I broke two Cardinal rules of birding and blew it for my two birding companions, Lanny McDowell and Warren Woessner. We were birding around Crackatuxet Cove by the old Pearl Factory where we understood that there was a willow flycatcher nesting. Willow flycatchers are not a common nesting species on the Vineyard, so we wanted to see it. We were in the car driving out slowly toward the Katama Airport when all three of us spotted the flycatcher at the same time. Warren stopped and without thinking I quickly jumped out of the car. The willow flycatcher did what any self-respecting bird would do; it immediately flew away. I was in a position to see where the bird landed and shouted, “There it is”. Again, the bird flew off and this time across the road. We never saw the bird again.
Shamefaced I apologized to my birding buddies, but the experience led me to review the ethics of bird watching.
1) Do not wear electric pink or bright colors. 2) Do not carry on a loud conversation while “in the field.” 3) Do not trespass on property. If there is a rare bird contact the owner of the property for permission prior to arrival. 4) Do not play the calls of a bird in their territory during breeding season and also do not play the call over and over again in the non-breeding season. 5) Do not spend time close to a nest or nesting colony during breeding season as this will stress the parent and chicks. 6) Do not use lights on a bird for any length of time in the night. 7) Stay on paths, trails or walkways where they exist and be mindful of potentially harming the habitat. 8) Keep your dogs on a lease on beaches or areas where there are nesting birds.
The do’s are pretty obvious but three come immediately to mind. 1) Help others see a bird if you are in a group. 2) Share information that you have with other birders. 3) Enjoy yourselves.
A postscript to my faux pas; Warren Woessner returned to the scene of my crime the next day and found the flycatcher perched up in the same area where we originally saw it. He saw it four or five times but never heard it sing. Hearing the song is an important method of identifying the willow flycatcher as it looks almost identical to the alder flycatcher and the call is the only way to really be sure of the bird’s proper ID. I guess we will have to try again. This time I will move slowly and button my lips!
Ruth Welch, Bob and Edo Potter spotted an Arctic tern resting on the Cape Pogue Pond beach on June 19. This is a rare visitor to the Island now but it used to nest here regularly in the 1940’s.
Mary Beth Norton was driving down the road to the Hancock Beach in Chilmark on June 20 when she spotted an adult bald eagle perched on a dead tree. The bird flew as the car approached and headed towards Squibnocket. Further down the road she spotted an osprey.
Pat Mitchell spotted a male yellow warbler on Homeward Way off North Road in Chilmark on June 20.
Ellen (Lefty) Leverenz of Chilmark found a turkey nest on her property on June 22 in which there were seven eggs. Turkeys can lay upwards of 17 eggs in a nest and take about a month to incubate the eggs.
Nelson Smith spotted a great egret on both June 16 and 23 on Tiah’s Cove in Tisbury Great Pond.
Warren Woessner and I birded Norton Point on June 22 and found three piping plovers, two American oystercatchers, eight willets, five white-winged scoters and one salt marsh sparrow. On June 23 Lanny McDowell joined Warren and me. At Norton Point we added a great egret, five red knots, (one of which was very red), two sanderlings, one laughing gull, five black scoters and three saltmarsh sparrows. At Crackatuxet Cove we spotted a great blue heron, a gadwall, two black-crowned night herons, a northern harrier and a willow flycatcher.
David and Libby Fielder found two American redstarts and a wood thrush at Great Rock Bight Preserve on June 23. On June 19 David heard a crash from the woods near his West Tisbury home and watched a red-tailed hawk emerge with a mourning dove in its grasp. David added that a second red-tail followed the first. The bird was probably a youngster trying to beg food. Both the Fielders and Gus Ben David report their tree swallows have fledged and Gus noted that his eastern bluebirds are sitting on their second clutch. Our tree swallows at Quansoo have also fledged and are decorating our lawn furniture daily.
Bill Post saw a pair of American oystercatcher on a nest and a pair of ospreys on a nest at the entrance of Caleb Pond on Chappaquiddick on June 23. Bill noted that one of the osprey chicks is about to fly. At the Edgartown Golf Club, Bill noted there were many ospreys and he watched two in an aerial duel. One osprey had a fish and the other chased it, hooked onto the fish and the talons of the bird carrying the fish. The ospreys became hooked and spiraled downwards and freeing themselves just before they hit ground.
Karen Mead of Aquinnah had seen a mystery bird a while ago. She called very excited as she was able to determine the ID of that bird. How did she do that? On June 21 she spotted a bird with four chicks walking along Moshup’s Trail. She saw it long enough to realize the bird was an American woodcock. Three of the chicks flew across the road and the mother proceeded to do a broken wing act to attract Karen’s attention away from the remaining chick. It is nice that the woodcock produced young and Karen was able to see and identify them. At the Gay Head Cliffs Karen spotted common eiders and she spotted a green heron by the Homeport Restaurant in Menemsha. Karen also reported that she is still hearing a whip-poor-will around 4 a.m..
Bob Shriber was on Norton Point on June 25 and spotted and photographed two short-billed dowitchers and spotted a Bonaparte’s gull.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.