Seems early, since a month ago we were still seeing migrants (especially shorebirds) heading north to their Arctic breeding grounds. But the season is short up there, and there is no time to re-nest if there is a negative outcome. The adults of failed nest attempts head south, flying the first leg of their long and leisurely southward migration. So shorebirds are migrating to the Vineyard just like many people. The nice thing about this time of the year is that their identification will be a bit simpler because they are adults, and most of them are in their breeding plumage.

Short-billed dowitcher. — Lanny McDowell

Jeff Bernier observed a flock of about 40 short-billed dowitchers on Norton Point on July 5. On July 7, he added least sandpiper and greater yellowlegs, and a single red-knot on July 9.

Steve Allen found a spotted sandpiper at Felix Neck on July 6.

Pete Gilmore observed a greater yellowlegs at James Pond on July 8, as well as a snowy egret.

My Saturday morning guided birding tour observed semipalmated sandpipers, least sandpipers, semi-palmated plovers, greater yellowlegs and laughing gulls on Norton Point on July 8. We also observed a recently fledged merlin — almost all solid brown on back and belly — half-heartedly harass a willet that was perched on a driftwood snag.

Bird Sightings

Juvenile semi-palmated plover. — Lanny McDowell

A lot of juvenile birds have been observed this week, confirming that they breed here, including tufted titmouse observed by both Sarah Mayhew and Stephen Carey, a recently fledged baby black-capped chickadee observed by Sophie Mueller, downy woodpecker by Paulette Silva-Souza, barn swallows by Isaac Taylor, red-eyed vireo by Stephen Carey, cardinals by Glenna Barkan, great crested flycatchers by Morgan Hodgson, and my Cedar Tree Neck observations of young redstarts, yellow warblers, cedar waxwing, catbirds, towhees and great crested flycatchers (hawking small dragonflies from Ames Pond).

Maria Thibodeau and Hannah Evans both spotted a black skimmer in the fresh water pond at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on July 9, less than a five minute walk from downtown Edgartown. Skimmers have been scarce there this year because they are not nesting on nearby Little Beach. Apparently, they are only nesting on the Wasque end of Norton Point Beach this summer, but they can be seen foraging or roosting over much of down-Island. Fred Hewett observed one at Dike Bridge on July 10, and that same day, Rikard Henricsson observed one near the entrance to Lake Tashmoo. And Bill Post observed three of them at the southern end of Sengekontacket Pond on July 9.

Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary is a great place to go to see wading birds. Maria Thibodeau has observed a great blue heron, a great egret and a black-crowned night-heron along the shores of the pond.

Northern rough-winged swallows. — Lanny McDowell

Steve Allen and Al Sgroi lead an early birders walk at Felix Neck every Thursday. Their July 6 highlights include great egret, feeding willets up-close, and fledgling rough-winged swallows. Mr. Allen spotted a first year, maybe two month old, great blue heron at Felix neck on July 9.

Jeff Bernier found a one-year-old male black scoter off Norton Point Beach on July 9.

On July 6, Rikard Henriksson, who is visiting from Sweden, spotted two lesser black-backed gulls on Norton Point. This is a common species in Sweden, but not so here. Only small numbers of them will be seen along the South Shore for the next half a year.

Fish crows are a challenging species to identify, as they closely resemble the larger and widespread American crow. Although they are common from late fall to early spring, they are not common at this time of the year, and we have yet to confirm that they breed here. Dick Johnson has been seeing and hearing them in Deer Run since early June. Karen Osler observed one near Shear Pen Pond on Cape Pogue on June 7, and there are several sightings from Long Point. Josh Engel found two there on June 12 and Seth and Miles Buddy observed one there on July 6. If only we could see the young being fed by their parents.

Northern rough-winged swallow. — Lanny McDowell

Finally, bird photographer Lanny McDowell has an exhibit at the Edgartown library entitled Dolphin Seas, an amazing collection of photographs of dolphins as well as a variety of seabirds. The exhibit can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and will be up for the rest of July. His photos accompanying this column are spectacular, so this show is not to be missed.

The breeding season is winding down south-bound migrants are now arriving. Please keep us up-to-date by reporting 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.