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Martha’s Vineyard

Angel Bird

by Lanny McDowell on September 4, 2010


Thousands, higher numbers than I comprehend, of tree swallows were staging today near Crackatuxet Cove, an area at the southeast corner of Edgartown Great Pond accessible from the “right fork” at Katama.   A bunch of the Vineyard’s regular birders tried Aquinnah and Red Beach looking for storm birds this morning.  Two Black Terns and two Spotted Sandpipers are the only finds worth mentioning.  We then traversed the Island to the Farm Institute, which was way less than spectacular.  Disappointed, some of us drove the Atlantic leg of the Katama triangle and saw, far off, a swarm of swallows.  [click to continue...]

Buffed for the Season

by Lanny McDowell on August 29, 2010


Scanning the plowed fields at the Farm Institute in Katama has been de rigeur for the past couple of weeks, anyway, for the regulars, and also for the more sought-after Upland Sandpiper and Buff-breasteds.  Neither of each until yesterday, when Rob Culbert, pro ecologist and local birding guide, emailed some of the local birders that on his Saturday morning field trip rounds he had espied up to five buffies bobbing and poking their way around the field. [click to continue...]

Out for a Lark at Eel Pond

by Lanny McDowell on August 27, 2010


I am hoping that the quizzical look on this bird’s face will be reflected in yours.  No, not my face;  the face of the bird in the first photo.  It was looking, it turns out, at a swarm of DC cormorants, about twenty strong, gliding around on set wings, pretty much in unison, at considerable altitude.  The wings were outstretched straight enough to bring anhingas to mind.  Anyway, I had the luxury of seeing the pictured bird fly before I got the binocs on it, so I already had an ID before I looked more closely.  It would have been harder if I had only seen it on the ground or, especially, out of habitat context.  The bird and I and Stella were enjoying the post nor’easter brilliance of Eel Pond in Edgartown yesterday.

This is not a bird I have seen on the Vineyard.  Maybe others are more familiar with it.  The species, yes, but the plumage, no.  I do know it’s kind of tacky to not include the ident, but this time that’s how it is.  Let’s see what people come up with; and I hope there is some head scratching and page flipping going on. [click to continue...]

Least is more…

by Lanny McDowell on August 26, 2010



Least Sandpipers really are the littlest shorebirds, the least of the shorebird family.  This one is a juvenile, this year’s fledgling, born on the high Arctic tundra, left by its parents to fend for itself amidst the bloom of summer’s thick insect hatch.  Then it self-starts a migratory journey to winter in the southern states or beyond, as far as mid-way down the South American continent.  They are six inches long.

When the adults pass through earlier than this, they are typically worn, drab and colored a smudgy brown.   Some say they look like they have been dipped in tea, a denser brown than other peeps.  The youngsters, like the one pictured below, have crisp fresh plumage, all the feathers sharp, well defined and the colors distinct and rich, the whites bright white.

Bad weather is good for birding and birders feel like adventurers taking on the elements.  This Leastie was one of three working the muddied and puddled dirt road running across the Farm Institute at Katama, just as the strong easterly blow was subsiding.

Birds need to tend to their feathers, in detail.  In the process, this one appears to be in a state of preening ecstasy.













 Birds are cool!  Lanny

These images and Lanny McDowell Avian Art fine art prints are available for purchase. Contact me or View my gallery.

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