Late August is when western strays — species that are normally found west of the Mississippi River — start to show up on the Island. So it is perhaps no surprise that last week we had two western strays show up. The difficulty is trying to figure out what the stray species will be.

This is the fourth time an American white pelican has been recorded here. — Lanny McDowell

A white pelican is totally unexpected. Larry Hepler and Alice Early saw a large white bird at Black Point Pond on August 26 that they did not recognize, so they called Susan Whiting. She raced down to Black Point Pond with Flip Harrington and identified it as an American white pelican. A number of people got to see the pelican the next day, including Susan Whiting, Flip Harrington, Allan Keith, Bob Shriber, Ken Magnuson and Pete Gilmore.

This is the fourth time that this species has been seen on the Vineyard. Gus Ben David, Elizabeth Goodale, Susan Whiting and Pat Hughes saw the first one on Oct. 12, 1974 at Edgartown Great Pond. Jeff Verner found another one on Nov. 19, 1993, at Chilmark Pond. And on May 30, 2013, Lanny McDowell and Susan Whiting found one at Upper Chilmark Pond near Abel’s Hill.

A lark sparrow is the second western stray, observed on August 28 near the Gay Head Lighthouse by Bob Shriber. This species is much more expected, as it is observed almost annually at some point between late August and October.

Bird Sightings

Lark sparrow is another western stray, though more common on the Vineyard. — Lanny McDowell

As expected with a lot of people going out to see the pelican, quite a few other species have been seen on Tisbury Great Pond and Black Point Pond. They include sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, stilt sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, short-billed dowitcher, lesser yellowlegs, greater yellowlegs, red knot, willet, semipalmated plover, piping plover, killdeer, ruddy turnstone, American oystercatcher, green heron, mute swan, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, great blue heron, great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, eastern wood-pewee, bobolink, northern waterthrush and common yellowthroat. An impressive list.

On August 28, Sarah Mayhew observed both yellow and prairie warblers at Quansoo. One unexpected note is that both males were still mostly in their breeding plumage.

Luanne Johnson observed a group of snowy egrets in a marsh near Pecoy Point on Aug 27. She also was the guest leader for my August 26 guided birding tour. She took them to Little Beach and they found a Forster’s tern in with the large flock of common terns, as well as both lesser and greater yellowlegs, least sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, semipalmated plover, American oystercatcher, willet and black-bellied plover.

Prairie warbler. — Lanny McDowell

Warren Woessner visited there on August 23 and added roseate tern, least tern, black tern, and two golden plovers.

I visited Little Beach on August 29 and observed at least 1,000 terns including two Forster’s terns, and about 250 roseate terns, 10 laughing gulls, 40 sanderling and a black skimmer. Nearby Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary hosted two immature yellow-crowned night-herons, three black-crowned night-herons, two great egrets, a great blue heron, a Cooper’s hawk, a green heron, and lots of common yellowthroats.

Karen Tross saw great egrets perched in shrubbery near Hidden Cove marshes on August 25.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are still around in large numbers. Likely they are mostly migrants now heading south toward their wintering grounds. Sharon Simonin, Joyce Look, Sarah Mayhew, Dan Bradley, Keith Maciolek, Betty Burton, Kenneth LaVigne and Julie Anne McNary all report hummers at their feeders. Has anyone wondered what fueled their migration prior to the appearance of these sugar-water feeders? I have been seeing multiple hummers feeding on jewelweed (touch-me-not), those wetland plants with bright orange flowers.

Lesser yellowlegs. — Lanny McDowell

One final note, Judy Drew Schubert and Heidi Drew are exhibiting some of their paintings in an exhibit titled Birds of a Feather at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse from Sept. 1 to Sept. 21. The art opening for this exhibit will be on Sept. 2 at 5 p.m.

This is the season for southbound migrants. 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.