Evening grosbeaks are yet another irruptive species that is vacating its northern habitats due to a lack of its favored foods. A map of its current distribution on the website e-bird shows that it is widespread across the eastern United States west to Minnesota and Wisconsin and south to Washington DC. Last year it was nowhere near this abundant. Irene Ziebarth had evening grosbeaks visit her feeders on Nov. 8, and she sent me a photograph confirming its identity. This species was a regular winter visitor prior to 1990 but has been seldom seen since then. This may be the first sighting since 2005. The last time I saw them here was in 2001, immediately after the late Arnold Brown’s Memorial Service.

A second irruptive species also arrived this week with Scott Stephens’ sighting of three common redpolls feeding on the seeds of some tall weeds in the fields at Thimble Farm on Nov. 5. They are seen more frequently than the grosbeaks but are far from common. They could easily be confused with house finches but they have a bright red forehead and a black chin.

These two species join the two other irruptive species that are already here: red-breasted nuthatches and pine siskins.

Common goldeneye. — Lanny McDowell

Bird Sightings

Scott Stephens spotted three rusty blackbirds behind the Wakeman Center on Nov. 3. Lanny McDowell and Jeff Muldaur saw one the next day at Sherriff’s Meadow Sanctuary. It was a male seen in full sun so its distinctive rusty face and breast were conspicuous. Small numbers of this species are seen most falls and winters, but their population has declined by more than 99 per cent since the 1960s. The first common goldeneyes of the season were spotted by Walt Looney, who found three of them in Eel Pond on Nov. 4. The next day, Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams spotted one female common goldeneye at the same location.

Another new species for the season is the vesper sparrow. Bob Shriber spotted one at the Gay Head cliffs on Nov. 5. Lanny McDowell spotted one there on Nov. 8. Five other species of sparrows seen at the cliffs include swamp, white throated, field and white-crowned sparrow, and song, while Mr. McDowell spotted a clay-colored sparrow in Vineyard Haven on Oct. 31.

Olsen Houghton spotted a female ruddy duck at Mink Meadows Pond on Nov. 5, along with two hooded mergansers.

Ring necked pheasant — Lanny McDowell

Lapland longspurs were first reported last week’s column, but Matt Pelikan spotted another one at Katama Farm on Nov. 8. Along the eastern beaches of Chappaquiddick, he spotted 80 horned larks and a few snow buntings moving south along the beach on Nov. 5. Also that day, Walt Looney found 10 snow buntings at Little Beach, as did Bridget Dunnigan, Sea Williams, and Pete Gilmore. On Nov. 7, Susan Whiting and Allan Keith spotted this species on Norton Point.

Bob Cassidy spotted a bald eagle as it flew past the airport heading southwest on Nov. 3. We can age these birds by the amount of white on their heads and tails; this bird was a couple of years old as it had some white head and tail feathers. John Nelson observed another immature bald eagle on Nov 6 at the south end of Sengekontacket Pond.

On Nov. 3, Allan Keith spotted seven green-winged teal and 10 wood ducks on one of the ponds on his farm, and he had a lesser yellowlegs stop by too. At the Gay Head Cliffs on Nov. 6 he spotted a winter wren and a lingering American redstart.

Greater yellowlegs are also lingering. Three were seen on Little Beach by Walt Looney on Nov. 5, while I saw one at nearby Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on Nov. 7, the same day that Pete Gilmore spotted one at Lambert’s Cove Beach. Luanne Johnson, Margaret, Curtin and Nancy Weaver spotted one along the shores of Majors Cove in Sengekontacket Pond on Nov. 8.

Good evening, Evening grosbeak. — Lanny McDowell

I found a lone tree swallow winging its way westward on the afternoon of Nov. 8 at Quansoo. There was a lesser black-backed gull standing on the beach (Matt Pelikan also observed this species at Wasque on Nov. 5). I also spotted a dozen or so northern gannets flying eastward a ways offshore. This latter species is becoming more abundant and has been observed by Olsen Houghton at Chilmark Pond on Nov 8 and by the quintet of Susan Whiting, Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore, Bob Shriber and Jeff Muldaur at Aquinnah on Nov. 7. They also spotted a Baltimore oriole and brown-headed cowbird that day. Bob Shriber spotted an American woodcock there on Nov. 2.

Also arriving are our commuter crows — both American and fish — that roost near Ice House Pond. David Stanwood was at Kuffies Point on Nov. 8 to watch the sunset. In addition to the colorful sky, he spotted large flocks of crows coming in off the Sound by the Tashmoo opening and then flying southwest.

On a final note, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has released some male ring-necked pheasants that showed up in multiple locations on Nov. 6, including Pete Gilmore at Sepiessal Sarah Carr and John Honeycutt in the state forest; Maria McFarland, Doug Litchfield in Chilmark; and Ione Bissonnette at Peaked Hill. Irene Ziebarth saw three along Old Farm Road on Nov. 7.

Please email your sightings to birds@mvgazette.com.

More bird pictures.

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