Norton Point Beach was the host of seven different species of terns on July 16. Yes, you read that right: seven species of terns.

The first interesting bird showed up on my Saturday morning tour, July 16, when we found an adult Royal tern on Norton Point. This large tern with a ragged crest was almost twice the size of the many nearby common terns. Its mostly black cap had a few speckles of white mixed in, and had a large reddish-orange bill. It is amazing the details you can see with modern optics (a spotting scope) from the boat launch ramp on the north side on Mattakesset Bay.

Young Forster's tern. — Lanny McDowell

I notified other birders and it got more interesting. Ken Magnuson and Warren Woessner were the first to try to find the royal tern. They did not find the royal, but did find another southern species with a ragged crest, the first adult sandwich tern seen on the Vineyard in a few years. Lanny McDowell went out a while later and found the sandwich tern and a Forster’s tern, another first for the season.

These three species combine with the four resident terns of Norton Point: common tern, roseate tern, least tern and black skimmer. That makes seven species on Norton Point. And then Warren Woessner spots an adult black tern on July 19, a species that has been seen on Norton Point on June 17, June 21 and July 10. Royal terns have also been seen this year on June 10 and July 10.

And there will be more terns as season progresses, maybe even more species. I have seen up to 5,000 terns roosting on Norton Point in years past. But eight species of terns in July? One good tern definitely deserves another.

Bird Sightings

Tim Leland spotted an adult bald eagle flying south across Pocha Pond on July 12. This so soon after Dick Jennings spotted an immature bald eagle on Cape Pogue the previous week. We need to remember that we are only a short day-trip flight away from where eagles are seen fairly frequently — at Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts and along the Connecticut River.

Juvenie horned lark. — Lanny McDowell

It has been an interesting week for finding fledglings. Many of these juvenile birds look nothing like their parents, and so identifying them can be problematic. For example, Jeff Bernier found two juvenile horned larks in the right fork parking lot at South Beach, although it took a while to figure out their identification because the adults were nowhere to be seen. Similarly, you may not recognize a juvenile eastern towhee when you see one — and they are just about everywhere now.

It is easier to identify youngsters when they are being fed by their parents. Luanne Johnson observed a brown creeper feeding a youngster on July 15; a nice confirmation that these elusive creepers do indeed nest on the Vineyard. Other youngsters observed recently include Dan Bradley’s July 12 sighting of a male downy woodpecker feeding its young at a suet feeder. I observed a hairy woodpecker feeding young at Cedar Tree Neck on July 18. And Alysa Emden found three downy phoebe chicks in their nest on July 15.

Other shorebird news includes Jeff Bernier’s sighting of lots of short-billed dowitchers on Norton Point on July 17. And on July 16, my guided birding tour found 18 killdeer in the horse pasture at Herring Creek Farm. I do not recall ever seeing that many killdeer in one field at one time on the Island. And Steve Allen reports a great blue heron on the July 14 Early Birders Program at Felix Neck.

Royal tern with a meal. — Lanny McDowell

Perhaps the strangest sighting of the week comes from Jan Harrison on July 17, who reports an adult double-crested cormorant in the State Forest. What was this fish-eating waterbird doing there? We will never know, but about 20 minutes later she observed a cormorant airborne and flying away.

Last but not least, I refer you to the distressing article on the Gazette website about osprey mortality due to discarded fishing line and errant plastic bags.

Southward migrating shorebirds have arrived as the nesting season winds down. Go out looking for birds and please be sure to report your sightings to

Robert Culbert leads Saturday morning Guided Birding Tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.

Photos of recent bird sightings on Martha's Vineyard.