A northern waterthrush was foraging along the edge of the pond at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on August 12 when it was spotted by the quartet of Lanny McDowell, Skip Richheimer, Ricky Smith and Pete Gilmore. This sighting signals the start of the southbound songbird migration, as it is often the first of the migrant songbirds to arrive that does not breed here. Andrew and Merrill Eppedio heard its distinctive chip note that same day, Warren Woessner found it the next day and Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams saw it August 16.

Bobolink. — Lanny McDowell

Another early migrant songbird, a bobolink, was spotted by Andrew and Merrill Eppedio at the Katama Airpark on August 14. The Eppidios were busy that day, as they also report pectoral (which Pete Gilmore saw on August 11), white-rumped, least and semipalmated sandpipers and short-billed dowitcher, in the salt marshes at the Edgartown end of State Beach, in addition to a Forster’s tern, yellow-crowned night-heron, brown creeper, brown thrasher, field sparrow and scarlet tanager at Felix Neck.

Tim Rush spotted both yellow and a prairie warbler at his feeders on the 12th, while Susan Whiting had both pine and yellow warblers visiting her bird bath on August 5. We can not tell whether these birds were from off-Island or whether they were here all summer.

Bird Sightings

Fish crow. — Lanny McDowell

Allan Keith spotted a juvenile long-billed dowitcher mixed in with a flock of short-billed dowitchers on Norton Point on August 11. These two species are very similar in appearance and it takes an experienced eye to distinguish between them.

Tom Myers visited Norton Point Beach on August 13 and he found American oystercatcher, plovers: black-bellied, semipalmated and piping, ruddy turnstone, sandpipers: sanderling, least, semipalmated and spotted, greater yellowlegs, willet, lesser yellowlegs and a great shearwater over the ocean south of the beach. The next day on Little Beach he added peregrine falcon and black tern, likely the same one I saw the day before. And Susan Whiting had a total of eight killdeer along the Chilmark shoreline of Tisbury Great Pond on August 11.

Hans Goeckel reports that they plowed a field at the Farm Institute, which will provide habitat for foraging shorebirds. He spotted both black-bellied and semipalmated plovers there on August 16.

Scott Stephens found a dead Audubon’s shearwater several miles south of the Island on the 13th and Bob Shriber reports that he found a dead one on Eastville Beach last month. It would be exciting to see one of these shearwaters alive from the Island! Also offshore, Laurie Dugan spotted a brown booby 40 miles south of the Vineyard on August 13.

Northern waterthrush. — Lanny McDowell

A rainy (it is about time!) and windy August 16 was a busy day; Katherine May-Waite visited Squibnocket and found a flock of 40 laughing gulls. Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Mali, 3rd had a great blue heron visiting a pond in their backyard and Thomas Kennefick saw a belted kingfisher at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary. Laura Hilliard had white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, northern cardinal, tufted titmouse and downy woodpecker in her yard – all birds need to eat every day!

Goldfinches are conspicuous at this time of the year and they have been reported at the feeders of the following: Jerry Twomey, Mercedes Kelso, Vasha Brunelle, El Edwards, Sande Weinstein, Jan Holmes and Tim Leland.

Some birds are still in parenting mode! Noah Van Gilder confirms breeding northern cardinals as he observed an adult feeding a fledgling on August 12, while Cynthia Bloomquist observed recently-fledged eastern towhees and black-capped chickadees along Skiff’s Lane in West Tisbury on August 15. And Jeff Bernier photographed a juvenile salt marsh sparrow in the marshes of Eel Pond on Aug. 13.

Pectoral sandpiper. — Lanny McDowell

After a number of years of trying, we have finally confirmed fish crows nesting on the Vineyard! Several reports of fish crows in the past few summers have proven to be fledgling American crows, whose calls are also very nasal-sounding. On August 12, I spotted a flock of eight fish crows perched on the powerlines along Kennebec avenue behind the Reliable Market. They were mostly quiet, which contrasts with the very noisy American crows, occasionally making soft but diagnostic two-syllabled calls. Two of them silently started fluttering their wings as another flew up to them; the arriving bird stuffed food into the gaping mouth of the nearest youngster. We do not know where they nested in Oak Bluffs, as they have been seen this summer from near the drawbridge to Circuit avenue to State Beach, but nest they did.

Finally, please be careful when identifying American black ducks at this time of the year. They are tricky to identify because they are very similar to the drab male mallards whose heads are not their typical green as they are molting at this time of the year.

More bird photos.

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