Ipswich savannah sparrow — Lanny McDowell

The biggest news of the week in birding was Nancy Nordin’s report of the first of the year American oystercatcher at Eel Pond on March 3. More of these charismatic birds will be arriving in the next two weeks as they are our earliest beach-nesting bird species.

Other shorebirds of note include a western willet and four greater yellowlegs, seen by Allan Keith on Feb. 27 at West Basin in Aquinnah, where Bob Shriber and Nancy Weaver and I also observed the yellowlegs on March 3.

Also on March 3, two killdeer were chasing each another and calling above the dunes and beach at West Basin. At Dogfish Bar that same morning, Nancy and I were treated to some nice views of an Ipswich sparrow, which is a subspecies of Savannah sparrow that nests on Sable Island in Nova Scotia and winters in our region.

Bald eagle. — Lanny McDowell

In the world of raptors, Shea Fee reported a merlin at Wasque on Feb. 26. Robert Culbert found the American kestrel at the FARM Institute the next day. I was treated to a fly by from an adult bald eagle on March 2 at Upper Lagoon Pond, and both Bob Shriber and Allan Keith report an adult bald eagle is frequently perched on the Squibnocket herring run osprey pole. Nancy Weaver and I spotted it there on March 3.

Other highlights include the wonderful waterfowl display occurring at Crystal Lake in Oak Bluffs and the Mud Creek-Safe Harbor Marina area in Vineyard Haven. The northern shovelers continue to move between these two waterfowl hot spots.

Jeanne Tunnell caught up with them at Mud Creek on March 1 and Lisa Maxfield did so on March 3. A redhead put on quite a show for Mike Ditchfield and Jeanne Tunnell at Crystal Lake on March 1, and then for myself, Lisa Maxfield and Jeff Bernier on March 2nd. The Eurasian wigeon continues at Crystal Lake.

American kestrel — Lanny McDowell

Also on March 2, I found two female common mergansers in Upper Lagoon Pond amidst some red-breasted mergansers. The ducks will be departing soon, so get out and enjoy the show!

The Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club will meet at the Big Bridge on State Beach at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 9.

Christmas Bird Count Results are in! Our 64th annual Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, which was a mild and enjoyable day and night afield for the 58 observers who joined the 12 teams across the Island. An additional 18 observers reported data from their bird feeders. Collectively, they logged just shy of 300 hours observer hours and counted 30,681 individuals comprising 128 species.

The last time we hit 128 species was in 2008, so this was a very good Christmas Bird Count in both species and numbers. Birders also added six additional species to the count in what is called Count Week — three days before and after Count Day. The warm weather and good visibility contributed to the success of the count.

The black-throated blue warbler at Lynn Buckmaster Irwin’s suet feeder, and which continues this month, will be remembered as a highlight for many years to come!

Redheads. — Lanny McDowell

Here is the list of how many of each species were counted: snow goose, 1; brant, 215; Canada goose, 2,891; mute swan, 105; wood duck, 3; gadwall, 4; Eurasian wigeon, 1; American wigeon, 81; American black duck, 575; mallard, 465; northern shoveler, cw; northern pintail, 2; green-winged teal, 82; redhead, cw; ring-necked duck, 83; greater scaup, 1,089; lesser scaup, 24;

Common eider, 7,518; harlequin duck, 38; surf scoter, 303; white-winged scoter, 423; black scoter, 404; scoter species, 32; long-tailed duck, 348; bufflehead, 1,373; common goldeneye, 489; hooded merganser, 211; common merganser, 16; red-breasted merganser, 786; ruddy duck, 278; wild turkey, 170; red-throated loon, 133; common loon, 300;

Pied-billed grebe, 2; horned grebe, 67; red-necked grebe, 8; northern gannet, 134; double-crested cormorant, 56; great cormorant, 97; great blue heron, 44; great egret, 4; black-crowned night heron, 66; turkey vulture, 14; northern harrier, 19; sharp-shinned hawk, 5; Cooper’s hawk, 11; bald eagle, 2; red-tailed hawk, 38; Virginia rail, 11;

American coot, cw; black-bellied plover, 87; greater yellowlegs, 16; lesser yellowlegs, 1; sanderling, 179; dunlin, 74; purple sandpiper, 9; Wilson’s snipe, 1; American woodcock, 1; dovekie, 1; razorbill, 693; Bonaparte’s gull, 785; laughing gull, 1; ring-billed gull, 211; herring gull, 1,191; lesser black-backed gull, 5; great black-backed gull, 165; rock pigeon, 110; mourning dove, 202; barn owl, 7; eastern screech-owl, 25;

Greater yellowlegs. — Lanny McDowell

Short-eared owl, 1; northern saw-whet owl, 1; belted kingfisher, 23; red-bellied woodpecker, 50; yellow-bellied sapsucker, 5; downy woodpecker, 101; hairy woodpecker, 20; northern flicker, 77; American kestrel, 1; merlin, 1; peregrine falcon, cw; eastern phoebe, 8; northern shrike, 1; blue jay, 310; American crow, 889; fish crow, 47; common raven, 7; horned lark, 56; tree swallow, 12; black-capped chickadee, 831; tufted titmouse, 191;

White-breasted nuthatch, 138; brown creeper, 7; house wren, 1; winter wren, 8; marsh wren, 2; Carolina wren, 197; golden-crowned kinglet, 64; ruby-crowned kinglet, 11; eastern bluebird, 119; hermit thrush, 30; American robin, 1,714; gray catbird, 40; northern mockingbird, 16; European starling, 648; American pipit, cw; cedar waxwing, 131; snow bunting, 21; orange-crowned warbler, 2; common yellowthroat, 1;

Common merganser. — Lanny McDowell

Black-throated blue warbler, 1; palm warbler, 10, pine warbler, 21, yellow-rumped warbler, 417, sharp-tailed sparrow, sp. 1; American tree sparrow, 1; clay-colored sparrow, 1; field sparrow, 8; fox sparrow, 1; dark-eyed junco, 222; white-crowned sparrow, 2; white-throated sparrow, 143; savannah sparrow, 13’ Ipswich sparrow, 5; song sparrow, 283; swamp sparrow, 11; eastern towhee, 13; sparrow species, 1;

Northern cardinal, 217; red-winged blackbird, 2; eastern meadowlark, 22; common grackle, 1; Baltimore oriole, 1; house finch, 345; red crossbill, 2; American goldfinch, 265; and house sparrow, 103.

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Please email your sightings to birds@vineyardgazette.com.

Luanne Johnson is a wildlife biologist and the director of BiodiversityWorks, a local non-profit in Vineyard Haven.