Every fall Ron Pittaway who is the Field Ornithologist for Ontario, Canada makes a winter finch forecast. One of the Vineyard birders always reminds me of same, this year it was Bob Shriber. Ron Pittaway’s forecast is based primarily on tree seed crop availability of spruces, birches and mountain-ashes. The general forecast predicts there will be a “mixed bag” of finch movements. For example purple finch and common redpolls will be seen on-Island as their foods of choice are less plentiful up north where these finches breed. The same is true of red crossbills. Ron Pittaway notes that although there are good spruce cone crops for the pine siskins, there will probably be some movement of these delicate finches into our area. So make sure that your feeders have not only sunflower seeds for the purple finches, but niger seed for the redpolls and siskins. Enjoy these finches they will probably be with us between now and April.

This is the time of year that Cornell Lab of Ornithology asks for help. Chickadees, northern cardinals and other feeder birds carry an important message about the health of bird populations and our environment. In order to decode that message, people just need to count their birds and report what they see to Project FeederWatch. The 28th season of this Cornell Lab of Ornithology citizen-science project is about to begin. The door is open for new participants and more observations. FeederWatch begins Nov. 8, 2014 and continues through April 3, 2015. New and returning participants are urged to sign up now at FeederWatch.org to enjoy the full season. The project is easy to do and makes a great family activity.

Bird Sightings

Purple finches were seen first this fall last week by birders at Aquinnah. But, this was a single bird here or a few overhead. Susie Bowman reports a purple finch was at her feeder last week. Stan and Marie Mercier were surprised to count three female purple finches in their Menemsha Crossroads yard on October 21 and then two males appeared on October 27. Flip Harrington and I counted five female and two male purple finch at our Quenames feeder on October 26 and three males and two females were still around pigging out on sunflower seeds on October 28. Pine siskins have been heard and seen around the Gay Head Cliffs but so far there have been no reports of same at Vineyard feeders. Redpolls and crossbills have not been heard or seen yet, but those finches tend to show later in the season. It will be interesting to see how accurate Ron Pittaway’s prediction is. So far it is pretty accurate.

Bert Fischer spotted a good bird on Oct. 23, a western kingbird in a field off Middle Road in Chilmark.

Dickcissals were seen in Aquinnah on Oct. 27. — Lanny McDowell

Rob and Wendy Culbert found a short-eared owl flying in the Farm Institute fields at dawn on the same day.

Greater yellowlegs were still being seen as of Oct. 25 when Sharon Simonin spotted several by the lobster hatchery in the Lagoon.

Sea ducks are arriving off the south shore of the Vineyard. Bob Shriber and Mark Foster watched all three species of scoters moving off Zack’s Cliffs in Aquinnah on Oct. 22. They also spotted two harlequin ducks and common eiders along with two horned grebes and gannets. On Squibnocket Pond they found ruddy ducks, horned grebes, two buffleheads, two pied-billed grebes, five American wigeon and white-winged scoters. Lanny McDowell photographed skeins of scoters flying offshore on Oct. 24. Iya Labunka spotted a single common eider off the Menemsha breakwater on the Lobsterville side on Oct. 27.

William Waterway found an immature bald eagle sitting on a sand pile by Edgartown Great Pond also on Oct. 27. William also found a dead bird that was identified as a very oiled brown creeper.

Although the first orange-crowned warblers were spotted on the Island on Oct. 14, they were still being seen this week. Bob Shriber found one at Gay Head on Oct. 22, Bob joined Pete Gilmore, Ken Magnuson and Sue Miles on Oct. 25 at Gay Head and found two orange-crowned warblers as well as three white-crowned sparrows and an eastern meadowlark. The group also had a peregrine falcon, a Cooper’s hawk and a red-tailed hawk.

Flip Harrington and I birded Black Point the same day and found one orange-crowned warbler, a Blackpoll warbler, two palm warblers, 18 myrtle warblers as well as 10 dark-eyed juncos. In Quenames Cove we counted two great blue herons, 10 American wigeon and two ruddy ducks. Flying over the dunes were northern gannets. The raptor department included a northern harrier, a sharp-shinned hawk, and a red-tailed hawk.

Rob Culbert’s guided birding tour on Oct. 25 included stops at the Farm Institute here they counted 200 black-bellied plover and two golden plovers, 15 killdeer, 10 dunlin and one semipalmated plover. Along the right fork at Katama at Norton’s field Rob and crew found a female yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbirds as well as a palm warbler. At Fuller street Rob’s group found five greater yellowlegs, five sanderlings, 10 American oystercatchers.

Both ruby-crowned a golden-crowned kinglets have been seen Islandwide this last week. There were great photos of golden-crowned or ruby-crowned kinglets sent by Ken Magnuson, Lanny McDowell and Jeff Bernier from Aquinnah to Edgartown.

Ken Magnuson and Lanny McDowell sent photos of dickcissels they took at Aquinnah on Oct. 27.

A variety of sparrows have been seen this week including swamp, field, chipping, white-throated, white-crowned and vesper. Dark-eyed juncos are also arriving in numbers. Stan and Marie Mercier had 15 in their yard on Oct. 27.

About two weeks ago Richard and Tony Cohen mentioned that they had a wave of common grackles come through their yard. There were so many it blacked their yard for a spell. Bill Jones had a similar experience as the flock of grackles cleaned out his feeders. Ed LaPiene watched as his Tisbury bird bath was crowned with 16 common grackles the same week. The common grackles have moved on now.

Please report your bird sightings to: birds@mvgazette.com.

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