrashers around Lighthouse Road and Oxcart Road in Aquinnah. On June 27 Rob saw two individuals in different locations on the road. Luanne has been spotting brown thrashers off Oxcart Road since May. Luanne was pleased to see a brown thrasher carrying food by the Chappaquiddick Beach Club on June 28. This is one of the criteria to prove a species is nesting.

The barn owls at Felix Neck are sitting on five eggs, and the osprey pair has two young.

I have many more reports to share and haven’t enough room, so do not be discouraged; I still want your sightings.


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