The southward migration is slowly picking up steam, mostly on the shorebird front. By the end of the month the migration will be in full swing.

Greater yellowlegs. — Lanny McDowell

Warren Woessner observed the first short-billed dowitchers on July 8 on Norton Point and now there are more. Jeff Bernier observed them on Norton Point on July 12. And Warren Woessner counted 50 of them as he walked the Norton Point Beach tidal flats on July 14. Allan Keith visited there on July 15 and observed a very orangey rufous belly on one of the dowitchers; such bright coloration identifies it as an individual from the prairies of central Canada rather than one of our more common and drabber individuals that nest in northeastern Canada.

It is fun to watch these stocky, long-billed shorebirds that feed by repeatedly sticking their bills all the way into the sand, much like a sewing machine; even when their bill is shoved all the way into the sand they are able to open the tip of it to catch the invertebrates it touches.

Warren Woessner also saw 10 semipalmated sandpipers, four least sandpipers and three semipalmated plovers on July 14. Of course the usual breeding piping plovers, willets and oystercatchers were also abundantly present there.

Least Sandpiper. — Lanny McDowell

On July 13, Pete Gilmore spotted a greater yellowlegs at the little pond at the western end of Sepiessa Point. Susan Whiting spotted perhaps the same individual at Quansoo’s Crab Creek that day.

On July 12, Jeff Bernier observed the first least sandpiper of the season. This is the smallest of the sandpipers and it has yellow legs, although the marsh muck they wade in may cover up the yellow. Nobody claims shorebirds are easy to identify.

Felix Neck’s early birders program recorded an impressive 47 species on their July 12 walk. Highlights include the first-of-the-season great blue heron, a killdeer and a semipalmated sandpiper. Carlton and Sharon Simonin also found a great blue heron at Farm Pond on July 14, an immature. This species does not nest on the Vineyard, so they migrated in from elsewhere.

Semipalmated plover. — Lanny McDowell

Songbirds are also on the move, as Pete Gilmore heard a black-billed cuckoo calling from his house in the late morning of July 14. I believe this is the first cuckoo report of the year, as I do not recall any previous sightings. Later that day, he returned to the Sepiessa scene and saw the greater yellowlegs as well as five semipalmated plovers and a resident green heron.

Bird Sightings

Pete Gilmore was busy birding this weekend. On July 15 he observed the common raven being chased by a Cooper’s hawk at his house on Hopp’s Farm Road. This sighting is slightly west of last week’s raven sighting by Jeff Bernier at Island Cohousing.

Semipalmated sandpiper. — Lanny McDowell

Speaking of Cooper’s hawks, Tom Hodgson had an adventure with one that got trapped in the netting surrounding his blueberry bushes — netting that is necessary if we want to harvest any of the blueberries since birds think they are ripe before we do. He was able to get the hawk out of the netting and release it, adding “I’m going to remember the way he looked at me. Incredible orange eyes.”

While Michael Ditchfield did not have an in-hand experience, he notes that three Cooper’s hawks have fledged from a nest near his Edgartown house.

At Lambert’s Cove Beach on July 11, Doreen McCabe observed two juvenile flickers, two juvenile eastern phoebes and some chipping sparrows getting fed by their parent. While we know these species are common breeders, it is important to confirm their breeding with these observations. More recently, on July 16 she observed a pine warbler and a common yellowthroat at Quansoo.

Susan Shea added a new location for bobwhite quail when she heard a quail calling from near WMVY on July 12. Brian Cox has also observed quail near his house on July 11.

Jeff Bernier observed an adult laughing gull on NPB on July 11, and I spotted an adult laugher at Cedar Tree Neck on July 15. I also heard singing eastern wood-pewees, redstarts, pine warblers, red-eyed vireos, great crested flycatchers and a scarlet tanager.

The breeding season is winding down and southbound migrants have started to show up. Please report all 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.