From the category archives:

bird photography & chat


The BiodiversityWorks team is vigorously embracing their mandate to protect shorebirds on Martha’s Vineyard. The work they do is important and they obviously take that work seriously.  This spring’s nesting season for shorebirds is in full swing and all the activity of Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers requires researchers to cover a lot of ground, most of it over sand and on foot, checking on the progress of pair bonding, nesting, egg laying, and the hatching of new chicks.  The work they do is the only way that endangered and protected birds which use the beaches to raise young are actually physically separated from human, canine and vehicle disturbance, as well as from more natural predation from skunks, cats – feral and otherwise – harriers, gulls and crows.  This is achieved, in the case of Piping Plovers,  by constructing wire exclosures to keep the bad guys away from the eggs, brooding parents and very young chicks.  In order to do this, many miles are walked daily to access the nesting locations of identified pairs. This often requires the success of earnest and tactful approaches to property owners to grant access to habitats the public otherwise has only a minimal chance of reaching.  Last Friday, May 18, Luanne Johnson discovered a lone female Wilson’s plover on one of the long private stretches of beach on the south side of the Island.  She was familiar with the species, first of all, because she is a shorebird researcher and birder, and, secondly, since she had discovered another Wilson’s back in June of 2005.

I checked Vineyard Birds II, the bible of sighting records here on the Vineyard.  It mentions one spring record for Wilson’s Plover here on MV earlier than the 2005 report. That was on the 24th of May in 2000, a sighting by Scott Hecker, now of the Goldenrod Foundation up in Plymouth.  Thus, it looks like Luanne’s discovery last Friday is probably an early record for MV.  Most of the older records occurred in the fall, not in the spring.

I do realize that the title of this blog is a tease, in that I coyly cannot divulge the exact location of this rather rare visitor, because the politics of private beach ownership of our fair shores discourages inviting the public down the windy dirt roads, through the locked gates and past the manors and onto jealously guarded beachfront.  Like it or not, that’s just how it is and, sometimes, with the right credentials and honorable purpose, especially conservationist, species-saving purpose, we have the opportunity to go there.  A Wilson’s Plover, on the other hand, simply has to stop flying and call that same beach home, for the time being at least.

Way cool bird!  Lan

Note on photos: There is an illusion of some black markings on this bird, which results from shadows thrown by a clear and strong midday sun (May 19, 2012).

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Evening Grosbeak Update

by Lanny McDowell on November 7, 2010

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Well, the two grosbeaks came back today, to munch away and give me some through-the-kitchen-window photo ops, so I figured I should update the pix.  Here is a grab bag of grosbeak images:

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That’s it!  Hope you like ‘em and that some grosbeaks come your way soon!


Evening, everybody!

by Lanny McDowell on November 7, 2010


Just now, as I plod through my morning, taking care of email chores, contemplating a digging project outdoors in the boorish weather and hoping for clear birding skies later on, I caught a glimpse of strong black & white at the tail end of a bird at the back side of my biggest feeder, when I went into the kitchen for a coffee update.

My jaw dropped.  Had to be an Evening Grosbeak! I went to my office for the camera.  When I got back, there was a Cardinal at the feeder.  Up in the apple opposite my view was a male grosbeak.  I snatched a couple of shots, then saw the female outlined against the sky, also perched in the apple tree.  A couple more shots.  Then everything took off in a flurry.  Maybe, likely, an accipiter.  Whew!  And Whoopieee!  I hope the alert has worn off.  I’ll go back now and find out.

No big birds back yet.

Terrible photos, through the window glass, no light.   So who’s looking?!


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Past visits of this great species here at my home have been infrequent, to say the least, but I would rather have a view like this one from a couple of years back, in the spring:

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That’s more like it!  Stoked.  Evening Grosbeaks are a big deal on the Vineyard and the arrival is right in line with all the PUFIs and siskins and RB Nuts that we have had this fall.

While I have your attention, I should mention that there has been a hatch year male ruby-throated hummer up in Chilmark, coming to a feeder the last few days.  Things are rockin’, if your eyes are open!


Happy ‘Grin

by Lanny McDowell on October 20, 2010

This is prime season for peregrines to move through Martha’s Vineyard.  One guy up at the Gay Head Cliffs at Aquinnah saw eighteen the other day, with four visible at one time.  Right place at the right time.

Sometimes the falcons  exert what seems from my vantage point like a lot of energy acquiring a meal, like chasing down a Sanderling, maneuvering one out over open water and cutting off its climb for height or an escape back to the  flock.  Recently I have been noticing, instead, some almost casual chases.  [click to continue...]