The American golden plover was hunted on the Vineyard and elsewhere in the 1800s. According to a recipe from Fanny Farmer that was sent to me by Betty Surbeck of the Camp Ground and Pennsylvania, the plovers should be cooked like quail. The favorite place to shoot these plovers was on the “Plains” of Katama. In 1912 this handsome plover became protected so it could no longer be hunted and roasted or broiled.
American golden plovers have never been numerous on-Island since the 1800s. These plovers are seen mainly in the fall and usually only two to eight birds. So, it was a great shock to Vineyard birders to find 99 American golden plovers in a newly plowed field in Katama on Sept. 1! The night before there had been a series of rain squalls coming from the west. It seems this weather system brought in this flock of plovers. Other weather systems were responsible for a large flock of American golden plovers in the past. Ed Chalif saw 150 American golden plovers on Sept. 11, 1962 at Katama after a westerly blow. Allan Keith reminded me that Vern Laux and Lanny McDowell went out into a westerly storm in the middle 1990s at Katama and counted 396 American golden plovers! It seems that the American golden plover migrates over land and sea. Storms from the east or west can force these plover flocks down as they migrate from their breeding grounds in the tundra of Alaska and Canada to their wintering grounds in South America.
Warren Woessner and Bob Shriber found the 99 American golden plovers along with four pectoral sandpipers and a buff-breasted sandpiper in a plowed field at Katama on Sept. 1. I checked out the flock on Sept. 2 and it had diminished to 26 American golden plovers, a buff-breasted sandpiper and no pectoral sandpipers.
Gus Ben David called to report a rare sighting from Naushon. Mike Lubbock and Phil Stanton were fishing in the area and spotted an immature white ibis flying overhead on August 29. There have only been two records of white ibis on the Vineyard and none on mainland Massachusetts until 1954, and since then just one or two birds here and there.
Dick Jennings spotted his first peregrine falcon at Caleb’s Pond on Chappaquiddick on August 27. Sarah Mayhew sent me photos of a peregrine falcon with prey that she took at Quansoo on the same day.
Laurie Reese found warbling vireo, Baltimore orioles and turkey vultures at Priester’s Pond in West Tisbury on August 26. Arlene Oley heard a screech owl at Makonikey on August 26 and heard a yellow-billed cuckoo two times at Makonikey the week of August 25.
Lanny McDowell and Jeff Bernier sent photos of Foster’s terns, Lanny from Norton Point on August 26 and Jeff from Little Beach on August 28. The same day Jeff Bernier counted 16 adult black skimmers, 10 immature and one chick at Little Beach. Jeff sent a great photo of an adult skimmer feeding the remaining chick.
William Waterway sent excellent shots of a Cooper’s hawk that was hanging out at his Katama bird bath on August 27.
Warren Woessner spotted a buff-breasted sandpiper along with 30 semipalmated plovers at Katama on August 28.
On August 29 Rob Culbert birded Aquinnah. He spotted Baltimore orioles, several bobolinks, a flock of brown-headed cowbirds, a yellow warbler, red-winged blackbirds and a Cooper’s hawk chasing a red-tailed hawk. Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore were at Aquinnah the same morning and added an immature rose-breasted grosbeak, an eastern wood pewee, and a pair of Wilson’s warblers that were taking off from the Cliffs and heading south.
Luanne Johnson reports that there are still 30 least terns in the Tashmoo jetty area as of August 29. There are parent least terns still feeding young, late bloomers to say the least.
Susan McCoy spotted a solitary sandpiper at the Gay Head Moraine on August 29.
Down-Island Ken Magnuson received a call on August 29 from Mike Dolby asking Ken to figure out what bird he was seeing. On his lunch break Ken went to Sweetened Water Farm and found the bird deep in a thicket — it was an American woodcock. The next day Ken went to Aquinnah and at the Homestead he spotted a red-breasted nuthatch and a Cooper’s hawk. At the Moraine Ken added a red-eyed vireo and a black and white warbler.
At the other end of the Island, Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore found a sub-adult lesser black-backed gull at Norton Point on August 30. And Sarah Mayhew shared a fabulous series of eastern willets that she photographed at Katama on Sept. 1. The same day Fred and Winnie Spar birded around Sengekontacket and in the marshes they counted five snowy egrets, an immature little blue heron and some mystery peeps that we are working on.