It’s about time the southbound migrant songbirds showed up! In past years, Labor Day weekend really kicked off the migration but it did not do that this year.

Why? Was it climate change and global weirdness, or the major drought? Who knows. But migration is finally underway.

A Wilson's warbler — Lanny McDowell

Allan Keith visited Squibnocket every day Sept. 15 through 17 and reports 13 species of warblers: northern parula, magnolia, Cape May, black-throated blue, yellow-rumped, black-throated green, prairie, blackpoll, American redstart, ovenbird, northern waterthrush, yellowthroat and Wilson’s warblers. This is a good variety but Allan points out that they were straggling through: there were different species every few minutes and only one or two individuals of any species.

He also spotted blue-headed vireo, willow flycatcher, house wren, red-eyed vireo and a big wave of red-breasted nuthatches on Sept. 14; bobolinks passing overhead at the Gay Head Cliffs on Sept. 16; and a rusty blackbird and a solitary vireo that were also there. At the Gay Head Moraine he spotted a Swainson’s thrush, hermit thrush and a blue-gray gnatcatcher.

The most unusual songbird this week was a male northern wheatear spotted on Sept. 14 as it fed on insects on a small strip of beach at Herring Creek Farm. Warren Woessner watched it for at least five minutes and wrote a careful description. This is probably the fifth sighting of this species, with most taking place in September.

Other migrant songbirds are also reported this week. In Aquinnah, Bob Shriber spotted a least flycatcher, a house wren, a northern waterthrush, two common yellowthroats and three prairie warblers on Sept. 12. The next day he found a great-crested flycatcher and a yellowthroat along Oxcart Road.

A Canada warbler — Lanny McDowell

On Sept. 15 Charles Morano found a redstart and black-throated green warbler at Donaldbin Close in Edgartown and a yellowthroat at Lobsterville. That same day at Felix Neck, Laura Lennihan saw two pine warblers and on West Chop she spotted an eastern wood-pewee and a yellow warbler. In Aquinnah Bob Shriber spotted four red-breasted nuthatches and the following warblers: redstart, blackpoll, palm pine and prairie. Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmour, and Jeff Peters located a dickcissel within a flock of house sparrows along Fuller Street in Edgartown on Sept. 15.

On Sept. 16 Shea Fee saw a black-billed cuckoo, a red-eyed vireo, the trifecta of mimic thrushes (five catbirds, a brown thrasher and a mockingbird), a Cape May, a yellow, a blackpoll, five pine and a prairie warbler — all at Wasque.

Magnolia warbler — Lanny McDowell

Sept. 17 was a busy day. Timothy Graves observed a magnolia and a Canada warbler at Felix Neck; Lanny McDowell and Bob Shriber found two common yellowthroats, a red-eyed vireo and a shy prairie warbler in Aquinnah; and Luanne Johnson had two pine warblers at Pecoy Point. Steve Allen observed an eastern wood-pewee, a phoebe and two pine warblers, Jeff Payne found a Philadelphia vireo, a red-eyed vireo, two red-breasted nuthatches, a Baltimore oriole, a blackpoll warbler, a prairie warbler and a Nashville warbler.

The next day I found a bright yellow palm warbler at Katama Farm.

This is more like what migration is supposed to be in September. A total of 18 species of warblers and 21 other species of migrant songbirds were recorded here. Our southbound migration is spectacular and only beginning!

Another fascinating facet of the southbound migration is the large flocks of tree swallows. They swirl in the air, catching bugs. Or maybe they land in a patch of bayberry and clean out all the berries, or land to rest on a beach or to completely cover every square inch of roof.

Willow flycatcher — Lanny McDowell

These flocks finally showed up. On Sept. 16 Jeff Payne estimated a flock of 1,000 tree swallows at Katama Farm. Two days later Brian Schick reported 2,000 tree swallows at Long Point; Peter Enrich watched the same flock and says that there were thousands swirling over the meadow and Tisbury Great Pond beaches. Anyone who ends up near such a swarm of birds will surely remember the spectacle!

Careful examination of the tree swallows can produce sightings of other swallows, too. On Sept. 12, Eric Hellgren spotted two tree swallows and 10 bank swallows at Lighthouse Beach, while Dave Oster watched 15 rough-winged swallows, 275 tree swallows and 10 barn swallows in Menemsha.

On the predator front, the most notable sighting is of a kestrel – the first of the season. Jeff Payne spotted it at Katama Farm on Sept. 16. While there, he also found a Cooper’s hawk, three red-tailed hawks and a northern harrier. On Sept. 13 at Wasque he spotted a merlin at Wasque. Merlins have also been spotted by Charles Morano at Lobsterville on Sept. 15, Bob Shriber in Aquinnah on Sept. 15 and Steve Allen at Felix Neck on Sept. 17.

Cooper’s hawks were observed by Laura Lennihan at Felix Neck on Sept. 15 and by me at Cedar Tree Neck on Sept. 17. Northern harriers were found by Luanne Johnson at West Basin on Sept. 18 and the same day by John Banks near the hospital. A peregrine falcon was observed by Luanne Johnson in Aquinnah on Sept. 18, and an adult bald eagle was seen by Steve Allen on Sept. 17 as it flew over Majors Cove.

Western sandpiper — Lanny McDowell

Now shorebirds. On Sept. 13 Shea Fee spotted the first southbound northern gannet of the season in Nantucket Sound, about two miles north of Cape Pogue. Also on Sept. 13, Dave Oster found the first western sandpipers of the season — three of them — and two spotted sandpipers at Little Beach. Another spotted sandpiper was seen by Jeff Peters at Little Beach on Sept. 14 and two spotties were seen at Felix Neck by Timothy Graves on Sept. 17.

Allan Keith found a whimbrel and a pectoral sandpiper at Katama and two marbled godwits at Norton Point, all on Sept. 16. The two marbled godwits were also seen by Dana Bangs on Sept. 17, while I could only find one of them the next day. I did find a red knot and three black skimmers. Nancy Nordin found a Caspian tern at the Oak Bluffs pumping station on Sept. 17.

Last but certainly not least is the one solitary sandpiper spotted by Brian Schick on Sept. 18 at Long Point.

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