A tyrant is a cruel and oppressive ruler. During the nesting season, our summer resident eastern kingbirds aggressively defend their nests. I was hit on the top of my head once as I got too close to its nest. Yes, its behavior caused me to back off and not disturb the bird even further. While we are unlikely to see an eastern kingbird at this time of the year, a western kingbird was spotted by John Nelson at the Farm Institute on Nov. 16. Jeff Bernier found it again the next day.

These kingbirds are not particularly aggressive at this time of the year since they are not nesting, and the kingbird was very close to Mr. Nelson. Their upright posture helps to identify them although that is the only similarity with an eastern kingbird. The western’s plumage is gray on top, greenish on its back, with bright yellow on its belly. It could easily be confused with a great-crested flycatcher.

Bird Sightings

Western Kingbird. — Lanny McDowell

Bald eagles are now observed fairly regularly on the Vineyard, especially in the winter. Alex Friedman often spots them on Oyster Pond, and his first immature bald eagle of the season showed up there on Nov. 11.

Holly Mercier had a male Baltimore oriole visiting her feeder for a few days, beginning on Nov. 17. Seeing the bright orange will brighten any day. We often have a few of them that linger into the winter, so keep your eyes out.

Another uncommon avian visitor is the vesper sparrow. Bob Shriber was the first to spot one at the Farm Institute on Nov. 14, mixed in with a flock of the more common savannah sparrows. Lanny McDowell found it the next day but that is only the beginning of his story. A Cooper’s hawk flew close by so the sparrow disappeared into the grasses, but before he got the clear views that he desired. It reappeared a few moments later (the hawk was long gone) allowing time to study and photograph the bird before five American pipits flew by and they all disappeared — a succession of events that will not soon be forgotten!

Cookie Gazaille Perry also saw the vesper sparrow on Nov. 15.

Strutting for now. — Lanny McDowell

Jeff Bernier spotted a lingering flock of tree swallows at Katama on Nov. 16. This insect-eating machine can stay on the Island into January. Catherine Deese saw a flock of these swallows a week ago.

Lisa Maxfield reports her first hooded mergansers of the season at Brush Pond on Nov. 14. And I have seen small numbers of both bufflehead and red-breasted mergansers on several of our down-Island salt ponds.

Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary continues to host interesting birds. Jeff Bernier spotted an American coot there as well as some black-crowned night-herons on Nov. 12.

Mike Savoy heard a great horned owl calling by his house on Nov. 13.

An almost pure white leucistic downy woodpecker continues to be a regular visitor at Penny Vaughn’s feeder.

We keep track of two other winter residents of the Vineyard. On Nov. 17 I counted 110 brant in Ocean Park, along with 390 Canada geese. The geese covered about half of the park. And Sharon Simonin found a flock of at least 80 fish crows along Monroe Avenue in East Chop on Nov. 18.

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

More bird photos.

Robert Culbert teaches science at the Oak Bluffs School and is an ecological consultant with Nature Watch LLC living in Vineyard Haven.