Tim Simmons, a restoration ecologist with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, asked Flip Harrington and me if we could take him and Paul Goldstein, an entomologist with Smithsonian Institute, over to Muskegat Island so they could do a survey of the insects on that island. Muskegat is about seven miles east of Cape Poge and is surrounded by moving shoals and is just to the west of Tuckernuk and Nantucket. It took us about an hour and a half on Flip’s boat, the M/V Auklet, from Menemsha to Muskegat and then another half hour to wend our way through the shoals to find a place to anchor up and wade ashore.

While the lads hunted for bees, beetles and flies, I did a quick inventory of the bird life. I spotted 28 species in two hours. The center of the island is a huge black-backed and herring gull rookery. There were many juveniles of both species. The shorebirds I found included an amazing number of spotted sandpipers (seven) as well as a pair of piping plovers, semipalmated and black-bellied plovers, 10 American oystercatchers, killdeer, whimbrel, 11 ruddy turnstones, 21 sanderlings, nine least sandpipers and three short-billed dowitchers. We hope to return and spend more time looking for insects and birds.

Bird Sightings

It is embarrassing to be caught “with your pants down.” Simon Perkins, an ecologist running NoticeNature Consulting and past field ornithologist for Massachusetts Audubon, was reviewing photographs taken by Jeff Bernier on Norton Point and found several that Jeff had taken on June 9 of an Arctic tern. None of the Vineyard birders picked up on the identity of that tern in Jeff’s photos. On June 19 Ruth Welch and Edo and Bob Potter spotted an Arctic tern on the shores of Cape Poge Bay, probably the same bird.

Visitors to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on July 25 found two ducklings they could not identify. Steve Allen and Suzan Bellincampi found the same birds and identified them as wood ducklings. On July 30, Al Sgroi and Steve Allen found the adult male wood duck at Felix Neck and later that same day Phil Hunsicker found the female. Nice to see these ducks are nesting at Felix Neck.

Wendy Kelsner spotted and photographed a Hudsonian godwit at Eel Pond on July 30. During her stay on the Vineyard working for Biodiversity Works she found several banded birds. Wendy said “it is like a finding a message in a bottle every time one submits a re-sight of a banded bird.” She found a semipalmated sandpiper that was banded in Brazil, a sanderling which was banded at Monomoy in September of 2011 and finally a piping plover female which was not only banded but fitted with a geo-locator at Dead Neck/Sampson’s Island, Barnstable in May of this year. Her name is Minnie.

Warren Woessner found a lesser black-backed gull at Eel Pond on July 31.

Morgan Hodgson of East Pasture, Aquinnah emailed to say that in the last several weeks large numbers of ruby-throated hummingbirds were spotted not only at their feeder, but at their neighbor’s feeders as well. Do you suppose East Pasture might be a takeoff spot for ruby-throated hummingbirds leaving the Vineyard and heading south for the winter? If so, it makes sense that large numbers of hummingbirds are “tanking up” at these Aquinnah feeders. At the other end of the Island in Edgartown, Ted Balcomb noted that in the three years he has had hummingbird feeders around his home there hasn’t been much activity, however this year there is a sizeable increase and as a result a good deal of territorial chasing. Joan Jenkinson on North Road in Chilmark has counted up to 10 ruby-throated hummingbirds around her feeders and flowers. But the prize goes to George and Mary Hough who have 18 ruby-throated hummingbirds buzzing around their Indian Hill feeders!

On August 1 Larry Hepler spotted a whimbrel at Black Point Pond. Jeff Bernier photographed a family of green herons at the foot of Fuller Street in Edgartown on August 2.

On August 4 Ken Magnuson took several great shots of a salt marsh sparrow on Sarson’s Island in Sengekontacket Pond.

The same day Lanny McDowell was at Norton Point and spotted two white-rumped sandpipers, seven red knots, three laughing gulls and a western willet. The western willets usually show up later in the season. They can be distinguished from the eastern willets because they have a grayer plumage.

Kate Scott noticed on August 4 that a great blue heron and osprey are taking turns using a tree by Maciel Marine in the Lagoon as a perch.

Bert Fischer shared his dinner with a chipping sparrow at Katama’s North Fork Diner on August 5.

The Chilmark Community Center Bird Walk went to Little Beach and the Farm Institute on August 6. We spotted least, common and roseate terns; piping, black-bellied and semipalmated plovers; semipalmated sandpipers; sanderlings; greater yellowlegs; willet and American oystercatchers. We also spotted a white-winged scoter and many tree swallows. At the Farm Institute we added eastern phoebe, yellow warblers, bank and barn swallows and a red-tailed hawk.

Isaac Taylor mentioned that he had an unusual pigeon at his Aquinnah feeder, a scaly-naped pigeon. The closest area where this bird is found in the wild is Cuba. We are unsure of where this bird came from but Gus Ben David suggested that it might have escaped from someone who raises unusual pigeons and doves in the U.S.

At the other end of the Island at Dodger’s Hole in Edgartown, Doreen and Bob Morse have an African bronze-winged dove around their feeder. Gus Ben David reports that this bird escaped from his aviary.

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

Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.