Common eider. — Lanny McDowell

Memories of birding Wasque and Cape Pogue throughout the 1980s and 1990s flashed through my head as I read Shea Fee’s report of seeing 10,000 common eiders and 1,000 black scoters in Muskeget Channel. These birds were “streaming from the southwest through the Muskeget Channel and landing near Leland Beach.” She also spotted 10 razorbills.

Every winter it seemed that there were at least that many eiders and scoters feeding in the Muskeget Channel. They would drift with the strong currents, fly back up-current to land and then repeat the drifting. It was impossible to determine how many eiders were out there because it was aan unending stream of them — hundreds in the air at any one time — as they flew. I never conducted an aerial survey, but they darkened the water, as seen from Cape Air flights to and from Nantucket. Their abundance was impressive.

That was then. We have not seen that many eiders on Christmas Bird Counts since the 2008 Christmas Bird Count, when we estimated 52,000 eiders with 50,000 estimated to be off Seven Gates. The 2004 count is the last time we found large numbers of eiders off the Chappaquiddick beaches, with an estimated 14,125 eiders there with other large flocks off Aquinnah, Lambert’s Cove and Squibnocket.

Marsh wren. — Lanny McDowell

This is now. On the just-completed 2022 Bird Count, we recorded just 483 eiders for the entire Island. Only 42 of them were seen from the Chappy beaches. That Shea Fee saw so many is heartening. But where are they the rest of the time? The day before, Shea Fee found no eiders and only one white-winged scoter at Wasque. Where are all those birds hiding? Will they once again frequent our shores?

Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver visited Quansoo on Jan. 22 and spotted a marsh wren — the first sighting of that species this year. This is only the sixth January sighing of this diminutive wren since 2000, although it is a relatively common winter resident in coastal marshes southward from New Jersey. In the ocean, Margaret and Nancy also found seven horned grebes, seven northern gannets, and a remarkable 23 common loons.

Other notable oceanic sightings include two horned grebes, 13 razorbills and 12 northern gannets, observed by David Padulo on Jan. 21 from the Gay Head Cliffs. That day, Matt Born found one horned grebe near Squibnocket Beach.

Cedar waxwing. — Lanny McDowell

Cedar waxwings are always fun to hear, with their high-pitched trill uttered frequently as they flock together to gorge themselves on berries. They are fairly frequently observed, with nine sightings so far this year: 10 on Jan. 1 at Old Fields Path in Chilmark, seen by Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin; 12 on Joe Walker Road in West Tisbury, found by Margaret Curtin on Jan. 2; five observed by Shea Fee on Jan. 7 at Long Point; also on Jan. 7, one discovered by Nancy Nordin at the Gay Head Cliffs; 24 watched by Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin at Crystal Lake on Jan. 17; 18 seen at Farm Neck on Jan. 18 by Stephanie Mashek; 14 observed by Parker Fyfe-Kiernan at Menemsha Pond on Jan. 19; 17 found by Charles Morano on Jan. 20 at Felix Neck; and a lone individual discovered at Felix Neck by Nancy Nordin on Jan. 22.

On Jan. 16 Bob Woodruff observed about six robins as they gorged themselves on the holly berries from the balsam/holly wreath on his back door. More usual is watching a big “wandering flock of robins go a little nuts when they come upon the tens of thousands of holly berries in the 30 foot tall holly tree; they literally consume every berry.”

Most of the red-winged blackbirds have been spotted around Felix Neck this month. On the Bird Count, the Oak Bluffs team spotted eight. Andy Sanford found one on Jan. 17; Charles Morano spotted 11 on Jan. 20; Nancy Nordin found 20 on Jan. 21 and 18 on Jan. 22. Gus Ben David has this flock visiting his nearby yard every few days, with a maximum count of 44 birds.

Barrow's goldeneye — Lanny McDowell

The only other sightings are one individual observed by the Lambert’s Cove team on the Bird Count and a flock of 10 seen by Parker Fyfe-Kiernan near the end of Indian Hill Road on Jan. 9. On Jan. 17, Andy Sanford also found an eastern phoebe at Felix Neck.

Our largest corvid, the common raven, has also been reported this week. On Jan. 17 Andy Sanford spotted one at Felix Neck. On Jan. 20 David Padulo found one at Crystal Lake and Shea Fee spotted two at Wasque. Gus Ben David has a pair that regularly flies over his yard and occasionally they land to partake of the food he provides.

The lingering Barrow’s goldeneye has re-appeared. On Jan. 21 it was seen by multiple observers on the harbor side of the drawbridge. Lanny McDowell, Thaw Malin, Cynthia Bloomquist, David Padulo, Connie Alexander and Jeff Bernier all spotted it that day. On Jan. 17, Lanny McDowell, Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist spotted an immature Iceland gull near the East Chop Beach Club.

Shorebirds are few and far between. David Padulo found a mixed species flock at Little Beach on Jan. 18, with about 50 dunlin, a few ruddy turnstones, one black-bellied plover and 15 sanderlings.

Common loon. — Lanny McDowell

From the Oak Bluffs pumping station on Jan. 22, Matt Pelikan reported highlights of two mute swans, four gadwall, one black duck, five ring-necked ducks, one female greater scaup, 20 bufflehead, three common goldeneye, 25 red-breasted mergansers, one American coot and one gray catbird.

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