We have just experienced a spring migratory bird wave. These waves occur in the spring and fall and are the result of a combination of factors. Spring migration is initiated when bird hormones begin to rage and the desire to reproduce causes metabolic changes. One of these causes an increase in food consumption which adds fuel in the form of fat to the bird. This will provide the energy for long flights. Food types in the wintering grounds change and predation of nests is vastly more common in the tropics than in the temperate zone of the Vineyard and other northern habitats. Weather patterns also change in the bird’s wintering ground. This is just a brief overview of the reasons for bird migration.
Wind direction and velocity was the most important factor in the wave of birds that arrived on the Vineyard last week. Anyone watching the weather and noting the wind direction and radar sweeps from Florida northward would have seen this wave coming. A southerly wind at night is best for the arrival of insect-eating birds such as warblers, flycatchers and even hummingbirds that will snack on insects until the flowers bloom. Hopefully we will experience another migratory wave or two before summer.
Sightings this week are so numerous that it is overwhelming! The many calls, emails and conversations about newly-arrived bird species is a true indication that we have experienced an incredible migratory wave. It is great fun, and as two women discovered, a perfect time of year to introduce children and grandchildren to birds, which are colorful and ready to slow down and visit feeders after a long and arduous trip north.
Firs,t a note about the species that have departed after wintering here. The last time anyone spotted brant on the Oak Bluffs waterfront was on April 30 when Nelson Smith counted 34 in Ocean Park. There have been no reports of dark-eyed juncos this week. Only a few white-throated sparrows made the bird news, from feeders in Chilmark. Only spotted reports of yellow-rumped warblers came in and those were singing, unlike the winter residents. Rick, one of the beach patrollers for The Trustees of Reservations, spotted the last snowy owl on East Beach, Chappaquiddick on May 3. Michele and Bob (Wax) Iwaskiewicz spotted two purple sandpipers on the Menemsha jetties on April 29.
It is a pleasant surprise to receive bird news from Cuttyhunk. Cheryl Goslin spotted a scarlet tanager on May 2. Both Cheryl and Lisa Wright had two males and one female rose-breasted grosbeak on May 4 and Lisa Wright had a Baltimore oriole arrive on May 4 as well.
Last week Capt. David Dandridge of the SSA counted 110 terns in Woods Hole on April 28. Porter Turnbull spotted a flock of common terns and a few roseate terns off Nobska Point on April 30, and David Stanwood had common terns in Vineyard Sound the same day. On May 1 Porter spotted three razorbills in Vineyard Sound along with common terns and adult gannets. John Nelson spotted two common terns off Harthaven and gannets in Vineyard Sound. Jeff Bernier counted one black skimmer, 40 least terns, a few roseate terns and a good number of common terns at Norton Point on May 3. Ken Magnuson, Geoff Muldaur and I spotted three common terns off the beach by the Edgartown Golf Club the same day. And John Nelson and Jan Rapp counted six common terns and one roseate tern at Cape Pogue on May 3. Allan Keith counted 47 least terns and 50 common terns on Norton Point the following day.
Allan Keith heard two Virginia rails calling at Squibnocket on April 25. On May 4 he found two least sandpipers at Norton Point. Geoff Muldaur, Flip Harrington and I found a single white-rumped sandpiper at Black Point Pond on May 2 and a pair of blue-winged teal in a cove off Tisbury Great Pond. Bob (Wax) Iwaskiewicz watched two green herons feeding off Pease’s Point on May 3. Hatsy Potter emailed to announce that the chuck-wills-widow has been calling since around May 1 in the open woods south of Dike Road on Chappaquiddick.
New warbler arrivals include a black and white warbler found on Ned Casey’s suet on May 1 and on May 3 in the Tisbury yard of Constance Alexander. On May 5 Matt Pelikan heard a blue-winged warbler singing near the Tashmoo overlook. Geoff Muldaur and I saw two yellow warblers by Crackatuxet Cove on May 3 and Ken Magnuson spotted two by the Mill Pond in West Tisbury the same day. Up at Waskosim’s Rock, Ken cleaned up in the warbler department, photographing American redstart, ovenbirds and northern parulas also on May 3.
On May 3 Margaret Curtin reported the first-of-the-season great-crested flycatcher near the Lagoon in Tisbury. Ken Magnuson, Geoff Muldaur and I spotted a great-crested flycatcher and two gray catbirds at the Edgartown Golf Club May 3, and Flip Harrington found a single gray catbird at Quansoo the same day. Eastern kingbirds were seen by Flip Harrington at Quansoo and at Katama by Geoff Muldaur and me on May 3.
Other reports of note include one from Gus Ben David who was kept awake on May 4 by a pair of great horned owls that were challenge calling to Gus’s pair of eagle owls. Chris Carroll made a video of a bobwhite he took in his backyard in Edgartown. Allan Keith had two breeding plumage clay-colored sparrows in his Chilmark yard on May 4.
Ruby throated hummingbirds, Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks have been reported almost daily from Chilmark, West Tisbury, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Chappaquiddick from May 2 through the week. These reports would fill a full page of the Gazette, so my apologies for not giving everyone’s individual reports.
Keep them coming in if you would. I hope to receive more reports from Aquinnah and Edgartown.
Please report bird sightings to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.