American redstart — Lanny McDowell

How many species of birds are on the Island? Felix Neck’s annual Bird-a-thon takes place this weekend: it’s a 24-hour blitz starting Friday May 13 at 6 p.m. Birders will be out and about, scouring the Island for birds. You can do your part by donating to Felix Neck ( Your business can also make donations. All the money raised supports their many educational programs.

This past week has had a lot of strong northeasterly winds, which is not unexpected for May. These winds tend to push migrants inland and away from the Cape and the Islands. Have you ever noticed how far we jut out into the ocean? Nevertheless, several migrants have been seen this week that will migrate further north to nest.

Blue-headed vireo — Lanny McDowell

Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams spotted a blue-headed vireo at Fulling Mill Brook on May 4, the same day that Bob Shriber found two purple martins and a blue-headed vireo along Moshup Trail. He spotted another blue-headed vireo on May 6 in Aquinnah. Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist located a magnolia warbler on May 5 at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary, while Bob Shriber spotted two orchard orioles that day in Aquinnah. Pat Ingalls added an orchard oriole eating grape jelly at her feeder on May 7.

Scott Stephens found a chestnut-sided warbler on May 6 at Great Rock Bight. On May 7 Thomas Cox saw a blackpoll warbler at his pond while Marie Larsen found a white-crowned sparrow at her feeder. It was later seen by Allan Keith. The final transient — a least flycatcher — was seen by Matt Pelikan in Oak Bluffs on May 8.

Our breeding species continue to arrive. Yellow warblers were seen by Amy Judith on May 2 in Edgartown and by Jeff Bernier at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on May 5. Three were spotted by Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin at the same sanctuary. Amy Judith saw an American redstart on May 3 in West Tisbury. Sea Williams and Bridget Dunnigan spotted four ovenbirds, one northern parula and one yellow-rumped warbler at Fulling Mill Brook on May 4. The next day, near the intersection of Middle and Meeting House roads, Margaret Curtin found three ovenbirds, two parulas and three yellow warblers.

Magnolia warbler — Lanny McDowell

On May 5, Sioux Eagle saw a yellow-rumped warbler in her yard, as did Nancy Rogers at her feeder the next day. In Aquinnah, Bob Shriber spotted four ovenbirds, two black and white warblers and nine yellow warblers on May 5. The next day he saw one house wren, two ovenbirds, two yellow warblers and one yellow-rumped warbler, also in Aquinnah. Scott Stephens spotted a yellow warbler and a blue-winged warbler at Great Rock Bight on May 6. Amy Judith spotted a prairie warbler on May 6. On May 8, Bob Shriber found three ovenbirds and two yellow warblers in Aquinnah, while Xiaoni Xu found three 3 pine warblers and one prairie warbler.

Great crested flycatchers have finally shown up across the Island. Bob Shriber found two in Aquinnah. Margaret Curtin saw one on May 5 along Middle Road, while Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens were finding their first on May 5 and have seen several others since then in the woods near their house. Amy Judith found one at Felix Neck on May 6 — the same day that Thaw Malin saw one at home — as did Greg Pattison. Wendy Culbert and I saw one on May 8 at West Chop Woods. Xiaoni Xu saw one at Felix Neck that day.

Water birds are starting to fly in as well. Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist spotted 26 black skimmers at Little Beach on May 5 — a high count for the year for that species. They also saw four common terns at nearby Sheriff’s Meadow. David Stanwood found two roseate terns on May 6 as they were flying around Lake Tashmoo.

May 8 was a busy day. Jeff Bernier found two laughing gulls at Little Beach; Bob Shriber spotted one least, one roseate and eight common terns in Aquinnah; Xiaoni Xu found four species of gulls at Ocean Park (where they were trying to get out of the wind): eight laughing, three ring-billed, 70 herring and 20 great black-backed gulls; and Shea Fee found one least tern at Squibnocket Beach.

Rose-breasted grosbeak — Lanny McDowell

Baltimore orioles are orange and black birds that are rather conspicuous, everyone enjoys them and that are now quite abundant. Lisa Wright reports that lots showed up on Cuttyhunk on May 1, apparently before ours did. On our Island they have been seen by: Whitney Moody on May 3; Mary Austin, Daryl Kaeka Sr. and Marsha Eldridge on May 4; Betsi Luce, Marnie Gauley and Greg Pattison on May 5; Holly Mercier, Cathy Chase (three of them), Sheilah Hughes, Sioux Eagle, Jeff Bernier, Daisy Kimberly, Allen Slater and me on May 6; Julie Robinson, Tim Rush and Cynthia Bloomquist on May 7; and Marsha Eldridge and Susan Straight on May 3.

Beth Biros had both an indigo bunting and a rose-breasted grosbeak at her Chappaquiddick feeder on April 27. Shea Fee reports one of the latter species at Wasque on April 28 and 29, and the trio of Lois Wolkowitz, Kristoffer Mack and Rachel Wolkowitz Mack saw one at their Chilmark feeder on May 2.

Canada geese and goslings — Lanny McDowell

Lingering species will leave our shores fairly soon but are still around, although their numbers are decreasing. Scott Stephens and Penny Uhlendorf are hosting one dark-eyed junco and a couple of white-throated sparrows. Xiaoni Xu found one of the latter species at Felix Neck on May 8, the same day he counted 26 brant in Ocean Park.

The breeding season is in full swing and many of the species reported above will soon be nesting. Other species already are. Sharon Simonin photographed a family of Canada geese with five goslings. Jo-Ann Eccher reports that her mourning dove squab is about to leave the nest. Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens report that a very pesky and vocal house wren is filling all their birdhouses with twigs to deter competition.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak — Lanny McDowell

Rob Bierregaard just completed his annual four-day spring survey of osprey nests; he counted 92 nests with eggs and expects reports still coming in to bring the total to above 100 pairs again this year. Remember that there were only 2 or 3 pairs in the late 1960s?

Last but not least, Lisa Wright reports that a pair of sandhill cranes flew over her Cuttyhunk house on April 28. Yeah, we are jealous!

More Bird Photos

Please email your sightings to

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