Ezra Agnew got an up-close and personal look at a peregrine falcon on June 4: it flew by at eye level three feet from the porch and sat in a tree 25 feet away. This sighting is rather unexpected as traditionally we see them as they migrate southward past the Vineyard in the fall. But times they are a-changing; they nest in several nearby cities.

Terns over Eel Pond. — Lanny McDowell

Another falcon sighting is a sequel to last week’s discussion of nesting terns and plovers. It pays to look upward quickly when you see shorebirds (terns, plovers and gulls) suddenly rise up into the air and noisily wheel around overhead. This flight behavior could be due to people entering the nesting colony which unfortunately happened last week. On June 13, Luanne Johnson saw something else. She reported that “the entire population of birds at Eel Pond were airborne and chasing a peregrine falcon with a common tern in its talons.”

While on the topic of Little Beach, a survey of the nesting birds there reveals that there are 11 black skimmer nests, more than 400 least tern nests, 337 common tern nests, five piping plover nests, four American oystercatcher nests and one willet nest. A few laughing gulls were also present but not nesting. Double these numbers to find that there are over 1,500 birds present on Little Beach!

Bird Sightings

New sightings for the year continue to be reported. Most notable is a royal tern on Norton Point on June 11, spotted by Francesca Zeta. She also saw three laughing gulls and, the next day, she and Wendy Culbert spotted two red knots there. It is getting late for the latter species to reach their Arctic breeding grounds.

Royal tern. — Lanny McDowell

Bob Shriber and Susan Whiting have spent a lot of time birding the Great Rock Bight area. The three new species for the year are a veery (a thrush) on June 14, a warbling vireo and a Brewster’s warbler (a hybrid between blue-winged and golden-winged warblers) on June 8. Between them, they also saw wood thrush, yellow-billed cuckoo, eastern wood-pewee, and the following six warblers: blue-winged, American redstart, ovenbird, yellow, yellowthroat and prairie.

Benjamin Clock spotted two snowy egrets in the marshes along State Beach on June 14. Is this species making a comeback? They were almost completely absent for several decades but have been seen more frequently in the last two years.

Sandhill cranes have been here for the past month or so. Most recently, Don McLagan heard and saw one flying over Wasque Point on June 8. Sandra Talanian saw one at the Farm Institute on both June 8 and 10, as did Suzan Bellincampi on June 11 and Emma Bean on June 14. From Cuttyhunk, Lisa Wright suggests the tame crane we have been seeing visited their downtown area on June 14. She also reports a swallow-tailed kite was seen there.

Of course, the nesting season is in full swing. The following species commonly nest here but watching their nesting behavior is still entertaining.

Pete Gilmore and Lanny McDowell have been observing a nesting Baltimore oriole at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary; they could see nestlings moving around inside the pendant nest. Orioles seem to be especially common this year!

Lanny McDowell has also been watching a pair of downy woodpeckers that have youngsters in a cavity near his house. He has observed barn swallows carrying food and repeatedly entering and exiting a barn. The only reason birds carry food–rather than eating it immediately–is to feed their youngsters.

Downy woodpecker. — Lanny McDowell

On June 13, Benjamin Clock observed a family of adult and recently-fledged white-breasted nuthatches. Ellen OBrien is watching a family of red-bellied woodpeckers and Heather Rynd is watching a nest with four young cardinals. A killdeer nesting in a Katama driveway is being carefully watched by Ben Hughes, Walter Wylodka and Martha Cohan.

Hen wild turkeys are out and about with their recently hatched chicks. Wild should be in quotes–although it is their formal name, they are anything but wild.

Savannah sparrows nest in the farm fields of Katama and on some of our beaches. They like to perch and sing from fence posts, where Hans Goeckel heard and saw them on June 8.

Common eiders are still hanging out around the Vineyard. Warren Gosson saw one on June 10 on the jetties along Menemsha Channel, while Maureen Brodoff spotted a small flock of 21 at Squibnocket on June 12.

The Edgartown barred owls have been more vocal recently. Both Joyce Look and Penny Townes have heard one calling.

Lastly, Jane Culbert heard and saw two fish crows along the Sengekontacket Pond shoreline of Waterview Farm on June 13. Benjamin Clock saw one along Webaqua Road in Oak Bluffs on June 8. This species is not usually here at this time of the year. We need to find evidence of their nesting.

More bird pictures.

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