Only a brief couple of weeks separates the end of avian northward migration from the start of southward migration. In the Arctic, the shorebird nesting season is so short that there is no time to re-nest. If their first nest attempt fails, they head south. Recent Arctic nesting shorebird sightings are Bill Post’s semipalmated sandpiper on June 20 and Warren Woessner’s black-bellied plover on June 23, both on Norton Point Beach.

And I found four ruddy turnstones at Little Beach on June 27. These may be southbound migrants. Great blue herons are also on the move. Charles Bangs spotted one on Tisbury Great Pond on June 20, on June 30 I saw an immature one at the Head of the Lagoon, and on July 1 Kath MayWaite found one at Blackwater Pond Reservation. Since this species breeds in Massachusetts but not on the Island, they are likely short distance migrants.

Bird Sightings

Juvenile cedar waxwing — Lanny McDowell

Although migration may be already underway, the breeding season is still in full swing. Wilson and Jay Jaroch reported a male and female orchard oriole with three fledglings in the south meadow of Waskosim’s Rock on July 1. He also confirmed that northern parulas are nesting near the North Road entrance to Waskosim’s when he observed one feeding another. This latter species has been there and at Fulling Mill Brook for years, but we have not confirmed their nesting until now. They returned on July 2 and added Philadelphia vireo, scarlet tanager and indigo bunting to their record.

Steve Allen found evidence of eastern towhees nesting at Felix Neck on June 26 when he observed a female towhee carrying nesting material, which only happen when they are building a nest. Susan McCoy spotted a family of white-breasted nuthatches actively feeding in her West Tisbury yard, as well as a male downy woodpecker feeding an immature. These sightings confirm what we know to be true — these three species do nest here.

Eastern kingbird — Lanny McDowell

Willets are vocal and social. A very vocal willet is nesting in the saltmarsh at the end of the marsh trail at Felix Neck, as reported by Steve Allen on June 26. And for ten minutes on July 1, eight willets were calling loudly as they flew around near the big bridge on State Beach. The flock then broke up and each pair headed back to their own territories. I also spotted a fledgling horned lark. This is the only place I know of where this species nests on the Island.

A family of killdeer with two half-grown chicks was observed by John Nelson at a farm in Katama. He also reports something he had never seen before in all his years on the water: a flock of eight mute swans was about halfway from the Island to the Cape, flying northward about eight feet above the Sound, along with many red admiral butterflies flying in the same direction. He also reported 23 barn swallows and two kingbirds were feasting on the flies pestering the cows at the Farm Institute on July 1.

Speaking of barn swallows, Kristina Kinsman Maynard observed a family of four baby barn swallows in their nest.

Savannah sparrow — Lanny McDowell

Susan McCoy reports that a pair of wood ducks regularly visit a small pond at Makonikey.

Lots of whip-poor-wills have been heard lately. Of course, it is hard to confirm their nesting as they are active from dusk to dawn, but we can document where they are chanting. Jeff Verner heard them at Down Harbor Estates and at his house on Edgartown Great Pond. Sioux Eagle has heard them on Sparrow Lane in Dodger’s Hole in Edgartown, while Jeff Peters heard them in the State Forest near the Business Park. They are also calling from Chappaquiddick, on North Neck, Dyke Road and near the Fire Station. Is anyone hearing them up-Island?

David Padullo observed a savannah sparrow on June 29 and on June 25 he found a prairie warbler at Great Rock Bight.

Salt marsh sparrows have been observed by Lanny McDowell in the marshes along Norton Point, while Bill Post found one in an East Beach saltmarsh. Mr. Post also observed grackles feeding in the ocean wave wash on Norton Point just like sanderlings do. They find lots of food there and will carry some of it back to their youngsters.

Willet — Lanny McDowell

Green herons have been rather conspicuous recently. Rick Karney saw one hunting at the shellfish hatchery and Sharon Simonin found one at Brush Pond on June 24. I have seen three of them recently, at the Head of the Lagoon on June 30, Cedar Tree Neck Pond on June 29, and Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on June 27.

Finally, it is peak season for baby birds. If you see one that appears to be abandoned, please leave it alone. Their parents are probably nearby, waiting to tend their youngster after you leave.

The nesting season is in full swing. Please report your sightings to

More photos.

Robert Culbert is an ecological consultant with Nature Watch LLC living in Vineyard Haven.