Discoveries

Here are some notable observations - rare species, new arrivals, species with interesting life histories - gleaned from our iNaturalist project and other sources.

The Martha’s Vineyard Atlas of Life relies heavily on the community science platform iNaturalist to build a picture of the Vineyard’s biodiversity. Vineyard observations uploaded into iNat are automatically added to our MVAL project in iNaturalist, which can be viewed here. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of amateur naturalists, the project sees a steady stream of new reports coming in (almost 1,700, or nearly 60 a day, during the month of June 2022!). The MVAL tries to review all of those observations, adding identifications where we can and tagging experts we know to help with species we don’t recognize.

Every one of those observations helps clarify what species occur here and how they are distributed. This section of our website selects observations that strike us as especially interesting: rare species, Vineyard specialties, species new to our iNaturalist project, known or potentially invasive species, species with unusual life histories or striking appearance. Generally we’ll include a photo or two and some brief text explaining why the observation matters. From time to time, we may include observations from other sources. Check back often to see what unusual things have been reported!

Discoveries

Blueberry Cellophane Bee

The blueberry cellophane bee, Colletes validus, is a highly specialized bee that finds perfect conditions in the barrens habitat of Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.

A "rolled-winged stonefly" (the family Leuctridae)

With aquatic larvae and short-lived, weak-flying adults, stoneflies (the order Plectoptera) are infrequently reported on Martha's Vineyard.

A New "Shore Bug" for Martha's Vineyard

A member of the small taxonomic family Saldidae, the first Vineyard record of the shore bug Pentacora sphacelata was recently established from photographs taken in 2019.

a migratory silver-haired bat in flight

December Sightings of Two Migratory Bat Species

Two alert Vineyard naturalists documented migratory bat species on the island in mid-December.

New Marine Fish Species for Martha's Vineyard

Local naturalist Simon Hickman recently found a two-spotted cardinalfish (Apogon pseudomaculatus) stranded on Lambert's Cove Beach. This tropical vagrant represented a first record for Martha's Vineyard.

Atomosia puella Added to Vineyard Robber Fly Checklist

Only 7 mm long, the Vineyard's first Atomosia puella record comes from a specimen collected accidentally during a bee survey in 2021.

First Modern Vineyard Record of American Red Squirrel?

A small squirrel photographed recently in Edgartown by Polly Basset proved to be an American red squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. We are unaware of any other verified Vineyard sightings in recent decades.

DeKay's Brownsnake Found in Edgartown

First documented on Martha's Vineyard in Aquinnah, DeKay's brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) was recently found at Massachusetts Audubon's Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.

New Bee Species for Martha's Vineyard

Megachile inimica, sometimes called the hostile leaf-cutter bee, represents the 197th bee species documented on Martha's Vineyard.

A Vineyard Moss Releases Its Spores

Two Vineyard botanists, during their ongoing study of island mosses, document the process of a native moss getting ready to release its spores.

Cyrtopogon falto, a Barrens Robber Fly

Associated with barrens habitats and found mostly north and west of the Vineyard, the robber fly Cyrtopogon falto is the 18th member of the family Asilidae that we've been able to document on the Vineyard.

Azalea Mining Bee Added to the Vineyard Bee Checklist

Andrena cornelli, found in West Tisbury by Sharon Britton on May 22, 2023, brings the Vineyard bee checklist to 193 species.

Third Vineyard Record for Townsend's Solitaire

The island's third-ever Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) was found in Correllus State Forest on February 21, 2023.

"The Swiss Army Knife of Mushrooms"

The birch polypore fungus, rarely reported on Martha's Vineyard, has a multitude of roles in traditional medicine. Botanist Margaret Curtin recently found the species in Edgartown and researched the interesting biology and social history of this fungus.

Freshwater Mussels

iNaturalist helps two island observers identify a freshwater mussel in Seth's Pond, West Tisbury. Little is known about these shellfish on Martha's Vineyard.

Cuckoo Bees

One of many parasitic bee species that lay their eggs in the nests of other bees, Coelioxys octodentatus was recently documented on the Vineyard for the first time.

Hairy-banded Miner Bee, Andrena hirticincta

Closely associated with goldenrod, this distinctive bee appears to be one of the most common and widespread members of its genus on Martha's Vineyard.

Great Blue Skimmer

Possibly the first fully documented record of Libellula vibrans comes from a new iNaturalist user.

Carrot Wasp

A Chilmark observation of the rarely reported wasp genus Gasteruption.

Colletes productus

Rarely observed and highly specialized, this bee was documented at a site on the Vineyard's south shore.

Pyrgota undata

Pyrgota undata: a parasitic nocturnal fly turns up at a moth sheet during our June 2022 bioblitz at Long Point Wildlife Refuge.

White Colic-root (Aletris farinosa):

Favoring sandy soils and open habitat, this member of the lily family is a characteristic plant of the Vineyard sandplain and an important plant for supporting pollinators in the late spring.

Viola pedata - Bird's foot violet

This beautiful spring wildflower is a characteristic species of the lean, droughty soils of the Vineyard sandplain.

Deer Bot Fly

A strange-looking fly with an even stranger life history.

Stiletto Flies

Perhaps because of their elongated shape, members of the fly family Therevidae have acquired the common name “stiletto flies.”

New Arrival

Deliberately or by accident, humans have transported many thousands of species from their native ranges to new regions or continents.

New Wasp Species for Vineyard Atlas of Life

An interesting species was added to the BWorks Martha’s Vineyard Atlas of Life project on iNaturalist last weekend: Vespula vidua, sometimes known as the widow yellowjacket.

"Mystery Fly" on the Vineyard's South Shore

A rarely reported, carrion-loving fly turns up on the Vineyard's southern shoreline.