Yes, I am writing about whales that were not seen from the Island!

Thirty three members of the MV Birding Club went on a whale watching from Barnstable Harbor to the southern edge of Stellwagon Bank, which is north of Provincetown. We saw close views of two fin whales that were swimming in tandem, surfacing frequently to breathe, and probably five or six humpback whales. The spouting of other whales could be seen in the distance.

We saw birds too! A while after we left the harbor Lisa Maxfield spotted a black tern flying over Cape Cod Bay well west of the Wellfleet shoreline. They are usually seen near fresh water, though they have been seen on our tidal beaches. We also found three species of shearwaters: three Cory’s, five Sooties and at least 15 greats, all close enough to be easily identified from the slightly rolling ship. One northern gannet, 40 common terns, 15 laughing gulls, numerous herring and great black-backed gulls were also spotted, as were more shearwaters too far away to identify from the ship.

We have seen better seabird shows from our shores in June and July of both 2022 and 2023, but we did not see the whales.

Bird Sightings

Great shearwater. — Lanny McDowell

Again we see the value of posting photographs. Sandpipers can be tricky to identify. Jeff Bernier posted photos of three semipalmated sandpipers and a fourth sandpiper later identified as a white-rumped sandpiper­ — a new species for the year. They were seen on Norton Point on June 2.

Also that day, Lanny McDowell spotted two royal terns at the west end of Matakesset Bay and two short-billed dowitchers, three red knots, a few black-bellied plovers, five laughing gulls, an American oystercatcher with three small chicks and two piping plovers.

Susan Whiting, Lanny McDowell and Bob Shriber visited Norton Point on June 5 and found a willet, one common tern, 60 least terns, one lesser black-backed gull, two common loon, eight laughing gulls and one short-billed dowitcher.

Shea Fee, David Padulo and Luanne Johnson each spotted a belted kingfisher on Squibnocket Pond on June 2, the same day that Walt Looney had one at Felix Neck, Ben Schmandt found one at Cedar Tree Neck on June 3, Anne Culbert located one at Waterview Farm on June 4, Sarah Becker had one at Felix Neck on June 5 and Carl and Sharon Simonin located one on East Chop on June 7, the same day that Christopher Wells found one near the southern end of Lagoon Pond.

Walt Looney spotted both a green heron and a great egret at Trapp’s Pond on June 4, the troika of Susan Whiting, Bob Shriber, and Lanny McDowell located a green heron along Mattakesett Bay on June 5 and that day Sara Becker found both at Felix Neck. Bob Shriber observed both at the Lobsterville viewpoint on June 6, the same day that Lisa Maxfield observed both at Brush Pond and Evan Thompson found both at Felix Neck on June 7.

On the MV Bird Club field trip to Great Rock Bight on June 3, one lingering horned grebe was seen by most participants. Their other highlights included red-throated loon, eastern wood-pewee, great crested flycatcher, red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, black and white warbler, American redstart, yellow warbler and prairie warbler.

As has been mentioned in previous columns, the nesting season is well underway. Cynthia Bloomquist found occupied nests of a tree swallow and a house finch on Skiff avenue in West Tisbury on June 7. Heidi Lang observed a red-bellied woodpecker with a fledgling on June 4. Anne Culbert saw a young fledgling mockingbird on the ground being guarded by one of its parents on June 9. She concluded that it had left its nest early because of the incomplete feathering on its body.

Matt Pelikan completed the annual Federal Breeding Bird Survey route on June 2, a predetermined route with 50 stops to count birds for three minutes across the Island. His highlights included a white-eyed vireo – the first sighting of this species along this route-in Aquinnah and a yellow-billed cuckoo at two locations in Aquinnah. The two lowlights were no wood thrushes at all and only one scarlet tanager along the entire route.

Black-bellied plover. — Lanny McDowell

Multiple observers have found northern bobwhites recently. Jane Culbert heard one calling between Waterview Farm and Major’s Cove on May 27, Matt Pelikan and Judith Searle heard one calling along Wing Road on June 4, and Susan Santos heard one along Tia Anna Lane in Oak Bluffs on June 5.

Again the troika of Lanny McDowell, Susan Whiting, and Bob Shriber–this time 18 common grackles cavorting around on Norton Point on June 5. This is not as unusual as it may seem, as they regularly forage along the ocean-side wrack line, carrying their delicious finds back to their hungry nestlings in a tree somewhere off the beach.

Wow! Four sightings of brown thrashers so far this month is a lot! I saw one at Waterview Farm on June 1, Walt Looney found one at Trapp’s Pond on June 4, the same day that Chris Scott observed one at Sheriff’s Meadow and Matt Born reports one at Clay Pit Road in Aquinnah on June 8.

Charles Morano’s May 29 sighting of a Wilson’s phalarope at John Butler’s Mudhole on May 29 needs an update as I reported no sightings since 1998. Lanny McDowell tells of two other sightings this century: one on August 7, 2007 at the southwest corner of Tisbury Great Pond and another on August 3, 2015 in a small non-tidal pond that no longer exists near the west end of Black Point Pond. So Charles Morano’s recent sighting is the third this century and the ninth overall.

Please email your sightings to

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

More pictures.