First and foremost I would like to thank all my friends and family for making my 70th birthday an occasion that I will never forget. The food that people brought; the pig, chickens and ribs cousin Everett smoked; the Strugglers and the Chickie Babies that played for us to sing with and dance to, all added up to a memorable affair. Again, many thanks!

Bird Sightings

Columbus Day weekend is frequently a hot weekend for bird migration and this last weekend was no exception. There was an invasion of sorts which included pine siskins, purple finches and red-breasted nuthatches.

Starting on Wednesday Oct. 3, Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens had more than six pine siskins and purple finches at their Pilot Hill home feeders. On Thursday, Oct. 4 Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver found an American widgeon in the upper reaches of Lagoon Pond. Tom and Barbara Rivers heard screech owls at their Tea Lane home both the nights of Oct. 3 and 4. Tom also mentioned that he has been seeing merlins flying overhead most of the week and that their feeders are back up and both red-breasted nuthatches and tufted titmice are visiting. Bob Shriber has been hearing three to four screech owls nightly at his Aquinnah home.

Barbara Pesch still had two hummingbirds as of Oct. 8 feeding on her garden flowers on Fulling Mill Road. We think they are ruby-throated but will try to get photos to be sure.

On Oct. 5, Tim Judge, visiting for the weekend birthday, found a Connecticut warbler in the Quansoo Woods near the Fogelson home. Sarah Mayhew sent photos of both palm and pine warblers she took at Nat’s Field in West Tisbury. Lanny McDowell had two pine siskins at the feeders at the Tashmoo house.

Tim and daughter Ally Judge, Flip Harrington and I went to Gay Head and met up with Bob Shriber on Oct. 5. Our best birds seen were a red-headed woodpecker and a chestnut-sided warbler. Other birds included yellow-rumped warblers, red-breasted nuthatches, female purple finch, bobolinks, cedar waxwings and a merlin. After I left the others added two golden-crowned kinglets, four clay-colored sparrows, a Savannah sparrow and two eastern phoebes. Back at Quansoo my college roommate Jennie Tucker heard a thump and went out to find two birds had hit the window of the house on Tisbury Great Pond. One was a gray catbird, the other a yellow-billed cuckoo. The catbird was just stunned and flew away, but the cuckoo did not survive.

Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore and Porter Turnbull were at Gay Head on Oct. 6. They met up with Bob Shriber, Warren Woessner and Allan Keith plus an unidentified bird photographer. The highlights were clay-colored, swamp, Lincoln, white-throated and white-crowed sparrows, indigo buntings, pine siskin flocks, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, dickcissels, purple finches and palm warblers. Allan left and the rest of the group went to Squibnocket where they spotted blue-winged teal, American wigeon, pied-billed grebes, American coot and heard a Virginia rail. They also spotted all three species of falcon, merlin and American kestrel. The unidentified bird photographer showed the group a photo of an orange-crowned warbler he took near the Vanderhoop Homestead (Museum). Allan Keith went to Squibnocket later that day and found the same waterfowl, missed the Virginia rail but added four greater yellowlegs.

Sarah Mayhew caught a red-breasted nuthatch hawking insects at Quansoo on her camera on Oct. 6. Warren Woessner birded Norton Point later in the day and found a peregrine falcon, two dunlin and four great blue herons, to name a few. He also noted that there were red-breasted nuthatches and pine siskins everywhere.

Tim Judge and Rob Bierregaard found several flocks of pine siskins at Gay Head on Oct. 7. The same day Paul Wales of Chappaquiddick emailed to say he was trying to work on his computer and found it was impossible as the bird life outside was distracting him. He spotted a brown creeper, a blue-headed vireo, many eastern bluebirds and nuthatches and several warblers that didn’t sit still long enough for proper ID. Jeff Bernier found an American bittern at the Katama end of Katama Bay and counted 15 bobolinks at the Farm Institute.

On Oct. 7 Tim Simmons, while visiting with others at the birthday party at Quenames, watched a common nighthawk wing over the tent at dusk. Earlier, Lanny McDowell spotted female rose-breasted grosbeaks at the Allen Farm in Chilmark.

On Oct. 8 Flip, Brian and Martha Harrington, Jennie Tucker and I went to Gay Head. We met up with Allan Keith and Bob Shriber. Allan had already seen a yellow-breasted chat and a sharp-shinned hawk. The group spotted the following: swamp, Lincoln’s, song, savannah, clay-colored, white-crowned, white-throated and house sparrows, purple finches, pine siskins, hairy and downy woodpeckers, indigo buntings, a turkey vulture, and red-tailed hawk. The warbler we saw were yellow, blackpoll, Wilson’s, pine, myrtle (yellow-rumped), and palm. We spotted both yellow-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, dark-eyed juncos, eastern wood pewee, eastern phoebe and red-breasted nuthatches. Bob Shriber spotted a Swainson’s thrush.

Pete Gilmore, Porter Turnbull and Lanny McDowell puzzled over fall warblers the same day and found Cape May, blackpoll and magnolia. Lanny took several great shots of an osprey and peregrine falcon in an aerial dogfight. Warren Woessner at Herring Creek Farm on Oct. 8 found an American golden plover and two dunlins in with black-bellied plovers.

On Oct. 9 Eleanor Hubbard watched as the red-breasted nuthatches that newly arrived scared away the other birds at her West Tisbury feeder. Daniel Waters said much the same thing of a flock of pine siskins that terrorized the local birds as they swept in and demolished all the seed in sight at his Christiantown feeders.

Bob Shriber found a Wilson’s snipe and a Cooper’s hawk at Aquinnah on Oct. 9. He added that on Oct. 8 he spotted a great horned owl, dunlin and great egrets on Chappaquiddick.

On Oct. 10 Bob Shriber had a northern parula warbler, purple finches and clay-colored sparrows at Aquinnah. We

had a golden-crowned kinglet stun itself on our Quansoo home and Luanne Johnson had a brown creeper at her Vineyard Haven home.

Brian and Martha Harrington, while visiting us for the weekend, found a good selection of birds in the Quansoo/Quenames woods and off South Beach. Their list for Oct. 6, 7 and 8 included northern gannet, great blue heron, great egret, northern harrier, merlin, belted kingfisher, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers; eastern wood pewee and eastern phoebe, red-breasted nuthatches, golden and ruby-crowned kinglets, Swainson’s and hermit thrushes, brown thrasher, American pipit, magnolia, myrtle, pine, palm and blackpoll warblers, and common yellowthroat. They also spotted bobolinks, Savannah, song, Lincoln’s swamp and white-throated sparrows and pine siskins, purple finches and dark-eyed juncos.

Aquinnah is still the place to be. Hope to see you there.

Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to

Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is