Bird Watching on Martha's Vineyard: A Guide to Feathered Friends and Prime Spots

Daryl Perez

05/14/24

Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, is not just a haven for beachgoers and celebrities—it's also a paradise for bird watchers. With its diverse habitats ranging from sandy beaches and salt marshes to lush forests and grassy plains, the island is a prime spot for observing a wide variety of bird species. Whether you're a seasoned birder or a curious novice, here’s your guide to making the most of bird watching on this picturesque island.

Join the Community: Martha's Vineyard Bird Club
For those passionate about birds and birding, the Martha's Vineyard Bird Club is a fantastic resource. The club's mission is to promote bird watching, education about birds and the ecosystems they inhabit, and to build community among and between birders. Being part of this club offers opportunities to meet fellow bird enthusiasts, participate in guided bird walks, and attend educational talks, enhancing your bird watching experience on the island.

Best Time for Bird Watching
Bird watching on Martha's Vineyard is rewarding throughout the year, but the best times are during the migration seasons. Spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) are particularly spectacular, as numerous migratory birds stop on the island. The fall migration is especially notable for the variety of warblers, as well as hawks and falcons.

 Bird Watching Locations

  1. Waskosim's Rock Reservation in Chilmark

    • This location offers a serene natural setting, perfect for observing woodland and migrating birds. The dense forests and rocky terrain provide ideal conditions for diverse species, making it a frequent stop for birdwatching excursions.
  2. Great Rock Bight Preserve

    • Located in Chilmark, this coastal preserve is excellent for spotting seabirds and migratory shorebirds. The trails not only offer beautiful scenic views but also opportunities to observe birds in their natural coastal and wooded habitats.
  3. Manuel F. Correllus State Forest Headquarters

    • Central to the island, this state forest is celebrated for its unique scrub oak and pine barrens. It serves as a vital habitat for migratory songbirds and is a prime spot for birders during the spring and autumn migrations.
  4. Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

    • Felix Neck is a preserve run by Mass Audubon and offers four miles of trails through woodlands, meadows, ponds, and salt marshes. It’s an excellent spot for observing ospreys, especially from the sanctuary’s “Osprey Cam.” Spring and summer are great for songbirds, while the fall migration brings an array of species.

Other popular birdwatching locations on Martha's Vineyard

  1. Norton Point in Katama - A significant location where concentrations of terns, including roseate terns, gather. It's a hotspot particularly for observing their feeding and staging behaviors.

  2. Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick - This spot is noted for its abundance of common, roseate, and least terns, offering birdwatchers a variety of species to observe.

  3. Aquinnah - Known for its shearwater sightings, Aquinnah provides opportunities to see pelagic birds like great shearwaters and Cory's shearwaters from shore. It also features a popular spot for falcons in the fall.

  4. Menemsha and Lobsterville - These areas along the ocean and beaches provide excellent birdwatching opportunities, particularly for observing staging terns following bait fish.

  5. Tisbury Great Pond - Offers a variety of shorebirds and is part of the regular route for local birding walks, highlighting species such as pectoral and white-rumped sandpipers.

  6. Squibnocket - A great place for pelagic bird sightings from shore, including significant numbers of great shearwaters and Wilson’s storm-petrels.

The sanctuary's programs and the natural diversity of Martha's Vineyard make it an ideal destination for birdwatchers looking to enrich their understanding and enjoyment of avian species. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or new to the hobby, the island’s rich birding culture and the enthusiastic community fostered by the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club offer a welcoming and rewarding experience. For more structured tours, birding enthusiasts can also connect with local experts like Robert Culbert for guided explorations.

To stay updated and connect with fellow bird enthusiasts, the private Facebook group "Martha’s Vineyard Bird Alert" serves as a lively platform for sharing sightings and birding tips, enhancing the communal bird watching experience on the island.

Bird Watching Tips

  • Bring Binoculars: Enhance your viewing experience by bringing a good pair of binoculars. Spotting scopes are also useful, especially for sea birding from the cliffs.
  • Check Local Resources: Local birding groups and resources can provide updates on recent sightings and tips on what’s currently flying around the island.
  • Respect Nature: Always maintain a respectful distance from birds and their habitats. Use quiet movements and avoid disturbing nesting areas.

Conclusion

Martha's Vineyard offers a unique and varied bird watching experience that appeals to birders of all levels. The island’s diverse ecosystems and its location on migratory routes make it a premier destination to observe a wide range of bird species in beautiful natural settings. So pack your binoculars, respect the wildlife, and prepare for an unforgettable birding adventure.

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