Martha's Vineyard News | Migratory Volume – The Vineyard Gazette – Martha's Vineyard News

About 321,500 birds migrated over Martha’s Vineyard on the night of May 21-22. That sure sounds like a lot of birds, but maybe not if you consider that Worcester county had 3,373,900 birds that night — more than 10 times our numbers!
The Doppler radar that weather forecasters use to predict our weather is used to document these numbers. There are two likely reasons for such different counts: smaller counties have fewer birds migrating over them, and the three counties that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean (Nantucket, Dukes and Barnstable) have fewer birds flying past. Why would migrants fly over water if they can fly over dry land?
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology determines these statistics every night during the migration season and the results are published as one of the many interesting features on the website. Check it out.
Perhaps the best sighting of the week is Scott Stephens’ report of a broad-winged hawk flying overhead at the Presbury-Norton parking lot on May 13. We find one or two individuals pretty much every spring. One of these years we will probably find that they nest here.
But the majority of this week’s migration news is about insect-eating birds. There are multiple reports of the arrival of chimney swifts. On May 14 Shea Fee found nine at Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary, Margaret Curtin had six along School street and three along Central avenue in Vineyard Haven, Max Kornblut saw one at Felix Neck, and Lisa Schibley and Brian Vigorito spotted one at Lobsterville and another near the Gay Head Cliffs. Dennis Main found one on May 20 at the Caroline Tuthill Preserve. On May 21 Liv Sipperly saw six at Farm Pond and Bob Shriber saw one in Aquinnah. I found one in downtown Vineyard Haven on May 22 and a single individual in downtown Oak Bluffs on May 23.
Flycatchers are arriving. Correne George heard and saw a least flycatcher and an eastern wood-pewee at Felix Neck on May 18. Pewees have also been seen by Susan Whiting on Clay Pit Road in Aquinnah on May 20 and by Scott Stephens at Blackwater Preserve on May 21. Eastern kingbirds have arrived: Valerie Kelly and Sam Wainwright found two at Felix Neck on May 20, the same day that Luanne Johnson spotted one at Pecoy Point. Sam Wainwright saw one at Menemsha Hills on May 21. That same day Dana Bangs found two at Felix Neck; my Edgartown Public Library bird walk found one at Katama Farm; and the MV Bird Club walk led by Luanne Johnson and Shea Fee found three at Wasque. The many reports of great crested flycatchers indicate that they have returned to their summer abundance and can be heard in most woodlands.
May is synonymous with warbler migration. Most notable are the sightings of species that do not nest here. Cynthia Bloomquist found a magnolia warbler at Wasque on May 21. Shea Fee had a good weekend, finding both magnolia and blackburnian warblers at Mytoi on May 21 and a bay-breasted warbler the next day at Wasque. Lanny McDowell spotted a black-throated green warbler — a species that used to nest here — at Menemsha Hills on May 22. Susan Whiting found a blackpoll warbler on Clay Pit Road and two more elsewhere in Aquinnah on May 22.
Of the species that breed here, Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens saw a black and white warbler in their yard on May 15; Jeff Bernier found American redstarts at Waskosim’s Rock on May 19; Catherine Deese spotted a redstart in her Chilmark yard that same day; and on May 21 Scott Stephens spotted ovenbird, American redstart and several brown creepers (they are not warblers) at the Wakeman Center. On May 22 Lanny McDowell found blue-winged, black and white, and yellow warblers at Menemsha Hills. Susan Whiting saw black and white and yellow warblers at Clay Pit Road in Lobsterville.
Another common breeding species that is starting to show up is the red-eyed vireo. A number of observers spotted them on the Felix Neck Bird-a-thon on May 14, as reported in last week’s column. On May 21 Sam Wainwright found five at Christiantown and four at Menemsha Hills. Dennis Main spotted one at the Tuttle Preserve on May 23.
Two scarlet tanagers were seen by Valerie Kelly and Sam Wainwright at Felix Neck on May 20. One was reported by Luanne Johnson on the same day at the same location. Sam Wainwright also found one at Menemsha Hills on May 21, the same day he found a singing indigo bunting at Christiantown.
Jeff Bernier spotted a female rose-breasted grosbeak at Brookside Ridge Preserve on May 17.
We cannot neglect the waterbirds. Dana Bangs observed a slightly late small flock of one white phase and three blue phase snow geese at Felix Neck on May 21. Shea Fee spotted a spotted sandpiper at the Cape Pogue Gut on May 20. Two least sandpipers and four greater yellowlegs were found by Luanne Johnson at Major’s Cove on May 20. Sam Wainwright found a small flock of purple sandpipers at Menemsha Hills on May 21, the same day that my library bird tour found one golden plover within a flock of 38 black-bellied plovers. Whitney Moody saw ruddy turnstones on Cape Poge on May 22. And Gus, Julie and Eddie Ben David enjoyed watching a belted kingfisher hunting for minnows in a pond in Gus’ yard on May 23
Please remember that the breeding season is in full swing and we must be careful to share the beach when we go there. Jeff Bernier reports four pairs of American oystercatchers on Little Beach with small chicks. In other breeding season news, Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin found a hummingbird nest that has lichen in it to camouflage the nest. Betty Burton has a northern flicker nest in her outdoor shower. And Jerry Twomey reports two screech owl chicks fledged from his nest box on May 21, making a total of 15 owlets that have fledged over the years!
One final observation from Sarah Mayhew; she photographed the entire sequence as a great black-backed gull stole a fish from a great blue heron at Lucy Vincent Beach on May 17.
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Robert Culbert is an ecological consultant with Nature Watch LLC living in Vineyard Haven.

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