Keep Your Cats Inside

Summer visitors are beginning to arrive. I have a few reminders for them and for locals as well. It is important to keep your cats inside. There are several bird species that nest on or very close to the ground on the Island. Ground nests containing young birds are very vulnerable to cat predation. Adults are fair game for cats as well. You say you feed your cat well and therefore they don’t hunt. Not so! Cats have a hunting instinct and no matter how full they are, they will hunt birds. And the bell you put around the cat’s neck does not effectively warn birds of cat strikes. A bit of information from the American Bird Conservancy: “Indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer than those that are outdoors.”

Butterfly Count

Betsy Wice asked about this year’s butterfly count. The Vineyard’s butterfly count took place almost a month ago, on July 17. Six people participated including yours truly. It was hot, in the mid-80s, which is good for butterflies, but the wind was too strong. Butterflies don’t like to be blown away, so stay grounded in high winds.

Piping Plovers Nest at Tashmoo, Beach Closed to Protect Them

Nesting season has begun for piping plovers, and Tashmoo Beach in Tisbury will be closed for the next month to protect a plover nest found Monday on the road leading to the public beach.

The town of Tisbury closed the end of Herring Creek Road and the beach on the recommendation of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, which monitors shorebirds across the Vineyard. Shorebird monitor Liz Baldwin found the small nest and alerted the Massachusetts Audubon Society sanctuary on Monday.

White-fronted Geese

On Feb. 19, Flip and I were in the Florida Everglades with our old birding friend, Paul Bithorn from Tropical Audubon, coleading a birding trip for Audubon of Martin County. We were leaving the Anhinga Trail where we had seen both dark and light morph short-tailed hawks and purple gallinules when I received a call on the cell phone. It was Edo Potter. She was very excited and proceeded to tell me that her sister, Ruth Welch, had alerted her and Bob that there were four greater white-fronted geese in the pond behind her Chappaquiddick house.

Razorbill Season

This is the season not of the witch but the razorbill. They have been seen from every side of the Vineyard and Chappaquiddick. Unlike their cousins the puffins, dovekies, murres, guillemots, murrelets and auklets that remain offshore except to breed, the razorbills will come into harbors, bays and estuaries that are less salty than the ocean to feed. Razorbills will also enjoy a bit of R& R on a breakwater in the sun. The waters around the Vineyard are full of sand lances (sand eels) and still even mackerel, and where there are fish there are razorbills.

Southern Visitors

Three southern species which are now seen on the Vineyard are making news this week. As our climate changes and warms, these southern birds are moving north to spend the summers and some to breed. The southern birds of interest to Bird News this week include black skimmers, Wilson’s plover, chuck-wills-widow and great egrets.