Luanne Johnson and crew from Biodiversity Works recently had an opportunity to help capture willets and fit them with geolocation data loggers, which are also known as bird loggers, geologgers, geolocators or GLS. Joe Smith, a research ornithologist from New Jersey and a pioneer in geolocator tagging, came at the request of Biodiversity Works. The crew went to three locations: Little Beach in Edgartown, the Narrows and the beach next to Poucha Pond on Chappaquiddick. On Little Beach they captured and fitted one female willet with a GLS, and near Poucha Pond they captured and fitted bird loggers on a male and a female willet, and at the Narrows they tagged a single male with a geolocator. The geolocators are used for data collection comparable to the satellite transmitters that Rob Bierregaard places on ospreys. Obviously the geolocators have to be tiny in size and weight to be placed on a light-weight bird. If fitted with the backpack satellite transmitter the osprey’s carry, the willet probably would not be able to get airborne.

The geolocators used on shore birds, song birds and the like produce data which will help ornithologists determine the migratory routes, areas used as staging sites (where they “fuel up” on food) before moving north or south, and other ecological information.

Whereas the satellite transmitters use satellites to determine the location of an osprey, the geolocators use the sun. The data these little bird loggers collect “is based on the fact that day length varies with latitude while time solar noon varies with longitude.” The measurement of these two variables gives scientists a general idea of the position of the birds at the time the data is collected.

Sounds great, however there is a hitch. The geolocators have to be retrieved to glean the information they have collected. That means the same bird has to be caught the next year so ornithologists can remove the tag and download the data that has been collected. I have heard that once caught, willets and other shorebirds tend to be a bit wary and recapturing them is difficult. Guess we will have to wait a year to find out. Luanne Johnson did mention that willets that were tagged in Cape May, N.J., took off and three to four days later landed in Suriname where they fueled up and then went further south to a coastal mangrove area in Brazil for the winter. We hope to find out where the Vineyard willets go in the winter.

Bird Sightings

Karen Mead of Aquinnah has been a good observer. On June 11 she spotted two American oystercatchers on the beach off Moshup’s Trail and had four cedar waxwings, a yellow warbler and a common yellowthroat in her yard. The yellowthroat has been nesting in the same site for the last several years. On June 15 Karen fund a juvenile Atlantic puffin on the beach off Moshup’s Trail. Then on the evening of June 17 and the early morning of June 18, Karen heard a whippoorwill.

Penny Uhlendorf watched three red-tailed hawks take their first flights in the Sheriff’s Meadow Phillips Preserve on June 13. On the same walk she sighted a house wren, an eastern wood pewee and heard a brown creeper.

Rob Culbert’s Saturday bird walk on June 15 produced a willow flycatcher at Katama near Crackatuxet Cove and on the flats near Matakesset in Katama Bay, Rob and crew spotted willets, American oystercatchers, black-bellied plovers and saltmarsh sparrows.

David Stanwood shared incredible photographs of a young pair of ospreys nesting on the green #1 channel buoy in the rip at Woods Hole. Now Flip Harrington and I used to see ospreys on practically every day at the marker in the Inland Waterway between Norfolk, Va. and Miami, Fla., but those were stationary! Quite a list on the channel buoy!

Flip Harrington and I spotted a black-crowned night heron behind Home Port restaurant on June 15, and at Quansoo we spotted a green heron flying by our window headed for Big Sandy.

Barbara Pesch watched the most amazing sight. A female harrier flew by her Fulling Mill Brook house window carrying a very large snake which, Barbara noted, had just had a meal as it had quite a bulge amidships.

Jeff Bernier took photos of either very late northern migrant or very early southern migrant white-rumped sandpipers at Norton Point on June 16. The same day he photographed an extremely young piping plover. The next day he took some photos of a black skimmer on the nest and others in the air.

Ken Magnuson sent a couple of photos of short-billed dowitchers he took at Katama Bay on June 17. The same day Sarah Mayhew sent a photo of a larger piping plover chick than the one in Jeff Bernier’s photo.

Lindsey Allison visited Cape Pogue on June 17 and on the way out by the Narrows she spotted a great egret, five willets, four American oystercatchers and a common loon. A non-bird sighting that was particularly pleasant for Lindsey was a doe and fawn. The fawn still had its white spots!

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