Most of the spotted sandpipers are now well south of the Vineyard, as their migration peaks in August and September. So I was surprised to find one on my Oct. 28 Guided Birding Tour at Pecoy Point.

A red breasted merganser has a swim at Menemsha. — Lanny McDowell

I heard its call “peet-weet” and saw it flying very stiff-winged, never bringing its wings above the horizontal, which is enough to identify it. It landed about 100 yards up the Sengekontacket Pond shoreline and when we got closer we found it characteristically teetering as it walked along. This is close to a late date for this species, as Susan Whiting saw one on Oct. 26, 1976, and in some other year Allan Keith saw one on Nov. 2.

How do we end up with these observations so much later than normal? Was this bird here ever since August or September, hiding out along a seldom birded portion of the Sengekontacket Pond shoreline? Or was it recently even further north and just now passing through? Or my favored explanation is that it might have been much further south, only to be carried back north by the intense storm of Oct. 25-6 that brought so much tropical moisture up the Atlantic Coast. Of course, we will never know the route it took to get here.

Bird Sightings

On Oct. 29 Luanne Johnson spotted two red-breasted mergansers from Cape Pogue Bay. Many more of these mergansers will arrive later this fall. She also spotted a flock of 119 tree swallows flitting around, and the same day John Nelson reports a large flock of them at the other end of the Island at Red Beach. He also spotted some horned larks and a male northern harrier at Lobsterville, a red-throated loon at Harthaven, and six gannets off East Chop.

Horned lark. — Lanny McDowell

Bob Shriber was able to find a few areas in Katama that were out of the strong winds of Oct. 30, where he found 350 black-bellied plovers, four dunlin, a golden plover, a pectoral sandpiper, and five lesser black-backed gulls. It is getting late for both the golden plover and the pectoral sandpiper. They may linger even later into the fall season as they have been around for a while. On Oct. 29, he was up-Island and found a male harlequin duck at Squibnocket Beach, as well as both redstart and bay-breasted warbler near Oxcart Road in Aquinnah.

Danguole Budris found three great egrets in the marshes opposite the Edgartown end of State Beach on Oct. 29. George Stein observed six greats near Little Neck on Oct. 29. They are certainly the most likely egret at this time of the year, but be on the lookout for the much smaller snowy egrets. I observed three of them in the State Beach marshes on Oct. 25.

Scotty Goldin provided an excellent description of the winter wren he observed on Oct. 28 in West Tisbury. It is not often that you get a good look at these secretive winter resident wrens.

White winged scoters off Wasque. — Lanny McDowell

Nelson Smith reports that there were about a dozen brant at Ocean Park on the morning of Oct. 28.

There still is much activity at the Gay Head Cliffs at this time of the year. Warren Woessner was there on Oct. 28 and near the Cultural Center he found dark-eyed juncos as well as five species of sparrows: song, field, white-crowned, clay-colored and chipping. There also was a brown thrasher and a sharp-shinned hawk. Allan Keith was there on Oct. 29 and he found house wren, hermit thrush, northern parula, and ruby-crowned kinglets.

That day at Squibnocket Allan Keith observed a steady stream of seabirds flying westward well offshore. There were at least 300 black scoters, 130 white-winged scoters, 70 common eiders and one common loon. On the nearby coves of Squibnocket Pond he found black-crowned night-heron, bufflehead, lesser scaup, and hooded merganser. Nearby on land he found blue-headed vireo and four species of warblers: blackpoll, redstart, Cape May, and yellow-rumped. He observed eight wood ducks and 14 green-winged teal on a pond near his house, as well as a nearby flock of eastern bluebirds. Jacqueline Cromwell had a juvenile cedar waxwing visit her feeder on Oct. 26. If you are so fortunate, be sure to look around for our winter-resident robins and/or eastern bluebirds, as they tend to flock together at this time of the year.

Brown thrasher. — Lanny McDowell

Steve and Happy Spongberg have seen two hawks flying down the road ahead of their car. They saw a merlin doing that on Oct. 21 and a red-tailed hawk flew down the road in front of them for several hundred feet on Oct. 28.

Patience finally paid off for Jerry Twomey after he put up three screech owl boxes in his yard about five years ago. He heard a screech owl calling on Oct. 26, and the next day birds were mobbing the box. Later he was rewarded when he observed a red phase screech owl peering out of the box nearest his patio.

There still are lots of migrants around now that the weather is finally starting to get cooler; please keep us up-to-date by reporting your sightings to

Robert Culbert is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.

Photos of recent bird sightings on Martha’s Vineyard.