Birding the OB pumping station for spring arrivals …

by Lanny McDowell on May 12, 2009


My friend Pete says that he had White-eyed Vireo, one or two, at this location at least three weeks ago and maybe earlier.  The Vineyard Birds II book lists the earliest record for white-eyed as April 29th.  That sure sounds late, but who knows, and how many white-eyeds are seen and recorded on Martha’s Vineyard every spring?  Not that many.  Pete and I were at the pumping station at the head of the Lagoon on the morning of May tenth.  We met up there with Sally, who was on her appointed spring birding rounds.  Everything looked quite dull at first, although a close look at breeding yellow-rumpeds and yellow warblers should not really qualify as dull.  Then we heard the vireo’s call and then the full song.  He acted very much like a local, not a transient, to my eyes,  as though he were not  just passing through.  Of course I already knew he had been seen in the same general spot a number of times, which very likely shaded my judgement.  We saw no evidence that he was gleaning to feed a mate on a nest.  He did sing up a storm, as the photos imply.

The only other migrant of note that we found was a Tennessee Warbler. Pete knew the song.  I was trying to make it into some variable of a Winter Wren.  We did see it, but mostly we heard its distinctive call and could not relocate it even though all three of us were scanning nearby vegetation for quite a while, trying to get an angle on it.  I think it was throwing its song around like a ventriloquist.  We would hear the song; but then two of us would point in directions about ninety degrees apart.  We also remarked that it was feeding and singing close to the ground, rather than favoring the canopy habitat where you might expect it.

The butter-butt photo is a reminder of how exotic a fully feathered example can be.






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Birds are cool!  Lanny

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peter alden 05.13.09 at 3:38 pm

You’re doing great work!
Save Sat July 4th to spend day photographing 1000 species or just birds for Ed Wilson’s 80th. Planning on 300 people for Walden Biodiversity Day II.
Will be doing breeding birds of Naushon Mon June 15-Thu Jun 18.
Former congressman Chet Atkins has house there then and can take 4-5 birders for atlas. At moment its me, Vern, Simon Perkins, Jeremiah Trimble. Backup is Peter Trimble, Dick Veit.
Interested if space clears?
Peter A.


Lanny McDowell 05.13.09 at 3:48 pm

TOTALLY Interested in both. I have birded Naushon a few times, always around this time of year. I am available. Sign me up! Have camera, will shoot! And the July 4th gig we spoke about at the Wooster Birder’s Meeting is on the schedule.


Andrew Magee 05.13.09 at 10:58 pm

FABULOUS white-eye, evocativemyrtle, thank YOU


Lanny McDowell 05.14.09 at 6:34 am

Thanks, Andrew. That vireo – and I did not hear him when I went back on the 13th – got chummier to me with some exposure. And I went back by myself, when the three of us were about to leave, to see if I could get some better shots without human company. Two factors made for the photo details, besides the morning sunlight. This bird was foraging some of the time at eye level; and he stopped foraging to belt out a song. Proximity, an eye-level target, the strong light, a clear shot and the habit of stopping to sing, all these worked in my favor. I wish that happened more often.


Norman Famous 05.14.09 at 8:25 pm


Nice vireo! We have had several white-eyes show up in southern Maine over the last week. Neotropical migrants made significant (numerical) inroads into the north country (northern and far eastern Maine) over the last three days. Any willow or alder flycatchers yet?

Birds are great!!

Norm Famous


Lanny McDowell 05.14.09 at 8:52 pm

Willow and Alder flys are not so big around here. I remember a Willow or two from last year. What we do boast about is an annual Acadian fly along the stream at Waskosim’s Rock Preserve.

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