Today’s column reports the start of the season of southbound migrant birds!

Phil Edmundson has two reports of a spotted sandpiper from the south shore near Watcha Pond – one on June 29 and the other on July 3. Luanne Johnson spotted one near Pecoy Point on the Fourth of July. She also spotted both lesser and greater yellowlegs and a great blue heron.

So shorebirds – especially sandpipers – are on the move. In July, we usually get adults coming through with young of the year arriving in August and September. The songbird migration generally starts in August and peaks in September. Hawks pass through between late September and November. As there is no rush for any of these birds to get further south before the colder weather, a lot of them linger longer, even into December and January. Then, at least in some Decembers, we get the irruptive winter finches (crossbills and redpolls) arriving. This six-month-long migration season is why I call it the southward migration.

Great egret. — Lanny McDowell

Bird Sightings

While migration has started, far and away most sightings are of seasonal or year-round resident birds. David Padulo found a female bobolink and a grasshopper sparrow at the Farm Institute on June 30. And on July 5, the troika of Pete Gilmore, Lanny McDowell and Susan Whiting found another grasshopper sparrow. We know the latter species has nested at Katama in the past few years; their breeding population there blinked out in the late 1980s but the site was recolonized a few years ago. Bobolinks are a different story as they have never established a breeding population on the Island – they nest elsewhere in Massachusetts but they are far from common. This female could be a migrant, as the northward migration of bobolinks peaks in June. She could possibly nest here, so we will keep an eye out for male bobolinks in this frequently-birded area.

Greater yellowlegs. — Lanny McDowell

After searching multiple locations, David Padullo finally found one of the reclusive salt marsh sparrows. This species inhabits many of our larger salt marshes but they are hard to find as they prefer to forage by walking around between marsh grass stems rather than flying from one place to another.

A variety of families of birds have been observed this week – young birds have left their nest (fledged) but are still being tended by the parents as the youngsters learn how to fend for themselves. So when you see a seemingly helpless baby bird, leave it alone and move further away to watch the parents in action. Please do not pick up the young bird and try to raise it yourself, even if it seems abandoned and unable to fly!

Susan Shea observed a family of white-breasted nuthatches. A great crested flycatcher family was observed by Mary Baptiste, another was observed by Sharon Simonin and Penny Uhlendorf found a nest near Lambert’s Cove Road. Lanny McDowell found a juvenile mourning dove. Sandra Talanian observed a nestful of baby barn swallows that actively and noisily begged for food whenever adult swallows flew by. David Padulo also observed a family of barn swallows, while Bob Shriber observed barn swallows of all ages chasing bugs stirred up by a tractor mowing the grass. Davies Millett reports a juvenile eastern kingbird and Paul Doherty has a pair of robins nesting in his privet hedge. Sharon Pearson observed a common grackle family with one youngster. Finally, Susan McCoy reports a wood duck family with six ducklings.

Spotted sandpiper. — Lanny McDowell

The following sightings are of birds that are here throughout the nesting season but we have not observed direct evidence of their breeding. On July 4, Pete Gilmore heard a cuckoo calling near Great Rock Bight. On July 2 David Padullo observed American redstarts, red-eyed vireos, black-and-white warblers, blue-winged warblers and eastern wood-pewees on July 2. At Cedar Tree Neck on July 5, Seth Buddy spotted wood-pewees, red-eyed vireos, bank swallows, hairy woodpecker, redstart, parula warblers and three belted kingfishers. At Middle Road Sanctuary, he also spotted house wren, ovenbird, yellowthroat and parula warbler, while at Quansoo Farm he found a field sparrow.

Wilson Jaroch and his father have completed their annual survey of Waskosim’s Rock Reservation between the end of June to the Fourth of July. This year their highlights were ovenbird, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler, American redstart, northern parulas, pine warbler, northern flicker, hairy woodpecker, wood thrush, hermit thrush, eastern bluebirds, eastern phoebes and Carolina wrens.

Lesser yellowlegs. — Lanny McDowell

Danguole Budris spotted a northern flicker on July 5, while Brooks Buddy had two screech owls calling from her yard on June 30. The day before, Kate Meleney heard a bob-white on East Chop, the first one she’s heard in years, she said. And on July 3, Seth Buddy heard one near Great Rock Bight.

Conspicuous by their absence from these lists are scarlet tanagers. Years ago they were fairly frequent along the north shore of the Island. They were frequently seen in the spring, but is anyone seeing them now?

Finally, a peregrine falcon has been observed by multiple observers in the Little Beach area over the past two weeks or so. Where else does it hunt? Where does it roost? Please report any sightings of this bird!

More bird pictures.

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