Although the weather this past week has seemed somewhat winter-like, it is already mid-April and birds are starting to nest.

Many observers have reported osprey on nests. Although we cannot see into the nests, we can assume that some of them are incubating eggs already. When incubating eggs, the adults hunker down on the nest so tightly that they are not visible from the ground. Or maybe only a head is visible above the rim of the nest. Their nests are conspicuous though, so please keep your distance. If they are flying around the nest calling loudly you are probably too close to the nest.

Wayne Smith photographed an eastern bluebird carrying a piece of grass while perched atop a nest box. As the only time you will see birds carrying vegetation is when they are building a nest, observing that behavior confirms that they are building a nest rather than prospecting for a future nest site.

Albert Fischer reports that white-breasted nuthatches are nesting in one of his bluebird boxes.

The earliest nesting bird on the Vineyard is the great horned owl. They start so early that they already have decent-sized chicks in their nests.

Canada geese are some of the earliest nesters, and Sarah Carr came across the pair that is nesting on the marsh trail at Felix Neck on April 10. These and other geese are quite protective of their nests, and will let you know when you get too close to them.

Soon to be nesting are our shorebirds: American oystercatcher, killdeer, and piping plover. Many individuals of these three species are here and are now selecting and defending their nesting territories.

Bird Sightings

The bird of the week is a Wilson’s snipe, found by Ken Magnuson at Slough Cove on April 6. It was wading at the pond’s edge, partially concealed by the overhanging vegetation. This is the first sighting of the year for this secretive and seldom observed species. Also at Slough Cove were greater yellowlegs, blue-winged teal, mallard and a swamp sparrow. He also observed a kestrel at the Farm Institute.

Another new arrival this week is the barn swallow. Lanny McDowell observed two of them at the Head of the Lagoon on April 5. These birds are very early as they usually do not appear until late April. There were some pretty chilly days around then; hopefully enough insects were hatching and emerging from the water to sustain them.

Baby great horned owls check out the day. — Lanny McDowell

On April 4, Mr. Magnuson found a lesser black-backed gull in the fields at the Farm Institute. In less than favorable weather, such agricultural fields are a good place to locate unusual gulls as they can wait out strong winds in a fairly protected place — at least at ground level. In recent years this species has become fairly common, at least in the summer and fall they can be found along the south shore.

Red-breasted nuthatches have been few and far between. We had a wave of them come through last fall, and a few were seen on the Christmas Bird Count in early January, but I am unaware of any other sightings sine then. So Happy and Steve Spongberg’s report of one at their feeder on April 5 is most welcome.

On April 6, Abbey Kuhe reported six osprey fishing in Squibnocket Pond. I had never heard of so many ospreys observed at any one locale, even in migration. But then Scotty Goldin found an amazing 15 osprey fishing and congregating around the Mill Pond in West Tisbury on April 7. Scott Gosselin and Dionis Montrowl also observed the spectacle. They are likely feeding on herring and, at least for the Mill Pond, the trout stocked by the state.

On April 8, Jeff Bernier found some ring-necked ducks, a greater yellowlegs, sanderling and a horned lark in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.

Gus Ben David reports that he has had three wood ducks visiting his ponds regularly as of April 9, and that there have been three pine warblers at his feeders and singing from the woods near his house. The pine warblers that have been seen recently seem to be about two weeks early. I usually associate their arrival with the middle of April. Dan Bradley also reports them at his feeder, as does Holly Mercier.

Sharon Simonin found an adult great blue heron in the salt marshes of Sengekontacket Pond on April 9. It is getting late for an adult to be hanging around as they do not nest on the Island. Great egrets do nest on the Island, and Ms. Simonin found one at Brush Pond (by the hospital) on April 6 and maybe a different one near Lagoon Pond Road on April 10. Also on that day, Susan Straight observed one at the edge of Menemsha Pond. It seems to me that there should be more of these egrets around by now, as well as other heron and egret species. Please keep your eyes out for them.

There are lots of birds around, so please get out looking for them, and be sure to report your bird sightings to

Robert Culbert leads guided birding tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.

Photos of recent Island bird sightings.