As October turns to November our winter resident waterfowl start to arrive. Their numbers will increase through the months of November and December, as winter weather continues to descend upon our northern climes. They will stay until March and April, which is when the northern climes start to thaw out.

The quartet of Anne and Danny Whiting and Tim and Sheila Baird were the first to spot the brant — 14 of them on Oct. 22 — at Ocean Park. In addition to feeding on their preferred eelgrass, these birds have learned to graze on the grass as their larger cousins, the Canada geese, do.

On Oct. 23, Joanie Ames spotted two wood ducks and two blue-winged teal visiting a pond near her house. A kingfisher also visited. Gus Ben David spotted a common loon (not waterfowl) migrating high above his house on Oct. 23.

An immature bald eagle and an adult red tailed hawk patrol the skies. — Lanny McDowell

The next day, Allan Keith visited Squibnocket and found 100 lesser scaup on the pond and a flock of 500 mixed species of scoters out in the ocean. He also saw the first bufflehead of the season on Katama Bay and there also were some red-breasted mergansers.

Jeff Bernier found a pied-billed grebe at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on Oct. 26. Yes, I know grebes are not waterfowl, but they still are new arrivals.

Bird Sightings

Sparrows are also on the move and Oct. 24 seemed to be a big day. Lanny McDowell and Bob Shriber visited the Gay Head cliffs area and found field sparrows, chipping sparrows and a white-crowned sparrow. That same day, Allan Keith found Lincoln’s and swamp sparrows there and on Norton Point he added saltmarsh, savannah, Ipswich and, most notably, a seaside sparrow on Norton Point Beach. This latter species is secretive and rather uncommon on the Island. Another somewhat unusual species is the vesper sparrow found by

Pied billed grebe. — Lanny McDowell

Matt Pelikan at an unexpected location: Ocean Park.

While in Aquinnah, Allan Keith also saw four species of hawks (American kestrel, merlin, northern harrier and Cooper’s hawk) and seven species of warblers (orange-crowned, yellow-rumped, pine, palm, blackpoll, American redstart and common yellowthroat).

On the shorebird front, Sharon Simonin found two lingering greater yellowlegs at Farm Pond 2 on Oct. 27, while Jeff Bernier found a willet, black-bellied plovers, sanderlings, a dunlin and a ruddy turnstone at Little Beach, and a flock of tree swallows at South Beach. In the agricultural fields at Norton Fields, Allan Keith found an American pipit, and at a farm near the beach he was surprised to find 13 semipalmated plovers still hanging around, an unusually large number for this time of the year.

Lanny McDowell spotted cedar waxwings, ruby-crowned kinglets and a house wren at the Gay Head cliffs on Oct. 24. As he was heading back down-Island he spotted an immature bald eagle at Philbin Beach, and a brown thrasher and a blue-headed vireo off Moshup’s Trail.

Peek-a-boo says the swamp sparrow. — Lanny McDowell

Finally, Gus Ben David notes the arrival of a flock of male red-winged blackbirds at his feeders on Oct. 27. The lack of females suggests that they were migrants that may stay through the winter.

Our winter residents are starting to arrive as southbound migrants become scarcer. Please report your sightings to

More photos.

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