Birders love migration! Birds are arriving that we have not seen since last year. We do not know where or when they will turn up; there might be one around the next corner. This uncertainty makes it fun.

Blue grosbeaks illustrate this. They are seen every spring, but we do not know when or where they will appear. On April 21 I was walking on Head of the Pond Road in Vineyard Haven through the woods from the Oak Bluffs pumping station to the Bayes Norton Farm. I got up to the fencing around the Norton’s sheep and everything was silent; no birds were there. Then a bird popped up and perched on the top of the fence. It was all dark blue from head to tail with a truly huge beak. It was a blue grosbeak, the first of this year.

Both Nancy Weaver and Margaret Curtin got to see it that day, and the next day Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin found it in the same location.

Since I saw that blue grosbeak I learned of another one in the Island. Abbey Kuhe spotted one at her Vineyard Haven house on April 15, photographed it and emailed me (using the address at the end of this column) the photos to confirm her identification.

Glossy ibis. — Lanny McDowell

Such unexpected sightings are what makes birding at this time of the year so much fun. Twenty other species seen this week are also new for the year. Each has its own story, though I do not have the space to tell them all.

The arrival of ruby-throated hummingbirds also generates excitement. Polly Bassett saw the first one of the year at her West Tisbury feeder on April 21. So it is time for all hummingbird feeders to be filled and put outside.

Laura Decker was looking around her Aquinnah yard when she spotted two glossy ibis wading around a little puddle on April 21. These small egret-sized birds have a long down-curved beak — truly an unusual-looking bird. She photographed the two birds and sent them to Bob Shriber who forwarded the text to others. Exciting.

Several birders were going to drive from Edgartown to Aquinnah to look for it, which shows how much they wanted to see them. But Nancy Nordin was closer and did not find them, and it started to rain. As far as I know no-one else has seen them. Then the next day Patsy Donovan saw one at John Butler’s mud hole. This bird was also seen by Margaret Curtin.

The shorebird migration is intensifying. The first willet — they nest in and around our salt marshes — has arrived. Nancy Weaver observed one at Eel Pond on April 16. Remember that the western willet that overwintered here is the western subspecies that is typically a fall transient. Two other migrant shorebirds that nest in the Arctic were also spotted this week. Skylar Kardell watched a short-billed dowitcher on East Beach and a least sandpiper on Little Neck on April 21. He also observed one lesser black-backed gull, 250 red-throated loons and two fish crows.

Blue grosbeak. — Lanny McDowell

Three terns returned this week as well. John Nelson spotted the first black skimmer on Sarson’s Island on April 15, I found one on Sarson’s Island on April 20 and Jeff Bernier saw two of them there on April 21. No sightings yet of skimmers at their annual nesting colony on Little Beach, but they will be there soon.

Curtis Waltman observed one common tern at Lucy Vincent Beach on April 18, the first of the year. The MV Bird Club’s April 20 trip to Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary also found one common tern almost by accident. It would have remained invisible, hidden behind seaweed and rocks on Little Beach as seen from the Eel Pond boat ramp. We spotted it after it was chased by an American oystercatcher and flew 15 feet before settling back onto the beach and quickly disappearing from view. Many of the 25 birders on the trip got to see it, along with 31 other species. Such fortuitous events make birding more exciting; one never knows what will pop into view.

I saw a royal tern perched on a tall spile by the dock at the Mattakesett boat ramp on April 20. According to records on the website ebird, this species has not been seen on the Island since June 11, 2020. The only other April sighting was on April 24, 2000, seen by Allan Keith, Vern Laux and Susan Yorkus on Norton Point. They are most frequently seen in the summer.

Isabella Colucci spotted two Iceland gulls at Moshup Beach on April 15. This occasional winter visitor has not been seen all winter, with the most recent sighting coming on Dec. 4, 2023, seen by Bob Shriber, Charles Morano, Matt Born and Nancy Nordin.

John Nelson observed two purple martins at the Farm Institute on April 17. He also found four barn swallows, one Ipswich sparrow, two northern harriers and lots of robins.

Willet. — Lanny McDowell

I heard a White-eyed vireo — its song has a distinctive chip note at the beginning and the end — and then found it at the upper end of Oak Bluffs pumping station property on April 21.

Allan Keith found the first eastern kingbird of the year on his Chilmark farm on April 16 and again on April 18. Wayne and Cindy Jackson have seen a male Baltimore oriole at their feeders since April 16, and one showed up singing loudly in my yard on April 20.

Skip MacElhannon observed a summer tanager at Felix Neck on April 14, and Sarah Carr saw a tanager near the Aquinnah Town Hall on April 17.

Skylar Kardell had a great weekend, finding four new songbirds for the year. On April 20 he spotted a yellow-throated warbler at Cove Meadow Preserve, one blue-gray gnatcatcher, one common yellowthroat and one hooded warbler, all at Toms Neck. To top it off he also heard a chuck-will’s widow chanting its name at Mytoi on April 19 and 20.

The last of the 20 new species for the year is the northern rough-winged swallow, which Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist spotted at the Hoft Farm on April 21.

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More bird pictures.

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