The continuing story this spring is another cloudy rainy day with wind from the North and Northeast. Birdwatchers love their breeding birds but the challenge is finding migrants that you don’t regularly encounter. The best conditions for migrant birds flying north to their breeding grounds are winds from the south. Locations for songbirds are often Canada and Boreal forests. For shorebirds, it is as far as the tundra.

These birds either pass over or stop briefly on the Vineyard. We are noticing the breeders now with a sprinkling of an occasional migrant. No real flocks of songbird migrants are being reported.

You will notice a lot of the breeders are on territory singing and making their presence felt. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful birds and we love our breeding birds but it is always fun to find something new in the air.

Orchard oriole. — Lanny McDowell

This week in Aquinnah, neighbors Chip and Buddy Vanderhoop have put out orange slices for the orioles. The orioles are attracted to the oranges but surprisingly so are rose-breasted grosbeaks. They have seen as many as four males and four females. The grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles, with an occasional indigo bunting, travel from one feeding station to the other. Love it!

Baltimore and orchard orioles are being reported all over the Island. There has been an abundance of these two species, much more than in other years past.

Now to the field sightings.

There have been two different reports of worm-eating warblers this week. Penny Uhlendorf discovered one off Lambert’s Cove road. This individual has been around all week and seen by many observers. Richard Couse found another one near the Wakeman Center on Tuesday, May 14. This species is always a good bird to find on the island.

On May 15 Sky Kardell found a female purple martin at Hoft Farm. Keep your eyes out for this particular species. It is larger than the swallow species common on the Island. Sky Kardell also had ten Wood Ducks in West Tisbury off Scotty’s Lane the same day. Also on May 15 at James Pond Reserve Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Mailin found two buffleheads, a nice find in the spring. Most of these ducks have left the Island for their breeding grounds to the North.

Rose-breasted grosbeak. — Lanny McDowell

May 16 Margaret Curtin found a yellow-bellied sapsucker off School street in Edgartown.

May 17 at Cedar Tree Neck Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver noted a hairy woodpecker among the usual breeders. The hairy woodpecker nests on the Island. If you are lucky, you can hear the chicks calling from their nesting hole in a tree as you walk by. Soo Whiting is back on-Island and on May 18 put out her feeder and almost was immediately visited by two rose breasted grosbeaks. That is a fine “How do you do? Welcome home Soo.”

May 18 Buddy Vanderhoop had two common ravens flying along the dunes at Lobsterville. On May 18, 20 purple sandpipers were on the rocks at low tide off Philbin Beach. They are usually gone by this date. Also, all three scoter species and common eiders are being seen.

Roseate terns are here in large numbers, chasing baitfish pushed up to the surface by the migrating striped bass. Nancy Nordin has had a veery around her house in West Tisbury all spring. Field sparrow and magnolia warbler are also highlights at her house. On May 18 Nancy was at Hoft Farm and found a chestnut-sided warbler. May 18 Sky Kardell found a Wilson’s warbler at Cape Pogue and in Katama he found a spring plumage adult American golden plover among the black-bellied plovers. This species is a regular visitor in the fall but it is more drab than the golden plumage in the spring. Later that day, Nancy Nordin took advantage of Sky’s report and was able to witness the bird.

Also on May 18, Lisa Maxfield led a walk for the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club through Waskosim’s Rock Reservation. It was a cloudy drizzly day but they were able to hear and see most of our Island’s songbird breeders. Highlights were scarlet tanager, two rose-breasted grosbeaks, three Baltimore orioles, two red-eyed vireos, and a variety of warlbers including black and white, redstart, parula, pine, prairie, yellow and common yellowthroat warblers. A terrific day and enjoyed by all.

Purple sandpiper. — Lanny McDowell

On May 19 off Tea Lane a veery was seen.

The hermit thrushes seen all winter go North and are replaced predominantly by wood thrushes and an occasional veery. Thrushes migrate at night and each species has its own unique call note.

If you are very lucky, and many times on a foggy night when the birds fly lower, go outside and you can hear the identifiably different call notes of each thrush species. If you can experience this event, it is amazing how many of each species there are. One May night, I heard thousands flying overhead and heard numerous calls of the gray-cheeked thrush, a bird we rarely see on the ground here. 

Ovenbirds are a common breeding warbler on the Island and on Sunday, May 19 Philip Edmundson had 11. Ruth Richards found an orchard oriole along Scotchman’s Lane that same day. May 19 Sky Kardell was able to find an arctic tern among the terns on Norton’s point. Also on May 19, Rand Burnett saw a nice flight of northern gannets off the beach of Chappaquiddick.

There are plenty of exciting and beautiful birds out there to see this spring. Get out there!