The bell call of the bluejay wakened me. The list of projects to be accomplished ran through my brain: pick beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and deadhead the flowers. The second bell call reminded me that Robert Culbert was away and I had to dust off the computer and write the Bird News.

I reviewed the conversations with various people at Alley’s, the post office, on the Quansoo Road and on the messages on my cell phone. I want to thank the people who are still sharing their bird sightings and questions with me. It is a treat.

Jealousy was the result of two groups of bird reports this week. Bobwhite and screech owls accounts reminded me how much, years ago, I used to love waking to the bob, bob, white calls of the northern bobwhite. The nightly quivering downward call of the eastern screech owl was a common occurrence when I stayed up later in the evening. I am now in bed by Chilmark midnight (9:30 p.m.). This can be corrected, but the loss of the bobwhite from around our home probably cannot. The bobwhites have disappeared from the Island because of a combination of issues. They have lost habitat—the open fields in many areas have grown into woods. Their eggs are ravaged by skunks and raccoons, and the young are easy prey for feral cats, hawks and the duo mentioned above.

Bird Sightings

My “nephew” (actually cousin) Davis Solon texted that Linda Fairstein thought she had seen bobwhite on her Lovey Cove, Chilmark property. I suggested Linda send me a photo so I could verify same. So on August 23 I received a cell phone photo of a male bobwhite with the message “Love that sound, early morning and early evening.”

Ooh how jealous I became. Then to add insult to injury I ran into Phyllis McMorrow at Alley’s and she rushed to her truck and pulled out her cell phone and showed me a covey of over 25 bobwhites, per her count, which she took in the Squibnocket area. Wow, more green eyes! It appears that either someone raised a number of bobwhites this season and released them or, if we are very lucky, a number of bobwhites were raised last year and made it through the winter. This is probably not the case as hand-raised bobwhites stand little chance of surviving on the Vineyard as they have no clue how to avoid the multiple predators that prevail.

Screech owl among the leaves; this is the time of the year when owl fledglings try their wings, and parent owls worry. — Lanny McDowell

On August 24 Rosemary Chalk informed the Bird News Hotline ( that she heard an eastern screech owl at her home off Fawndale Road in Vineyard Haven for the first time. Then Maura FitzGerald and Allen Carney reported an eastern screech owl in their Gay Head yard. They hope the calling bird will choose to their yard owl box. Happy and Steve Spongberg, also using the hotline, mentioned on August 29 that they had been hearing several screech owls calling around their Middle Road, Chilmark property.

Gus Ben David reminded me that this is the time of year that owl fledglings are wandering away from their nests and trying out their voices. Male eastern screech owls also are calling to let youngsters know they are trespassing.

August 20 Gus and Deb Ben David recorded their 106th yard bird, a lesser yellowlegs, which came into one of the Ben David’s ponds where many of their waterfowl collection hang out. On August 22 Flip Harrington, Lucy Keith Daigne, Tomas Daigne and I were enjoying an evening with the Ben Davids and watched several immature black-crowned night-herons arrive at the same pond at dusk. Gus added that they have been returning nightly.

Zack Weisner sent me a cell phone photo and asked for an ID. I enlarged the photos and much to my surprise found an immature bald eagle flying over Squibnocket Ridge on August 24.

Steve Spongberg, John Flender and Maggie Bruzelius stopped me on the Quansoo Road on the August 29. They had heard a strange call moving in the woods around their home. They weren’t sure but thought maybe it was an owl. I heard a description and whipped out my cell phone and played the calls of first the black-billed cuckoo and then the yellow-billed cuckoo. The consensus was that they had heard a yellow-billed cuckoo.

Ken Magnuson spotted and took a very distant photo of a buff-breasted sandpiper at the Farm Institute on August 29.

On August 24, Jim Suozzo walked the trail next to disc golf course at the state forest and found several species including prairie warbler, Baltimore oriole, great crested flycatcher and cedar waxwing.

On the waterfront, Flip Harrington and fishing crew have been seeing many immature laughing gulls off Squibnocket. There are many of the same species fishing off Big Sandy and in Town Cove of Tisbury Great Pond and Allan Keith, Lucy Keith Daigne and Tomas Daigne were at Lucy Vincent on August 28 where they counted 25 juvenile laughing gulls. They also counted 150 common terns with a huge flock spread out fishing along the shore towards Squibnocket. They found five black terns in the bunch. Finally the Keith/Dagne group found four black scoters and two white-winged scoters off Lucy Vincent.

Flip Harrington spotted a single black tern off Squibnocket on August 29.

Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds 2. Her website is