Strong winds may cause birds to get blown off-course, ending up some place they did not intend to go, which is something we birders often hope for. It sounds unkind and not in the bird’s best interest. But we also know that most birds recover after the storm, with their internal GPS device getting them to where they intended to go.

On May 29, during the height of the Memorial Weekend northeaster, Matt Pelikan went looking for storm-driven birds. He recalled a recent Memorial Day storm that inundated the Island with phalaropes. No such luck this time. From Oak Bluffs to Katama, the only unexpected birds were two Bonaparte’s gulls at Sengekontacket Pond. I checked the same area the next day but found nothing unexpected.

On the afternoon of May 30, after the rain and wind let up, David Padulo visited Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary to find three species of warblers: yellow, yellow-throat, and pine. “It was nice the sun popped out with the break in the rain this afternoon,” David said.

Bird Sightings

Sooty Shearwater. — Lanny McDowell

I was parked along Edgartown Bay Road, overlooking a salt marsh at the west end of Mattakesset Bay on May 30. After watching the shorebirds near the water for a couple of minutes, a small sparrow appeared, perched on a blade of marsh grass in the middle of the salt marsh before dropping to the ground and disappearing. This is typical saltmarsh sparrow behavior. It was the first saltmarsh sparrow of the season.

Another new species for the year is a sooty shearwater, a pelagic species spotted by Sam Wainwright as it flew near the Gay Head cliffs on May 25. These two species are the only new species for the week, a marked change from the rest of May when most of the column was about new sightings during the northward migration.

Now there are two yellow-throated warblers on the Island. Susan Whiting and Geoff Muldaur caught up with one at John Hoft Road on May 27, as did Luanne Johnson. Bob Shriber found it the next day. Near the Wakeman Center, not too far away, Luanne Johnson caught up with a second one on May 27 and neighbors report that it has been there for about three weeks. This may be the same bird that has been seen there for the past few springs. I wonder about these two lingering southern warblers. Do either of them have a mate and are they nesting?

Ian Boardman saw a blue-winged warbler at Four Winds Lane in Chilmark on May 27. On May 28, Ian saw eastern wood-pewee, red-eyed vireo, black-and-white warbler, blackpoll warbler, yellowthroat and American redstart at the Gay Head Morraine.

Eileen Bennet found an indigo bunting at Cedar Tree Neck on May 28, the same day that Shea Fee found 16 cedar waxwings at Mytoi Gardens.

Saltmarsh sparrow. — Lanny McDowell

Jessica Oliver saw two ravens at her Vineyard Haven feeders on May 29 and wrote: “The beaks are huge!”

Krish Maypole visited Menemsha Hills on May 30 and saw scarlet tanager, ovenbird, and a black and white warbler. That same day, I heard a warbling vireo at the head of the Lagoon and Wendy Culbert saw a male bobwhite toward the end of Planting Field Way.

Migrant shorebirds are still around. Sharon Pearson photographed a ruddy turnstone at Sengekontacket Pond on May 26. During the storm on May 30, I found 215 sanderlings, 36 ruddy turnstones, 60 black-bellied plover, 20 dunlin, three least sandpipers and a greater yellowlegs at Norton Point Beach.

A challenging activity for the month of June, before the southward migration starts up in early July, is to observe bird behavior and to use it to determine if they are nesting. John Nelson has a pair of hummingbirds visiting his feeders and noted that the female sits and drinks a lot while the male makes only brief stops to take a sip or two. Are they a pair? Are they nesting? Finding a hummingbird nest can be a challenge but Lanny McDowell found one near Lambert’s Cove Road on May 29. A friend of his had an ovenbird nest in the garden and it hatched on May 29.

Three different song sparrow nests have been found. Lisa Phelan found one on May 29 in an unusual location: behind a lamp on the side of her house. Matt Pelikan also found a nest, as did Carolyn Ware. Mark Grandfield has a family of bluebird chicks in a hollow fence post while Ira Certner had three fledgling and their parents visit his feeder. Julia Austin observed a family of three starling fledglings. And Rick Karney has tree swallows nesting on his property.

Warbling vireo. — Lanny McDowell

Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist have found evidence of nesting this week. A black-capped chickadee was seen carrying food and a great crested flycatcher was observed nest building, as were downy woodpecker, tree swallow, and house sparrow. And they recently observed fledged young house finches. From earlier in May. Killdeer nests were found by Ken Magnuson at the Edgartown Golf Club, Tara Whiting at the Grange Hall, and Gus Ben David in his yard for the first time. Julia Austin has been busy. She watched a pine warbler building a nest at Sepiessa, a bluebird carrying food to feed her youngsters and bank swallows at Lucy Vincent visiting their nest burrows in the cliffs. John Montes Jr. noticed rough-winged swallow there as well.

Baltimore orioles build beautiful pendant nests, and Mary Austin watched as a female oriole built a nest in her yard. Lanny McDowell observed a chipping sparrow carrying vegetation to build a nest, and Susan Whiting watched a flicker performing a distraction display that confirms its nesting.

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More bird pictures.

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