Posts tagged as:

birdwatching

Eiders in Menemsha Channel

by Lanny McDowell on January 10, 2010

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Martha’s Vineyard, her rocky shores and the rich marine ecology that surrounds her, is very attractive to Common Eiders looking to winter in a place that grows and gives up enough tonnage of food resources to keep the feathered thousands alive through the coldest months.  The patterns of major sea duck concentration have changed this winter, presumably  moving with the food resource.  There are almost always a smaller number of eiders that congregate near the jetties at Menemsha.  What they were doing when I was there yesterday is what they often do at sea, just in a more confined space: riding the current and feeding, then flying back to take another pass on the current.  They were riding on the incoming tide ripping south between the stone jetties, with the wind at their backs, to enter the broadening waters of the tidal pond.  On cue, on a whim or reacting to an ambulatory threat they pattered into flight north against the wind between the walls of rock  to settle on the sea just outside the harbor, eventually funneling back to repeat the circuit.

This show is there for anyone to watch. [click to continue...]

Quansoo shorebirds

by Lanny McDowell on August 1, 2009

Soo and Bob and I went out to Quansoo, parking at Crab Creek and hoofing out toward the Tisbury Great Pond opening.   Shorebirds of all sizes were scattered broadly over extensive exposed tidal flats inside the the cut to the sea.

Those two guys were on scopes and I was stalking feeding birds with my Canon rig.  The best moments for me were hearing the Whimbrel in my sights talk to three others winging by, then lofting to meet them.  [click to continue...]

Coming of age on the Vineyard, hawks in flight, almost

by Lanny McDowell on July 7, 2009

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The young Cooper’s Hawks at the nest near Abel’s Hill in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard are up and out and lounging in adjacent trees.  The last time I was there, on July fifth, the female allowed herself to be seen, keeping a quiet eye on things, then audibly admonishing her brood, or maybe me, from deeper back in the oak forest.  I had never seen her before.  I have never seen the male; and so I have never been aware of more than one adult.  Of course, I could be mistaken, if the two adults are close in size.

In the dappled light of the woods it is pretty hard to make out any of these raptors when they are still, especially if you don’t have advanced knowledge of where to look.  But, boy, are they nice to watch when you do find them.

I do not really expect to find them near the nest,  should I go back.  There is too much to see and do … and to eat.

1st sighting of the adult female after she cruised out of the woods:

1st sighting of the adult female after she cruised out of the woods, alsmost over my head ...

[click to continue...]

lan-020208-014c-sq-blk-cln120x1222Every once in a while I do a piece for the Vineyard Gazette, some text and a selection of photos to match.  This time the subjects are two shorebird species that nest on the  Vineyard, which many people recognize and know something about: Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers, the wistful and the goofy.

The working title was Avian Beach Dwellers, Iconic Shorebirds Nesting on the Vineyard. Here is the text for the feature in this Friday’s Vineyard Gazette (July 3rd) interspersed with relevant bird photos.

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The Secret Life of Island Shorebirds

by Lanny McDowell

The group of birds referred to as shorebirds includes a wide array of species.  There are all the sandpipers and all the plovers.  There are turnstones, godwits, curlews, avocets, woodcock and phalaropes as well.  On Martha’s Vineyard we are fortunate  to still have the right sorts of habitat to attract a few shorebird nesters.  We have Willets in the tidal marshes at a number of locations; and it is possible there are still Killdeer and Spotted  Sandpipers, although four-legged predators have made them exceptionally scarce.  The real standout shorebird nesters on the Vineyard are iconic at this point:  the Piping Plover, because it is truly endangered and represents a tug of war between recreationalists and conservationists over beach use use at a certain time of the year, and the American Oystercatcher, because, simply put, it is the most outrageous looking and acting feathered beast to be found in these parts. [click to continue...]