Flip Harrington and I had our first yellow-rumped warbler and white-crowned sparrow in our Quenames bird bath on Oct. 19. The holly trees behind the bath provided shelter and probably insects for our first ruby-crowned kinglet. A late-staying gray catbird briefly made an appearance in our yard and quickly dove into the rhododendrons. The suet feeder brought in not only our regular downy woodpeckers but also a single hairy woodpecker. On Oct. 21, our first dark-eyed junco and white-throated sparrow appeared under the tube feeders. A single American goldfinch also paid a quick visit.
Rob Bierregaard emailed an update on the osprey, Cpt. Liz. When we left off last week Rob was confused by the locations that her transmitter was sending. Rob’s theory was that she was a stowaway turned out to be right on. In his own words, “I actually spoke to the captain of the RV Atlantic Explorer, which was indeed the boat that Cpt. Liz boarded. She was with them for a couple of days, providing some entertainment for the crew as she fished (successfully at least once) for flying fish off the bow wake. Sadly, she didn’t stay with the ship when it went back to Bermuda and appears to have ditched at sea.” I checked on Oct. 21 with Dick Jennings, Rob’s right hand man on the Vineyard, only to hear finally that Cpt. Liz probably died at sea as her last transmission was on Oct. 19. Bummer.
The rest of Rob’s email was much more comforting. “The good news is that Belle was just a few hours northeast of her winter home when we got her last signals. She’s now set the record for juveniles — the first to complete three southbound migrations.”
The marbled godwit that was first spotted at Little Beach on Oct. 8 is still on-Island and has been seen at either Little Beach or Norton Point almost daily. It was last seen by Jeff Bernier on Oct. 21 at Little Beach, Edgartown.
Anne Lemenager and Helen Green were psyched to halt their golf game for a bit while they watched a common nighthawk hunting between the 9th and 18th hole at Farm Neck in Oak Bluffs.
The bird of the week award goes to Matt Pelikan who spotted a worm-eating warbler near Duarte Pond/Hoft Farm off Lambert’s Cove Road on Oct. 19.
Back on Oct. 8 Richard Regen spotted a solitary sandpiper from his kayak on the north shore of Squibnocket Pond.
Tom Hodgson heard a screech owl on Music street in West Tisbury on Oct. 19. Mike Newbold caught a red-phase screech owl in his headlights on Oct. 13 as he drove up North Abel’s Hill Road. David Stanwood heard a great horned owl “just about midnight” on the ridge between the Nature Conservancy property Hoft Farm and Lambert’s Cove Road on Oct. 19.
T. Sullivan sent a nice photo of a great blue heron and a great egret he took near Mink Meadows Golf Course on Oct. 15.
On Oct. 17 at Gay Head Bob Shriber spotted a blue-headed vireo and a hermit thrush. Nancy Weaver and Margaret Curtin joined him for a while and were able to see both these species. Bob continued on to Norton Point to find the marbled godwit, which he did.
On Oct. 17 Dick Jennings watched an osprey hunting the Vineyard Haven Harbor. Sioux Eagle and Andrea Hartman spotted a cormorant on Oct. 18 in its usual spot, on a fence post on Scotchman’s Lane in West Tisbury.
Allan Keith found he could not sleep, so at 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 18 he set off to bird on Chappaquiddick. His best birds were red-necked grebe, seven common loons, 12 species of ducks, including four common mergansers, two of which were adults and two juveniles, American wigeon, wood ducks and red-breasted merganser, a northern gannet, two great blue herons and a great egret. Allan also spotted a peregrine falcon coming in off the water at Cape Poge, two merlins and two northern harriers. The shorebirds were sparse but included four greater and one lesser yellowlegs, a dunlin, a semipalmated plover and many black-bellied plovers and sanderlings. Off the beach Allan found five northern flickers, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, 10 eastern phoebes, a house wren, nine hermit thrushes, 10 golden crowned and 12 ruby-crowned kinglets, a blue-headed vireo, one palm and one pine warbler and many yellow-rumped warblers. In the sparrow department, Allan found two sharp-tailed, three white-throated, one Lincolns, and five swamp sparrows. His bonus bird was a pomarine jaeger off East Beach.
Excited by the birds seen the day before, Allan Keith and his wife Winkie went to Squibnocket where they found one ruddy duck, two coots, a pied-billed grebe, a black-crowned night heron, eight ruby-crowned kinglets, a yellow-bellied sapsucker and an orange-crowned warbler.
At Gay Head on Oct. 19 Bob Shriber found a yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush, blue-headed vireo and Cape May warbler. Later in the day at Zack’s Cliff in Aquinnah Bob found two harlequin ducks in the surf.
Massachusetts Audubon Felix Neck and Broadmoor Sanctuaries and Habitat conducted a natural history weekend between Oct. 18 and 20. They birded Felix Neck, Chappaquiddick, Aquinnah and West Tisbury. Their best birds were seven common loons, a greater yellowlegs, four eastern meadowlarks, a brown thrasher and a pine siskin on Chappaquiddick. Their leaders were Elissa Landry, Roger Wrubel and Suzanne Bellincampi.
Back on the Vineyard Oct. 19, Matt Pelikan spotted a nice selection of birds between the Hoft Farm and Wampesket, which included five hermit thrushes, winter wren, eastern bluebirds, black-throated blue, Nashville and yellow-rumped warblers. Rob Culbert found two gray-cheeked and three hermit thrushes and an eastern Phoebe by the Oak Bluffs School.
Oct. 20 found birders from one end of the Island to the other. Lanny McDowell and Ken Magnuson were at Gay Head where they found and photographed northern parula and palm warblers and a blue-headed vireo. John Nelson and Jan Rapp counted 21 common loons off State Beach in Oak Bluffs, a pair of wood ducks in a kettle hole off Lambert’s Cove Road and a single brant in with the Canada geese in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.
Luanne Johnson conducted the last shorebird survey of the season on State Beach on Oct. 20. We found very few shorebirds — four American oystercatchers and two sanderlings. We also spotted a salt marsh sparrow. Our best bird, however, was a single snow goose that flew in from offshore. Luanne continued on to Little Beach where she found a late staying piping plover, counted 17 greater yellowlegs, one red knot, eight semipalmated plovers, eight dunlin, 170 sanderlings, 21 black-bellied plovers and four American oystercatchers.
On Oct. 21 Sheley Rotner spotted an indigo bunting at Quansoo Farm.
Oct. 21 at Aquinnah, Warren Woessner found white-throated, white-crowned and vesper sparrows, a single Blackpoll warbler. The flock of blue jays are now down to 20 individuals. Warren and I went to Norton Point and counted 12 American oystercatchers, three killdeer, out by the cut, four dunlin, 46 sanderlings, 175 laughing gulls, and a peregrine falcon.
On Oct. 21 Allan Keith found six hermit thrushes, four blue-headed vireos, a field and two white-throated sparrows at Gay Head. At Menemsha Hills he added three more blue-headed vireos, seven more hermit thrushes, a Nashville, a black-throated blue and two Blackpoll warblers.
Ken Magnuson had a very good day at the Edgartown Golf Club on Oct. 22, which included sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, three red-tailed hawks, white-throated sparrows, two ruby-crowned kinglets and an eastern Phoebe.
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.