Bobolinks. — Lanny McDowell

Birders will flock to the Gay Head Cliffs for the next month or two, especially in the early morning. Why? Well, birds are flocking there too. Migrants are arriving from the north and northwest, but the ocean forces most of them to continue their southward migration by making a sharp right turn to head westward along the coast toward New York and New Jersey. These migrants gather at the cliffs — the westernmost tip of the Island — waiting for favorable weather to continue their migration over the ocean. And we go there to see the gathering multitudes of birds.

Migrants can show up almost anywhere near the cliffs: overhead, or wherever there are plants — which is everywhere. They may be at the overlook, the meadow inside the circle, the Vanderhoop Homestead, the Gay Head Lighthouse, the parking lot, the trail to Moshup Beach, Lighthouse Road . . . in other words, anyplace you can walk.

Chances are really good that you will encounter a flock of birders; their field marks are binoculars and cameras. Ask them what they have seen and where they have seen them, or even join them.

What has been seen at the cliffs recently? A lot, thank you for asking! Only highlights are listed here.

On August 23 Matt Pelikan found an indigo bunting and a willow/alder flycatcher. These two species are hard to distinguish unless you hear them singing.

Northern parula warbler. — Lanny McDowell

On August 27 Nancy Nordin spotted a northern parula, a prairie warbler and a male indigo bunting. On Sept. 1 she added two peregrine falcons, Cory’s shearwater, blue-gray gnatcatcher, Cape May warbler, prairie warbler, common yellowthroat and eight bobolinks. The next day she added a white-rumped sandpiper, 400 laughing gulls, eastern phoebe, three barn swallows and 35 cedar waxwings.

In the early afternoon on Sept. 2, Bob Shriber tallied 37 species, including 75 sanderling, one least sandpiper, one white-rumped sandpiper, 400 laughing gulls, five roseate terns, 750 common terns, two Cory’s shearwater, one peregrine falcon, one eastern phoebe, two barn swallows, two northern mockingbirds, 35 cedar waxwing, six bobolinks and three common yellowthroats.

Margaret Curtin and Luanne Johnson visited on Sept. 2 and spotted 144 sanderling, one white-rumped sandpiper, 210 semipalmated sandpipers, 401 laughing gulls, 29 common terns, two Cory’s shearwaters and 10 cedar waxwings.

On Sept. 2 Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist found nine bobolinks and five barn swallows. The previous day they’d seen one eastern kingbird, two tree swallows, two barn swallows, one blue-gray gnatcatcher, 16 cedar waxwing and 10 bobolinks.

Of course the Gay Head Cliffs are not the only place to find birds. On August 31 Dave Oster went to Red Beach and found a whimbrel, three ruddy turnstones, one pectoral sandpiper and a common tern.

Prairie warbler. — Lanny McDowell

Elsewhere in Aquinnah, Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist watched eight common terns at the Menemsha Pond end of the Herring Creek; at Lobsterville they found a western sandpiper; and at Gay Head Moraine they found a great crested flycatcher and a red-eyed vireo. All of these were on Sept. 1.

Also on Sept. 1 Allan Keith visited Squibnocket and saw one of each: willow flycatcher, warbling vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher, prairie warbler, northern waterthrush, black and white warbler, American redstart, chimney swift and two common yellowthroats.

At the other end of the Island, Shea Fee saw two blue-gray gnatcatchers on Sept. 1 at Wasque. More notable is the juvenile lark bunting she found on August 31 at Wasque, which was also seen and photographed by Francesca Zeta. This is only the fourth sighting on the Island, with the others in 1964, 1986 and 2002, all between late August and mid-September.

Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist spotted another less than common species – the western sandpiper from Lobsterville on Sept. 1 mentioned above. On Aug. 23 Matt Pelikan found a second western sandpiper – a juvenile - and a black tern at Dogfish Bar.

Indigo bunting. — Lanny McDowell

The marbled godwit is still on Little Beach, seen by Margaret Curtin, Greg Palermo, Nancy Weaver and David Padulo on August 29, Philip Edmundson on August 30, Ann Ellery and Jim Suozzo on Sept. 1, and Lanny McDowell and Luanne Johnson on Sept. 3. In addition to many of the other shorebirds present there, David Padulo spotted a whimbrel on Aug. 29.

Norton Point Beach has had three juvenile red knots recently. Warren Woessner saw them along with 50 black skimmers on August 24. David Padulo saw three on Sept. 1.

Dave Oster heard a whip-poor-will calling along Great Plains Road on Sept. 1, one of only a handful of September sightings. The bald eagle that was at Felix Neck has not been reported since August 8 but one was seen by Philip Edmundson at Watcha Pond on Sept. 2.

Fifteen birders participated in Felix Neck’s Early Birders group on August 31 and they spotted 34 species. Highlights were 20 laughing gulls, one great blue heron, 10 great and two snowy egrets, a green heron, a Cooper’s hawk and two great crested flycatchers.

Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams added an immature yellow-crowned night heron and a northern harrier on Sept. 2 at Norton Point Beach. Dave Oster spotted a little blue heron on Sept. 2 at Priester’s Pond that was seen the next day by Thaw Malin and Nancy Nordin. Lindsay Allison spotted 15 great egrets at Snow’s Point on Sept 3.

Bobolink. — Lanny McDowell

There were five other sightings of great crested flycatchers in early September. On Sept. 1, Emily Curewitz found two at Mytoi and the trio of Thaw Malin, Cynthia Bloomquist and Nancy Nordin found one at the Gay Head Moraine, Thaw Malin spotted one at the Gay Head Cliffs parking lot on Sept. 2, and Dave Oster had one along Great Plains Road on Sept. 3.

Charles Morano visited Tom’s Neck on Sept. 1, where his highlights were one lesser black-backed gull, one Forster’s tern, one peregrine falcon and 13 snowy egrets. That’s a lot of snowies by today’s standards!

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