Song sparrow chicks are hungry. — Lanny McDowell

At least one brown pelican was spotted on May 28. The diversity of sighting locations suggests maybe more than one is present. Simon Hickman had the first report, of one flying east over the ocean off Black Point Pond in Chilmark. Then Barbara Beichek thought she was nuts (her words, not mine) when she spotted one flying over West Tisbury. And then Jane Flanders spotted one flying over Tisbury Great Pond toward Quansoo that evening. This is where the second pelican may fit in. An anonymous birder emailed the Gazette reporting that he and many others observed a pelican flying around Wasque at around four in the afternoon. While it is possible that the pelican flew from Quansoo to Wasque and back in one day, it is also possible that there were two of them on the Island.

Bird Sightings

Least tern incubates eggs. — Lanny McDowell

Kelly Felder was headed to Nantucket for the Memorial Day weekend when a small plainly marked bird landed on their boat. It was a migrating, and probably tired, Philadelphia vireo flying over the ocean that found a safe and dry place to land and rest. This spring sighting is unusual as they are more likely to be seen on their southward migration in the fall.

On May 27, David Padullo spotted a white-eyed vireo at Great Rock Bight. We are thinking (hoping) that they may be nesting there, as they have been seen for a few weeks now. That morning, at Felix Neck, he also spotted the regular songbirds as well as a greater yellowlegs and a killdeer along the shoreline.

Roseate tern at Katama. — Lanny McDowell

Allan Keith and I joined up to bird Katama on May 28, but the songbirds were few and far between. We found shorebirds though. There were 350 dunlin on Norton Point across from the boat launch ramp, possibly a record number for this species. There were also about 100 ruddy turnstones and a red knot mixed in with black-bellied plovers, sanderling, oystercatchers and piping plovers. We also found a flock of 150 black-belled plovers in a field at the Farm Institute.

Dana Bangs and Ned Rice spotted a yellow-crowned night-heron in the marshes at the foot of Skiff avenue in Vineyard Haven on May 26. It seems strange to have one here so far into the breeding season. Please keep an eye on that area to see if it lingers here into June.

Also on May 26, my first Saturday morning Guided Birding Tour of the season visited the headquarters of the State Forest, where our highlight was a house wren and territorial eastern bluebirds.

Mute swan and cygnets. — Lanny McDowell

Polly Alden reports counting 16 black skimmers sitting and standing on a dune at the Cape Poge Gut on May 24.

Margaret Klugman reports a pair of scarlet tanagers at Cedar Tree Neck on May 24. She also spotted the more abundant great crested flycatchers, red-eyed vireos, redstarts, prairie warblers, and yellow warblers.

Birds can show up in the most unexpected locations. Julie Verost and Scott Hershowitz spotted bobwhites in two locations: a single male in an alley off Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs, and a pair in more appropriate habitat on Music street in West Tisbury, near where they have been seen in the recent past.

American robin chicks. — Lanny McDowell

But Canada geese nesting on an osprey pole? Such an event is unusual to say the least, but Kasia Clark photographed it and reports that the geese have left the Mashacket Cove nest on Edgartown Great Pond. Their osprey returned late this year and chose to nest in a nearby tree as their usual site was already occupied.

Many observers note that the frequency of birds visiting their feeders is greatly reduced now. Birds are more secretive when they are on their nests, and one member of each pair is unable to visit the feeder while they are either incubating eggs or brooding their newly hatched young. They also switch their diet from seeds to high protein insects when feeding their youngsters and maintaining their own energy during this time when they are constantly on the move.

Northern flicker pair. — Lanny McDowell

Luanne Johnson and other Biodiversity Works staff are now locating and monitoring nesting colonies of our resident herons, egrets and bitterns. You can all help them by reporting where you see them and noting their flight paths to and from their feeding grounds. Of course they are also monitoring nesting terns and plovers, as are The Trustees of Reservations, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and Felix Neck. We are much more knowledgeable about which beaches these species breed on, but please report if you suspect they are nesting in a location that is not already posted.

The breeding season is in full swing, while spring migration is winding down. Please report 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 the Vineyard.