The wind is blowing strongly out of the northeast as I sit here on Monday evening finishing this column. I saw whitecaps on Nantucket Sound this afternoon. We have not had much of these easterly winds, which is likely why we have had such an interesting and birdy northward migration so far. Typically, the strong winds blowing out of the east force migrants inland, thereby preventing them from reaching our shores. Now that I have jinxed the rest of the month’s migration, there are a lot of species to report.

The most intriguing sighting is of a pair of blacknecked stilts along the shores of Deep Bottom Cove. They were first spotted and photographed by Steve and Peggy Wolf on May 9. As of May 13, they have observed the stilts every day. Bob Shriber also observed this western species on May 12. They seem to be seen every other spring, as the previous two sightings were on April 11, 2017 and May 26, 2015.

Black Necked Stilt — Lanny McDowell

Another unusual sighting is of a female painted bunting. This overall greenish bird was found at a feeder on private property in West Tisbury on May 6, and was reported to Matt Pelikan. For some unknown reason, this southern species is not seen as frequently on the Island as it seems to be on the Cape and Nantucket.

Allan Keith and James Langlois found a sandhill crane flying overhead on East Beach on May 11. They watched as it departed to the east, flying across Muskeget Channel to Tuckernuck Island. And a sandhill crane was observed on the eastern end of Nantucket that afternoon. Interestingly, a sandhill crane was last seen on the island on May 5, 2018.

Bird Sightings

Matt Pelikan spotted both a greater yellowlegs and a Wilson’s snipe at Farm Pond on May 7.

Red Headed Woodpecker — Lanny McDowell

On May 8 black-throated blue warblers arrived on the Island. Ken Magnuson found one at the Edgartown Golf Club, I heard one singing in my yard and Lanny McDowell spotted one in his yard.

Whip-poor-wills seem to be arriving a little late this spring, as the first report I have received is from May 8, when Karin Stanley reported one calling near the youth hostel. I heard my first whip at the frisbee golf course on May 10, and I have no other reports. They usually seem to return in late April.

One of the best places to see American redstarts is at Cedar Tree Neck, where four pairs nest in the woods near the parking lot and a number of other pairs breed elsewhere on the sanctuary. So it is not surprising that Luanne Johnson and Bill Bridwell observed a redstart there on May 8. That same day Scott Stephens found one at Wascosim’s Rock.

Margaret Curtin spotted a few chimney swifts on May 9 at Blackwater Preserve, while Roger Cook found them at the Whaling Church the same day and Cheska Zayda heard the barred owl calling near the Edgartown Golf Club and found the first red-eyed vireo of the season at the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station.

Virginia Rail — Lanny McDowell

On May 11, Margarita Kelly observed a snowy egret at Farm Pond.

And then there was the annual Felix Neck bird-a-thon beginning at 6 p.m. on May 10 and continuing through 6 p.m. on May 11. Though it rained during the night, the daytime weather was great with a light easterly breeze, and a lot of birds were found. The final tally of species will be reported in a future column, but I will mention some of the highlights in this column.

Lanny McDowell and Ken Magnuson teamed up to see a Virginia rail, normally a shy marsh dweller but not this time as they got great views of one near Moshup’s Trail. They spotted an adult redheaded woodpecker in a West Chop yard. Notable songbirds they found included ovenbird, yellow-throated vireo, blue-winged warbler and parula warbler.

In addition to the above mentioned sandhill crane, Allan Keith and James Langlois spotted bay-breasted and prothonotary warblers; three species of sandpipers: white-rumped, least and semipalmated; both ruby and golden-crowned kinglets; and a lesser black-backed gull, all on Cape Pogue. Up-Island, Mr. Keith reported harlequin ducks, white-crowned sparrow and purple sandpiper.

Yellow Throated Vireo — Lanny McDowell

Emma Johnson reported a chuck-will’s-widow, blue-headed vireo, a late red-breasted merganser, northern gannets, and both red-throated and common loons.

Mike Tinus and I teamed up to bird mainland Chappy on the afternoon of May 11 and our highlights included about a thousand northern gannets flying eastward off Wasque. While watching them, we spotted a spotted sandpiper on the beach. As the close of the bird-a-thon approached I found a flock of 300 black-bellied plovers in a shortgrass cattle pasture at the Farm Institute and was able to pick out two golden plovers. The previous evening I found a short-billed dowitcher, Wilson’s snipe, common yellowthroat, and chestnut-sided warbler, all at the upper end of Deep Bottom Cove.

Some birds are of interest this week because it is getting late for them. These include Warren Gossen’s great blue heron at Farm Pond on May 4, 30 late- lingering brant in Vineyard Haven Harbor near Crystal Lake spotted by Chuck Wiley on May 7, a yellow-rumped warbler spotted by Ken LaVigne in his yard on May 8, and a woodcock observed by Martha Moore on May 9 near Deep Bottom Road in West Tisbury.

Other species of interest are a rose-breasted grosbeak spotted by Sarah Carr on May 8; a pair of mute swans with cygnets spotted by Jennifer Meade on May 9; Michael Manfredi’s ring-necked pheasant near Lighthouse Road on May 10; James Carter’s May 10 summer tanager; eastern kingbirds observed by Jeff Bernier, Sean Waite, and Happy Spongberg; and two orchard oriole sightings: a first year male spotted by Jane Norton and another spotted by Mary Beth Baptiste.

Last but not least, EL Edwards observed a scarlet tanager in her yard on May 12, and described it as “a bright spot on a gray day.”

The northward migration of birds is peaking and the torrent of migrants will continue through the month of May. Please report your sightings to

More pictures.

Robert Culbert schedules private guided birding tours, and is an ecological consultant with Nature Watch LLC living in Vineyard Haven.