There were two curious sightings this past week. A golden-crowned sparrow was seen for only the second time on the Island, exactly 66 years after the first, which was seen in Edgartown from April 21-30, 1955 by the late and longtime Vineyard Gazette owner and editor Henry Beetle Hough along with M. Thomas, Mrs. J.B. Worden, and others.

The golden-crowned sparrow was first reported by Brendan Burke on April 28. His first reaction was recognizing the bird as a different-looking sparrow as he drove by. He stopped to look more closely and discovered it was a golden-crowned sparrow native to Alaska and California. This sparrow has been seen by Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore, Bob Shriber and Allan Keith on April 29; Shea Fee, Nelson Smith, Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin on April 30; Luanne Johnson, Matt Pelikan, Jeff Bernier, and myself on May 1; and Rob Bierregaard, Ken Magnuson, two birders from New Hampshire and four from Nantucket on May 2.

A brown booby was seen and photographed by Pamela and Mo Flam on April 29 “as it rested on our back railing on Crackatuxet Cove for about an hour before flying off to the southwest.”

White eyed vireo — Lanny McDowell

What is this oceanic bird doing perched on the railing? There are no other e-bird records for this species this year north of the Gulf of Mexico. This species was most recently seen here for about one week in Menemsha in August 2018. This is the first spring record, as all previous sightings in Southeastern Massachusetts have been between July and December.

Bird Sightings

The other sightings detailed in this column are of new species for the year. There have been many other sightings of hummingbirds (20 reports), eastern towhees (17 reports), red-breasted nuthatches (10 reports), Baltimore orioles (nine sightings), and other soon-to-be-common species like robins, tree and barn swallows, chipping sparrows, greater yellowlegs, and great egrets.

To me, one of the most impressive arrivals is that of the whimbrel. There are two reports of this fairly large shorebird with a long down-curved beak, both from the beaches of Chappaquiddick. Amy Schloss spotted one on April 28, and Amy Judith spotted one (the same one?) the next day. Another down-curved beak belongs to the glossy ibis, which Brendan Burke spotted at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on April 28.

Blue headed vireo. — Lanny McDowell

Another arriving shorebird is the willet. It was seen in the marshes at the western end of Mattakessett Bay by Brendan Burke and Katherine Oscar on April 28, Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin on April 30, and Luanne Johnson on May 1. Jeff Bernier and I found them at Little Beach on May 1, and John Nelson spotted them near Cow Bay on May 1. Of the smaller shorebirds, Shea Fee reports five least sandpipers and one lesser yellowlegs from Wasque on May 2.

Some of our larger nesting terns are starting to return. Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin spotted a flock of 24 on the tidal flats of Norton Point Beach on April 30, while John Nelson spotted three common terns over Sengekontacket Pond and six black skimmers on Sarson’s Island on May 3.

Snowy egrets are also in the news. Richard Price spotted one at Felix Neck on April 26 and 28. On April 28 I also spotted one in the salt marsh across from Bend-in-the-Road Beach. Other sightings include Lisa Maxfield on April 29 at Brush Pond, Katherine Oscar at Little Beach on May 1, and Allan Keith at Quitsa Pond on May 3.

Moving on to small falcons, American kestrels have been reported by Brendan Burke at Katama Farm on April 28, Mike Savoy at Lake Street in Vineyard Haven on April 29, and John Nelson, who spottedboth a kestrel and a northern harrier at Katama Farm on May 3.

Glossy ibis. — Lanny McDowell

Notorius for their loud nocturnal chanting are the whip-poor-will and its close relative the chuck-will’s-widow. The latter species was reported by Hatsy Potter, who heard it chanting along Dyke Road on Chappaquiddick on the evening of April 27. Early the next morning Karin Stanley heard a whip-poor-will in the state forest near the youth hostel. Dan Cohen heard one calling along Moshup Trail on April 29, while Graham Smith heard one on May 1 in the western half of the state forest.

Great crested flycatchers make loud calls that are frequently heard in our summer woodlands. The first sightings were on May 1, when Lanny McDowell spotted one at Fulling Mill Brook and Wendy Culbert and I heard one near Priester’s Pond. The next day we heard one calling from the Tiasquam River Valley North on May 2. And Allan Keith heard one at Fulling Mill Brook on May 3.

A close relative is the eastern kingbird. Liz Witham spotted one in Aquinnah on May 2 and John Nelson found one on May 3 at Katama Farm. Chimney swifts, which have been described as “cigars with wings” (that is what they look like) were spotted flying over Edgartown on April 29 by Margaret Curtin.

The first catbirds have also returned. They have been seen by Bob Shriber on April 28 at Long Point, Mary Beth Baptiste on April 30, Lanny McDowell on May 1 at Fulling Mill Brook. I spotted them at my house in Vineyard Haven the same day, as did Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist at their home. And on May 2 Richard Price saw one at Felix Neck, while Katherine Oscar, Allouise Morgan, and Sioux Eagle had sightings at their homes.

Ovenbird. — Lanny McDowell

Some early warblers have also arrived. A black-and-white warbler was seen in Aquinnah by Bob Shriber on April 27, Lanny McDowell at Fulling Mill Brook on May 1, and Katherine Oscar on May 2. Ovenbirds have been observed by Lanny McDowell at Fulling Mill Brook on May 1, Luanne Johnson and Margaret Curtin at the state forest on May 2, and I heard them singing at Tiasquam Valley on May 3. Rob Bierregaard spotted a hooded warbler at Squibnocket on May 2. Also that day, Katherine Oscar spotted a parula warbler, and Ken and Kelly Magnuson spotted a blue-winged warbler at Great Rock Bight.

Blue-headed vireos have been observed by Katherine Oscar on Chappaquiddick on April 29, Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist at home on April 29, and Lanny McDowell at Fulling Mill Brook on May 1. White-eyed vireos were spotted by Brendan Burke at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on April 28, and Lanny McDowell at Katama the next day.

Alan Karney had three indigo buntings visit his feeders on April 28, while Rob Bierregaard spotted one at Farm Neck on May 2.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks have been seen near feeders by Tim Leland on April 28, Richard Price on April 28 and again on May 1, while both Shea Fee and Caleb Williams also had them on May 1.

Lastly, two irruptive species from the northern forests are still passing through. Evening grosbeaks have been reported by Hatsy Potter on April 27, and both Tim Leland and Peter Enrich (two males and several females) on April 28. And on May 2 flocks of red crossbills were seen by Shea Fee at Wasque and I saw some near Priester’s Pond.

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More bird pictures.

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