Ruby-throated hummingbirds are in the news because they are about to depart and will not be seen again until next April. They still seem to be quite abundant — amazingly, 24 observers have reported them in the past week (more than at the height of the nesting season!): Charlie Kernick, Alison Clark, Sandra Grant, Niki Patton, Jo-Ann Eccher, Jacquie Callahan, Tom Hodgson, Bill Jones, Katherine Welch, Luanne Johnson, Susan Shea, Matt Pelikan, Susan Whiting, Sarah Carr, Dave Dandridge, Connie Alexander, Lucinda Sheldon, Rick Karney, Catherine Deese, Pete Gilmore, Kathy Landers, Nina Lisa Maria, Martha Moore and Eva Faber.

Most of these birds will probably have left before you read this, but that does not mean it is the end of the hummingbird season. The sugar-water feeders can be kept filled for several months yet, as this is now the season when western strays pass through. For example, two species of hummingbirds (ruby-throated and Allen’s) were observed in early January of 2013 on the annual Christmas Bird Count! The latter individual survived until Jan. 24, 2013, two days into an extreme cold snap. Be forewarned; these western strays can be incredibly difficult to identify as they may differ by small characteristics like the shape of the tip of their tail feathers.


Owls have been mostly silent, but now they are calling more frequently.

Northern harrier. — Lanny McDowell

Maria Newton Thibodeau heard the barred owl on the evening of Sept. 19 at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary. While it has been in Edgartown for about two years now, ranging from Planting Field Way to downtown to Chase Road to Morning Glory Farm, we still do not know whether or not there is a pair of them. Its regular presence near Sheriff’s Meadow suggests that there is a territorial pair, as the locations where the owl has been heard might be more irregular and spread out if it were one individual still searching for a mate.

Great horned owls have also been calling. Laurie Meyst reports one calling from near the State Forest Headquarters on Sept. 22, which I believe is a new location for this species. And Penny Uhlendorf reports one was calling in the Lamberts Cove area that same day.

Allouise Waller Morgan spotted a barn owl near the Katama Airpark on Sept. 22. As it was seen in the same location as Sara Piazza’s Sept. 15 sighting, it may be the same bird reported in last week’s column.

Bird Sightings

Nine species are reported here as the first times they have been seen in this southward migration season.

Allan Keith spotted two ruby-crowned kinglets at the Gay Head Moraine on Sept. 24 — a new species for the fall. He also spotted three Coopers hawks, three red-tails, osprey, phoebe, red-eyed vireo, prairie warbler and chipping sparrows. He comments that most of the robins have left, as he only saw two of them.

Blue grosbeak. — Lanny McDowell

Bob Shriber and Allen Keith visited Squibnocket Beach on Sept. 23 and his highlights include four new species for the fall: four blue-winged teal, least flycatcher, two purple finches, and blackpoll warbler. Other highlights include 30 catbirds (that is a lot of catbirds!), two warbling vireos, red-eyed vireo, black and white warbler, common yellowthroat and two dickcissels.

Pete Gilmore spotted an American kestrel in Aquinnah on Sept. 19. And Allan Keith spotted another kestrel at Lobsterville on Sept. 21, and a black-throated blue warbler at the Gay Head Moraine the same day. Both are new species for the season; the former used to be common, but now is only a transient usually seen at this time of year.

The blue grosbeak spotted briefly by Matt Pelikan in his yard on Sept. 18 is a first for this fall, although it was also observed this past spring.

The final new species for the fall is red-breasted merganser, observed by Franklin Nejame at Dogfish Bar on Sept. 17. He also has observed a covey of bobwhite quail near Kalyana Lane in Chilmark.

Luanne Johnson observed a hairy woodpecker, a pine warbler, and a solitary sandpiper on Sept 23 near Major’s

Cove. Liz Loucks joined her later that day and both enjoyed nice views of a brown creeper on the oak trees outside her kitchen window.

On Sept. 22 I birded Wilson’s Landing, the public access point to Edgartown Great Pond, and in small group of pines along the road I found a flock of woodland birds including black-capped chickadees — the ringleaders of the flock — tufted titmice, red-breasted nuthatches, redstarts and pine warblers. Be sure to check for other species whenever you find a flock of chickadees!

Pete Gilmore observed a late osprey on Sept. 22 at Lamberts Cove Beach. The day before he birded Norton Point with Lanny McDowell and Porter Turnbull, where their highlight was a lesser black-backed gull.

Young purple finch struts its stuff. — Lanny McDowell

From Felix Neck on Sept. 21, Katherine Oscar reports chickadees, phoebe, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, and blue jay, along with greater yellowlegs and a great egret along the Sengekontacket shoreline.

And the last Felix Neck early birders program of the season was on Sept. 20, and Steve Allen reports finding merlin, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and northern flicker. On Sept. 19 he observed a Belted Kingfisher and a juvenile little blue heron; the latter was first reported to Felix Neck by an unidentified birder on Sept 18.

Walt Looney visited Little Beach early on Sept. 19, where his highlights included four short-billed dowitchers; three American golden plovers, two piping plovers, four oystercatchers, two willets; 25+ greater yellowlegs, one least sandpiper, six semipalmated sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, white-rumped sandpiper, one osprey, and numerous sanderlings. On Sept. 17, he visited Long Pont and found the first large flock (2000) of migrating tree swallows of the season.

Speaking of Long Point, Martha Moore observed an osprey on Sept. 18. Earlier in the week she found a great blue heron, catbird, two yellow crowned night herons on the an eastern towhee, a great egret, and tree swallows.

Please report all your sightings to

Robert Culbert leads Saturday morning Guided Birding Tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.