Find me on Substack »
Ocean Sunfish / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Ocean Sunfish / © Bryan Pfeiffer

TO BORROW AN ENTIRE CHAPTER from William Faulkner: My favorite is a fish.

Even though we saw more Cape May Warblers than Yellow rumped Warblers; even though Northern Gannets are plunge-diving everywhere offshore; even though Philadelphia Vireos present themselves with such elegance; even though Philadelphia Vireos make me swoon and happy; even though a Sharp-shinned Hawk chased a Belted Kingfisher by our deck during brunch; and even though we watched a couple of Minke Whales drift past Black Head; my favorite encounter during our first day with fall migrants on Monhegan Island, Maine, was the Ocean Sunfish off White Head.

This is a crazy animal. It eats mostly jellyfish. And because jellyfish aren’t exactly nutritious, an Ocean Sunfish eats a lot of jellyfish. So it gets big and fat on jellyfish, weighing in at an actual ton or more. We often see Ocean Sunfish “sideways,” like a flounder, but Ocean Sunfish do swim like any self-respecting upright fish. The basking behavior is so that seabirds can pick parasites from the skin of this fish – or so the hypothesis goes. (Before I leave this Earth, I want to see an albatross pluck a parasite from an Ocean Sunfish, but not as much as I want to see a Kelp Gull eat the flesh of a surfacing South Atlantic Right Whale.)

Meanwhile, in addition to the whales and fish and seals, we’re seeing songbirds. Not many migrants arrived on today’s strong northwest winds. But we’ve got warblers in ones and twos. You know you’re having a good morning when the first warbler you see is a Cape May (near the Rope Shed). At least two more were in the spruce just up from the Wharf, one of the most reliable spots on the island to find Cape May Warbler.

Ruth and I are in LPBM – Low-Powerd Birding Mode. We’re walking a lot, reading, napping, chasing dragonflies and generally waiting for the birds to come to us. Here’s the opening warbler list:

  • Northern Parula
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Wilson’s Warbler

All the other usual mid-September Monhegan regulars are here, including Merlins chasing Northern Flickers and full-frontal views of nearly all those warblers. No shearwaters on the crossing from Port Clyde. I’ll post a complete bird list in a day or two.

In insect news, Monarchs accompany us nearly everywhere on the island, along with lots of Red Admirals darting around. Today’s dragonflies included (more to come once I start swinging the net):

  • Common Green Darner (Anax junius)
  • Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa)
  • Black-tipped Darner (Aeshna tuberculifera)
  • Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis)
  • Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
  • Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)

Oh, other big news: Matty’s got Hot Fat open again! Stay tuned for a restaurant review. I’ll check out what’s on tap at Monhegan Brewery. And Monhegan is wrapping up celebration of its Quadracentennial. How many places in the US can you celebrate one of those? I’ll be posting regular “Monhegan Migration” updates (so you can bookmark it) here:

Meanwhile, below are crappy photos of one of the Phily Vireos, one of the Minkes and the sunset from our deck at 7:05PM. (By the way, chapter 19 from Faulkner’s incredible “As I Lay Dying” reads in its entirety: “My mother is a fish.”)

Philadelphia Vireo / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Philadelphia Vireo / © Bryan Pfeiffer


Minke Whale / © Bryan Pfeiffer


  1. Tobey says:

    You’re here! Hope our paths cross sometime :-). Hi to Ruth!

  2. Sue Cloutier says:

    Nice… dreams and reality-Both!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *