The bird of the week was spotted by Olsen and Molly Houghton, who had an unusual visitor at their suet feeder on Dec. 17, a yellow-throated warbler. This generally southern species is one of the few warblers that looks colorful and distinctive throughout the year, hence it is relatively easy to identify. While they are more commonly seen in the spring, it is an occasional visitor at this time of the year.

Yellow-throated warbler. — Lanny McDowell

There has apparently been a changing of the guard at State Beach. A peregrine falcon was still hanging out at the big bridge — it has been there since Dec. 3 — as both both Norma Holmes and Joyce Look spotted it on the afternoon of Dec. 20. But I have no reports of it since then, and on Dec. 24 Sarah Mayhew photographed a merlin on State Beach, and Jane Flanders spotted it the next day.

While on the topic of State Beach, apparently the snowy owl has returned. More than a week had gone by with no reports of a snowy on State Beach, but Olsen Houghton spotted one near the big bridge on Dec. 18. It has been seen almost every day since then, and Brian Packish thinks there may be two snowies there, as one appears to have a thin ring of light brown on top of its head. The snowies have been reported by: Michael Blanchard (Dec. 21); Warren Woessner (Dec. 22); Connie Alexander and Brian Packish (Dec. 23); Lanny McDowell, Allouise Morgan, and Catherine Deese (Dec. 24); and Jane Flanders, Bill Jones, and Sharon Simonin (Dec 25).

South Beach is not to be outdone this week. A snowy owl was spotted near the right fork by Michael Ditchfield and Warren Woessner on Dec. 24. Karen Ruggeiro and Kelly Felder found it again on Dec. 25. And Michael Blanchard observed one of the Chappy snowies on Dec. 24.

The Oak Bluffs Pumping Station is also hosting a variety of birds. Warren Woessner spotted an immature bald eagle there on Dec. 22, while Sharon Simonin found seven black-crowned night-herons there on Dec. 23, all perched in the same tree, which is where they perch when they are not hunting. And Jeff Bernier found a female ring-necked duck and an American wigeon there on Dec. 24.

American widgeon. — Lanny McDowell

Ken Magnuson spotted the first pintail of the season, a female swimming in Katama Bay on Dec 22. A pair of green-winged teal flew past Lanny McDowell while he was at Slough Cove on Dec. 24.

Michael Ditchfield spotted some purple sandpipers foraging on the boulders near Lucy Vincent Beach on Dec 23. Sarah Mayhew has also seen them there.

Two belted kingfishers were spotted by Susan Whiting on Town Cove of Tisbury Great Pond on Dec. 22.

Tim Leland spotted a red-winged blackbird at his suet feeder on Dec. 16. Males of this species are regular winter visitors in small numbers. They are easier to see when they arrive at our feeders, which is more likely to happen when snow covers the ground as it did with this sighting. Our breeding females will not show up until late February or early March.

Female pintail. — Lanny McDowell

And, on Dec. 13 Susan Catling found a yellow-bellied sapsucker at her suet feeder in Ocean Heights. This is the first time she has spotted one in her yard.

Please remember that there will be many birders out in the field on Dec. 29 as part of the annual Christmas Bird Count. We will be counting all the birds we can find. Please be cautious when you spot a group of binocular and spotting scope clad people; we are not dangerous but we can be oblivious to others when we are watching or stalking an interesting bird.

Our winter residents are becoming increasingly abundant; 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.