Birds : Lazy days of summer
The summer solstice has occurred, the breeding season is already winding down for single brooded species, and the rhythms of summer are becoming established. The heat and long days of summer create a relaxed pace for all. For birds, after breeding it is time to eat prodigiously, grow new feathers with a complete molt, and store food in the form of fat reserves to be used either to migrate or to survive the rigors of the coming winter. It is a time to rest and prepare for the upcoming fall migration, a journey that may take them many thousands of miles.
Living in New England, especially on Martha's Vineyard, one is treated to the spectacle of bird migration during the spring and fall. In fact, during the fall migration, especially in the months of September and October, the Island is one of the best places on the continent to watch birds. The place is rocking with migrant birds zooming by and concentrating in impressive numbers.
The western end of the Island, especially the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, acts as a funnel concentrating migrant birds in impressive numbers. It is a world-class destination. The scale of the bird migration that occurs here can be so impressive that it must be seen to be appreciated.
Which makes this time of year, the end of the breeding season, seem positively dull in comparison to what is coming in a couple of months for birders. The heat, the crowds, the hassle of getting into places that are easy in the off season but now require a sticker, and the nature of the nesting season all combine to make birding at this season less than optimal.
In fact, it is enough to drive a birder to look at bugs. This is an excellent idea and one that more and more people are turning to and enjoying. Butterflies, dragonflies, and a myriad of other bizarre and fascinating insects are active in the warm summer months. At night, the Vineyard teems with the most impressive number and diversity of moths anywhere in this part of the world.
Due to its rural nature, relatively undisturbed center, and the lack of chemical spraying that occurred on the mainland decades ago, the Island has many species of large moths that are the envy of lepidopterists elsewhere. This is a very good thing.