Spring is a riot of color from the ground up. Migratory birds continue to arrive on-Island in droves and reports are abundant. The crew from Felix Neck reminded me that it is Bird-a-thon time again. An annual fundraiser for all the Massachusetts Audubon sanctuaries, this is the time for all lovers of birds and the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary to step up to the plate and help raise money for our local sanctuary!
How does one accomplish this? Helping Felix Neck can be achieved in a couple of ways. The main one is to pledge a dollar amount per bird seen, so if we birders see 100 birds and you pledge $1 per bird you send a donation of $100 to Felix Neck. You can also create a first giving website as Laura Hearn Caruso has. Laura’s page asks for sponsors either in the form of a flat amount or a per bird amount. Check out her web page at: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/LauraHearnCaruso.
The second way is to hit the trails and bird your heart out. Birders are trying to find the largest number of different bird species from 6 p.m. on May 16 to 6 p.m. on May 17.
Third, just keep track of the birds in your yard or at your feeder and report them to Felix Neck.
I will be out in the field with many other Vineyard birders and hope others will get out as well.
Call Felix Neck at 508-627-4850 and let them know you are participating. Call them again to tell them what birds you saw, and have fun while you are helping Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.
The bird of the week award goes to Allen Slater of Edgartown, who sent two photographs of a painted bunting that visited his feeder first on May 12 and again on May 13. This colorful bunting is a southern species and has been seen on the Vineyard only a handful of times — (four to my knowledge).
Rick Karney noted what many people discovered this week: nesting activity. Rick has "northern cardinals nesting in an Alberta spruce near the front door, house finches in a basket near the back door, and chickadees and titmice in the bird boxes.”
Nancy Hugger and Skip Bettencourt emailed that on May 6 the orchard orioles arrived. First they had females and first-year males, but finally a mature male arrived. Nancy and Skip’s reaction: “...awesome....just awesome!”
Record keeping can be fun and interesting. Tom Rivers called to say his male ruby-throated hummingbird arrived on April 29, but he had not seen any females. I received a message on May 12 that a female ruby-throated hummingbird had arrived. It appears that the females are wise; they wait until the weather warms up and the males have found a food source and a good breeding territory.
Happy Spongberg keeps immaculate bird sighting records for the Spongberg’s Tea Lane yard. On May 8 a male rose-breasted grosbeak arrived at their feeder at 7 a.m. Rose-breasted grosbeaks arrived in the Spongberg’s yard on the following dates: May 1, 2012; May 9, 2004; May 7, 2002; May 10, 2000; June 13, 1999, and June 22, 1998. I would have to say this is showing earlier migration as of late and may indicate climate change. This type of record keeping is very important for bird science. Thanks, Happy!
Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens visited Waskosim’s Rock on May 7 and had a great morning beginning with a chorus of gray catbirds, ovenbirds and American redstarts. Then, as they continued, they were treated to parula, prairie, yellow, pine, black and white, and blue-winged warblers, a wood thrush and great-crested flycatcher. Scott Stephens spotted a broad-winged hawk circling overhead the day before.
Patty Donovan and others have complained that the Baltimore orioles are sucking up the sugar water from their hummingbird feeders. I suggested putting out oranges, which did not do the trick. The orioles have cocktails on the sugar water and then have their main meal on the oranges shortly thereafter. Guess we will have to make more sugar water and buy more oranges until our flowers bloom!
Indigo buntings are still being seen and hopefully will nest again. Beth Kostman spotted one in her Tisbury yard on May 4. Patsy Donovan also saw one in Tisbury on May 11, and James A. Riley at his Edgartown feeder on May 13.
The Vineyard’s tern population has returned. Reports from most of the Island’s beaches describe both least and common tern sightings. Jeff Bernier noted that Norton Point is a regular tern nursery in the making, with over 200 common terns, several pairs of roseate terns, least terns and at least three pairs of black skimmers as of May 11. I had mentioned the Bonaparte’s gulls at Norton Point last week. Jeff Bernier went back and on May 11 took some great shots of hundreds of Bonaparte’s gulls in various plumages.
New species arrivals this week include:
Tom Rivers heard a whippoorwill outside his Tea Lane home the evening of May 7.
Chimney swifts were seen by Matt Pelikan in Oak Bluffs on May 11 and near the Tisbury School by Robert Culbert on May 12.
Ken Magnuson and Patsy Donovan found a scarlet tanager at Waskosim’s Rock on May 11, and Ken photographed another scarlet tanager at Duarte’s Pond on May 12. Catherine Deese was thrilled to find a scarlet tanager sitting on one of her many feeders on the West Tisbury-Chilmark line on May 12.
Penny Uhlendorf heard an eastern wood pewee at Ripley Field in Tisbury on May 12.
Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver found Nashville, magnolia and blue-winged warblers and heard common yellowthroats on May 11. Ken Magnuson found a black and white warbler at Menemsha Hills the same day.
Matt Pelikan heard a Blackpoll warbler singing in his Oak Bluffs yard on May 12 and heard a black-throated green warbler near Lambert’s Cove Road on the same day.
Allan Keith spotted a Canada warbler at Waskosim’s Rock on May 12 and heard and spotted two wood thrushes in the same area. At Squibnocket later in the day, he found a male black-throated blue warbler, a female blackburnian warbler, a northern waterthrush, a white-eyed vireo and also heard approximately 10 common yellowthroats.
Flip Harrington and I watched a wood thrush taking a bath in our bird bath on May 7. On May 10 and 11 we had a white-crowned sparrow in our yard, and on May 12 our first female rose-breasted grosbeak joined the male at our feeders. We were not happy to see a handsome Cooper’s hawk hanging around the yard.
Happy Spongberg spotted a great blue heron in the Roth Woodland Pond in Chilmark on May 12.
A few holdouts include: six brant spotted on the Oak Bluffs side of Hines Point on May 12 by Olsen Houghton, who figures they were hiding as I had proclaimed them gone; white-throated sparrow still being seen by Marianne Thomas at her Ocean Heights feeder on May 10; Flip and I still had white-throated sparrows on the same day in our Chilmark yard and Jeff Bernier on May 12 in his Edgartown yard. Jeff noted that he had a male towhee around his house all winter and many more have joined him.
On May 6 Tim Johnson sent a photo of a party of four male and two female harlequin ducks on the big rock at Squibnocket. Walter Tompkins spotted three males and one female at Squibnocket on May 7 and Allan Keith added that there were still four harlequin ducks at Squibnocket on May 11.
Christie Coon emailed on May 6 that she had seen a late staying red-breasted (punk haired) merganser and his bride off West Chop and wrote “Guess he wanted some quiet time alone with her and will migrate later!”
Please report your bird sightings to email@example.com. There are so many reports coming in, so it is important that you include your location. Thanks.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.