So now the 60th annual Christmas Bird Count is history. It was held on Jan. 4, and as Lanny McDowell succinctly put it, “It was memorable because it was so not memorable.”

It was memorable because it was one of the first counts I can recall where the ponds were flat calm because there was virtually no wind. It was not so memorable because there were so few ducks swimming on that flat calm water.

Thirteen field crews scoured the Island for birds and we found a preliminary total of 114 species. It was a low total due to the weather, but every field team had their memorable moments on that calm, foggy and rainy day. The stories told were also memorable.

Common loon. — Lanny McDowell

A species new to the count was observed by the Edgartown field team, where Jeremiah and Peter Trimble found the lark sparrow that has been hanging out in Katama for a few weeks. This is the 219th species that has been recorded over the count’s 60 years. Another new species was the immature yellow-crowned night-heron found by Scott Stephens on Jan. 3, and seen by Allan Keith on Jan. 5. Unfortunately, it was not seen on count day, and so does not become the 220th species since it goes into the record books as only a count period species that was not observed on count day.

Another unusual species was the female king eider spotted in the Cape Pogue gut by two different field teams: Liz Olsen’s Chappy mainland team and Tony Lima’s Chappy Beaches team.

Matt Pelikan’s West Chop team had two memorable sightings. In the morning they found a large flock of fish crows flying off Vineyard Sound and over Mink Meadows, and they also had reasonably close view of two razorbills fishing off West Chop.

Snow buntings were memorable for two field teams. Brad Winn’s Aquinnah team was out at Dogfish bar during the heaviest rain of the day when they observed snow buntings, Ipswich and Savannah sparrows all feeding in the dune grasses. My Long Point field team also got up close and personal views of snow buntings when two of them materialized out of the early morning fog and landed 10 feet away, allowing close study of their active behavior before the buntings disappeared back into the fog.

Common eiders — Lanny McDowell

The Oak Bluffs crew also got good looks at an Ipswich sparrow at State Beach, along with some horned larks. But their biggest was the ruby-crowned kinglet first spotted by Tom Chase along the causeway at the Head of the Lagoon.

The folks at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport support the count every year by chauffeuring the birders around the airport’s runways, taxiways and perimeter fencing in a (heated) shuttle bus.

Lanny McDowell was part of this group. “Given the overall moisture content of everything, the thickening fog surrounding us and the wet windows to

stare through, the results of our search were almost entirely without success except when Mike, our driver, pointed out an impressive red-tailed powering low over the ground and under the fog layer, our only raptor of the day.”  

Lark sparrow. — Lanny McDowell

Pete Gilmore reports another highlight for that team was finding a tiny red-breasted nuthatch in a leafless deciduous tree along Swan Lane in Dodger’s Hole.

Warren Woessner recounts how he, Chris Murphy, Bob Shriber, Laura Murphy and Laura Wainright found an eastern phoebe perched on a post at the edge of a small pond near Menemsha Inn Road. “It was hawking insects and perching within 10 feet of us and is the first phoebe seen in our count area in the 15 or so years we have been covering the North Road territory.”

Another highlight was a pair of tree swallows emerging from the fog and flying along the beach at Squibnocket, a total surprise to Allan Keith and his crew.

And, speaking of fog, another highlight for my crew was spotting one of our two bald eagles along Deep Bottom Cove. We had stopped to scope what we could see of the cove (it was nearly devoid of bird life) when we saw the first eagle. It was so huge that it dwarfed the tree branch upon which it was perched. A truly impressive sighting.

In closing, perhaps the most memorable part of the count was the tally when everyone got together after the long and wet day in the field. A big thanks goes out to compiler Luanne Johnson. We also socialized with the other birders, swapping stories from a day in the field while enjoying the delicious food provided by Chef Deon, the Vineyard Grocer, and the ArtCliff Diner. All in all, a memorable day.

More pictures.

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