Completely unexpected is a sighting of a black-necked stilt on April 8. Not only is the bird out of range — it is a vagrant on the Atlantic Coast that is abundant in the southwestern United States.

Long-legged vagrant. — Lanny McDowell

Allan Keith was taking his dog to the veterinarian on April 11 when Rogers Williams casually mentioned that he had seen a black-necked stilt on some private property in Edgartown. The details were convincing as this tall skinny black and white shorebird with bright pink legs is hard to confuse with anything else. Later that day, Mr. Keith visited the site, hoping the stilt was still there. It was. And he immediately telephoned to report the sighting.

There are only a handful of sightings of this species on the Island. The most recent was a sighting by Margot Datz in the marshes of Sengekontacket Pond on May 26, 2015.

Lanny McDowell, Warren Woessner, and Ken Magnuson found the stilt on April 12, and Jeff Bernier found it again on April 15. Its location will remain private at the request of the property owners.

Bird Sightings

Rough-winged swallow. — Lanny McDowell

Migration is definitely in full swing now. Species recently returned to the Vineyard include rough-winged swallows, eastern towhees, American kestrel, little blue heron and yellow-rumped warbler.

Allan Keith saw rough-winged swallows on April 15 at both Blacksmith Valley and in the fields around his house. He also found a ruddy turnstone on Norton Point on April 17.

Numerous people have reported their first eastern towhee (they used to be called rufous-sided towhee, a name that accurately describes them) of the season this week. Later in the season they will become widespread as they are one of the Vineyard’s most abundant breeding species, common in every shrubland and woodland.

Lanny McDowell reported his first American kestrel of the season on April 15. The kestrel and a crow were in an aerial battle over the Katama Airpark.

Ruddy turnstones with sanderlings. — Lanny McDowell

Katherine Colon reported a little blue heron alongside a pond near Mink Meadows on April 14.

I visited the head of the Lagoon on April 18. I walked down the road past the red maples in full bloom and there were about 20 yellow-rumped warblers bombing around. They are one of the more active warblers, and they were repeatedly flying out from a perch to catch a bug and then returning to another perch. Some of the males were singing and in crisp breeding plumage while others were still molting and looked quite ruffled and nondescript. Unfortunately, those were about the only birds I saw.

Other species observed are not new for the year, but are still highlights of the week.

Brigitte Cornand is the latest to see a bald eagle, perched in a pine tree on Flat Point Farm eating its breakfast on the morning of April 11.

Tim Johnson observed a greater yellowlegs at Sengekontacket Pond on April 14. Also on that date, David Stanwood observed a flock of a dozen lesser scaup in Slough Cove of Edgartown Great Pond.

American kestrel. — Lanny McDowell

On April 15, Allan Keith observed over 100 northern gannets plunge diving into the ocean off the Gay Head cliffs. He also observed several ruby-crowned kinglets and a Wilson’s snipe at Squibnocket. Some lingering winter residents include 70 black-bellied plover, 100 dunlin and two prairie horned larks, which he saw on an April 17 visit to Norton Point.

On April 15, Norma Holmes and Katherine Colon reported a hermit thrush from Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary, as well as a flock of white-throated sparrows at Waskosim’s Rock. Debra Luce also has some of these sparrows at her feeder.

The brant are still at Ocean Park; I saw about 100 of them there on April 15. And speaking of waterfowl, there still are quite a few black ducks around Sarson’s Island at low tide. Wendy Culbert and I found a couple of lingering American wigeon and a small flock of bufflehead in Lagoon Pond near the shellfish hatchery on April 16.

And that same afternoon my Eastern phoebe (it breeds near my house) finally returned. It usually is one of the first phoebes to return in the spring, but not this year. Michael Ditchfield also reports their arrival at his house.

Northern gannet. — Lanny McDowell

Joe Jims observed a flock of common eiders near the drawbridge on April 17. Also on that date, Matt Pelikan reported a winter wren at the Hoft Farm on Lambert’s Cove Road.

And finally, Warren Woessner shared a photo of an unusual looking raptor. The photo suggests a caracara, which would be very unusual. Turns out it was an osprey seen from a weird angle. The moral of this photograph is that if you see something odd, take another closer look; it is likely something more common. This is why every birder gets questioned about their unusual sightings.

The spring northward migration is now obvious while winter residents will soon be departing. Please report your sightings to

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

Photos of recent bird sightings on Martha's Vineyard.