The Vineyard birders will be up at O’dark-hundred tomorrow for the annual Christmas Bird Count. Sunrise will be at 7:08 a.m. and we have to have eaten breakfast, organized our optics, bins (binoculars) and scope (spotting scope on tripod), made lunch to include all the Christmas cookies so we won’t eat them later, fill plenty of water bottles, and drive to the first location where we are going to count birds. On Friday night the teams will meet briefly to plan their strategies, which part of their territory should be covered at sunrise and which to cover at dusk. Do we get up at 4 a.m. to head to the state forest or West Chop to listen for owls, or let other teams do that? Do we return to a house with a feeder for lunch or stay in the field and eat on the run? Every team has a different technique.

Rob Culbert and I try to put together 11 or 12 teams to cover the Vineyard and Chappaquiddick and we hope that some of our sister island (Nantucket) birders will join us. However, this is not possible this year, as Nantucket’s count is on Sunday and transportation between the two Islands will not allow an easy transition. Luckily, we still have many Vineyard volunteers, although our teams are smaller this year.

What we do need are people to report the birds they observe at their feeders on Dec. 29. There will be volunteers at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary between 2 and 4:30 p.m. to take your observations. Please keep a list of all the birds you have seen at your feeder and call Felix Neck to report them. The number is 508-627-4850. We also ask that anyone spotting or hearing bobwhite (quail), Baltimore orioles, red or white-winged crossbills, evening grosbeaks, common redpolls or any owls, please call the crew at Felix Neck and report where and when any of these were seen! Allan Keith reminds all Vineyard birders that there has been an influx of barred owls from the north and one has been sighted close to Eastham, so finding this owl during the CBC would be particularly good as we have only three Vineyard records, the most recent being in 1948.

We also ask that if you see any bird you think is unusual that you call Felix Neck at 508-627-4850 to report the sighting. This can be either on Dec. 29 or during what is known as the count period, which is three days before Dec. 29 and three days after. So, if you find a common redpoll on Dec. 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 or Jan. 1 please call Felix Neck or email us at or call the bird hotline at 508-645-2913 and leave a message. May the New Year bring you new birds, peace and prosperity!

Bird Sightings

Gus Ben David had yet another dovekie brought to him on Christmas Eve by people from Dodgers Hole in Oak Bluffs. Perhaps this is the bird world’s Santa. Anyway, Gus wanted me to remind people, once again, that dovekies cannot take off from land, so gently move them from land and take them to a large body of water, such as any of the Vineyard’s harbors, Katama Bay, Vineyard Sound or the ocean and place them on the water and off they will go.

Speaking of Gus Ben David, he and Dick Jennings were working on osprey poles at Tashmoo and found three red crossbills feeding on seeds of the Japanese black pines nearby on Dec. 19.

On Dec. 17 Roger Cook spotted a flock of 15 white-winged crossbills at Squibnocket. On Dec. 23 he found a small flock of golden-crowned kinglets and a single razorbill flew over his head at Chocker’s Creek.

The week of Dec. 17 Lanny McDowell spotted three barn owls, two by Nat’s Farm and one by the blinker in Oak Bluffs. While Flip Harrington and I were cutting our Christmas tree on Dec. 19, we flushed a barn owl out of the pines behind our barn at Quenames.

On Dec. 20 Martha Moore reported a visit from a red-winged blackbird at her Tisbury Great Pond home in West Tisbury.

Inside Cronig’s Market is not a location one would consider for a Carolina wren, yet Happy Spongberg found one flying around inside while doing her Christmas food shopping on Dec. 20. Hopefully the wren has flown the coop!

John Nelson and Michael Tinus did some bird scouting on Dec. 16 and found surf scoters at West Chop, counted 94 brants in Oak Bluffs, found yellow-rumped warblers in with a flock of pine siskins, two northern harriers and a red-tailed hawk at the Farm Institute, a red-throated loon at the Chappaquiddick ferry and 16 common goldeneye at the Dyke bridge. Finally, at the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station, they counted 36 American wigeon, six ring-necked ducks, 19 black-crowned night herons, four American coots, a pied billed grebe and two belted kingfishers.

Jeff Bernier took some nice photos of a swamp sparrow on the beach in Edgartown on Dec. 21. The next day, Dec. 22, Jeff photographed Ipswich sparrows on Norton Point.

Sarah Mayhew photographed a purple sandpiper at Menemsha on Dec. 21. The next day, Sarah spotted a razorbill in Menemsha Harbor. At the other end of the Island, Rob Culbert found a single razorbill in the lagoon by the Shellfish Hatchery.

Many Vineyard birders hit the trails on Dec. 23. Warren Woessner and Lanny McDowell were driving down Edgartown Main street and found a merlin. At Cow Bay they found a great egret and an immature Iceland gull. At the Farm Institute they found a male harrier and counted 15 Bonaparte’s gulls in Edgartown harbor.

Jeff Bernier counted eight razorbills in Menemsha harbor on Dec. 23 and both Lanny McDowell and Adrian Wright saw and photographed the red-necked grebe by the Chappaquiddick ferry dock in Edgartown. Adrian also photographed Bonaparte’s gulls in Edgartown Harbor and purple sandpipers at Harthaven.

Also on Dec. 23 Sarah Mayhew photographed a brown creeper on a tree by her West Tisbury home.

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