The monitoring of Vineyard fish hawks, or ospreys, is an ongoing project. Although osprey comings and goings have been recorded since 1913 on-Island, the study of the osprey population did not start until the 1970s by Gus Ben David. Osprey nests had been documented in Lambert’s Cove, Chappaquiddick and on the Takemmy Trail (the road between West Tisbury and Edgartown) in the 1950s. Then came the 1960s and the uncontrolled use of the pesticide DDT. The Vineyard’s osprey population dropped to two or three pair. After DDT was banned, several pair of ospreys arrived to nest on the Island. The Vineyard had also been discovered as a summer destination. This caused an increase in house building and the need for more electric and telephone lines. Gus Ben David realized that the utility companies were removing osprey nests to avoid short-outs and interruption of service. Gus and a handpicked crew started erecting osprey poles to entice the ospreys away from utility poles. Gus also wanted to determine whether the lack of nest sites or some other factor was the reason for the lack of nesting osprey. Both of these questions were answered, and an increase of poles brought more ospreys. The utility companies were able to contact Gus when osprey tried to nest on an electric or phone pole, and Gus and crew moved an osprey pole nearby to move the pair to their own digs!

From the 19 pair in 1980, the population doubled every five years. In 2006 there were 114 osprey poles and presently there are 137. The highest number of osprey pair using these 137 poles is 80; 71 nesting pair and nine housekeeping pair.

Enter Rob Bierregaard who has been conducting a Vineyard osprey watch since 1998. He brought Dick Jennings onboard as the Vineyard liaison and then, most recently, Dave Kolb. This team, along with Gus Ben David, has monitored the osprey poles to determine how many pair are nesting on-Island but have also been fitting ospreys from the Vineyard with satellite transmitters. These birds can be tracked so we can find out the migration patterns and longevity of these fish hawks. Rob’s website is a great way to follow this, so visit

Dave Kolb and Dick Jennings have just finished the initial osprey watch for 2013. They conducted an Island-wide survey on April 22 and 23. They discovered 71 pair of nesting ospreys and nine housekeeping pair for a total of 80 pair on the 137 poles.

They also found an osprey nest on the ground on Tom’s Neck. This is the second osprey pair to nest on the ground. This is very puzzling to Gus, Dick, Rob and Dave. However, it seems that for many years a huge population of ospreys nested on the ground on Fischer’s Island. They did so as there were no mammalian predators.

Bird Sightings

The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Bird-a-thon was conducted on the Vineyard last Friday and Saturday with the benefits going to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. If you haven’t donated or pledged yet, there is still time. Contact Felix Neck at 508-627-4850. The total number of species seen by the various teams was 121! The best birds in my opinion were a chuck-wills-widow that was heard by Norma Costain and Geoff Kontje near their Chappaquiddick home, a northern waterthrush seen on Brandy Brow in West Tisbury by Eleanor Waldron, and a black tern seen by Lanny McDowell and Allan Keith on Norton’s Point.

David and Libby Fielder had an eventful day on May 21 as they saw a flock of seven to eight red crossbills drinking from their small pond. Then suddenly there was a whole flock drinking from the pond and then they were gone as suddenly as they had arrived. Back on May 7 and 9, Lanny McDowell had a few red crossbills at his Tashmoo feeder. There was a huge invasion of red crossbills this winter before they move south of here. These are probably birds headed north to their nesting sites in Maine and Canada. The fielders also had a blue-winged warbler bathing in their stream as well as an eastern Phoebe. Water is a nice attraction for birds and is very important in the summer months.

Eleanor Waldron had a nice mini warbler fallout at Brandy Brow in West Tisbury on May 15 that included yellow, northern parula, black-throated green, black and white, Magnolia, Blackburnian and American redstart. Tara Whiting has a pair of Baltimore orioles nesting in her old woodstove chimney. The female has found a spot where she can see her reflection and keeps battling with that reflection. Keep that other woman away from my man!

Allan Keith was at Squibnocket on May 17 and spotted a Magnolia warbler, a female purple martin in a flock of swallows, and a ruby-crowned kinglet. At Lobsterville he spotted a brown thrasher, and at his feeder at Turtle Brook Farm he had a white-crowned sparrow. On the 18th he had two lesser scaup and a harlequin duck at Squibnocket.

On May 17 the Fielders were at Waskosim’s Rock and spotted and heard American redstarts, northern parulas and great-crested flycatchers.

Ken Magnuson photographed red knots at Norton’s Point on May 17 from his kayak, and Dorothy Packer spotted two ruddy ducks from her canoe in Lake Tashmoo the same day.

John Banks emailed to say he heard a wood thrush singing in the Southern Woodlands on May 9 and also had his first of the summer Baltimore oriole at his Waterview home in Oak Bluffs. Susan McCoy Miles reported a yellow warbler, eastern towhee and great-crested flycatcher on May 16 at Makonikey.

May 20 was a busy day. Daryl and Dick Knight had a summer tanager at their Chappaquiddick home. Charlie Kernick heard and called in a bobwhite in his West Tisbury backyard. Ken Magnuson photographed an osprey with a striped bass, a chimney swift and a great egret all at the Edgartown Golf Course. Rob Culbert counted eight whimbrels and a willet on the Edgartown Great Pond beach.

On May 21 William Waterway heard a chuck-wills-widow at his Katama home at 4:13 a.m.! Later that day Matt Pelikan heard and saw an orchard oriole at Pennywise Preserve in Edgartown.