Vern Laux

Vern Laux was a bird expert, butterfly enthusiast, international bird tour leader, educator, radio commentator, columnist and author who also happened to love to fish. Vern birded extensively all over North America, living in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Alaska, and spent time birding in virtually every other state. He knew how fortunate he had been to have birded on all 7 continents, including over 20 trips to the Antarctic to observe birds, and to have seen some of the most spectacular wildlife and scenery on the planet.

He wrote thousands of newspaper columns about birds and the natural world that appeared in the New York Times, the Cape Cod Times, the Martha’s Vineyard Times, Vineyard Gazette, and Nantucket’s Inquirer and Mirror, published magazine articles in a variety of magazines including Birder’s World, Birding and Nantucket Today, and authored the book Bird News-Vagrants And Visitors On A Peculiar Island

Passionate about wildlife, especially birds and butterflies, his favorite group were shorebirds, fabulous globe-trotting migrants that fly to the “ends of the earth” twice annually. Vern was the ABC News “Person of the Week” with host Peter Jennings, the last Friday in August, 2004, after finding the rarest bird in the Americas so far this century: a Red-footed Falcon. He was the Resident Naturalist, Land Manager and Education Director for the Linda Loring Nature Foundation. 

Ways to Connect

Conrad Kuiper / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Great Horned Owl, bubo virginianus, is currently engaged in courtship and nest building. This largest of North American owls is the earliest nesting species in North America. While other birds are trying to survive the winter, Great Horned Owls are courting and getting ready to lay eggs.

Jean-Sébastien Bouchard / flickr / CC BY 2.0

The only animals to possess feathers are birds. If it has feathers, it must be a bird.

Feathers are one of the remarkable structures of the animal world. Consider the black-capped chickadee. This bird weighs, on average, 11 grams - that's about a third of an ounce.

Tony Morris / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

There is a smallish gull that spends the winter in considerable numbers east and south of Nantucket along the edges of the Continental shelf. Occasionally they occur in near-shore waters and they can even be abundant in winter in Nantucket Sound. 

Kate Hannon / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

During the past month, it seems as though raging winds have never been more than a few days off. While intense weather, usually in the form of a powerful low pressure system with big winds and lots of precipitation (a three-day-long event called a Nor’easter), is almost a certainty on the Cape and Islands, it can be too much! The storms are disruptive and often damaging to pelagic birds, driving them toward and onto land – but they are an expected, predictable and ongoing experience that bird life has evolved to deal with.

Dendroica cerulea / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

November is a special month for birders, as vast numbers of birds pass by and many more arrive to spend the winter. This November 1st was amazing from Provincetown to the "so-called" southeast corner of Nantucket at Tom Nevers. The entire length of the Outer Cape, especially along the outer or eastern shore, was awash in small baitfish called sand lances, or sand eels. And they were present in numbers not seen in several decades in these waters.

Amy Evenstad / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

With increasing numbers of birders everywhere, it almost seems as if the birds can hardly escape detection. Birders, armed with fantastic optics in the form of binoculars, spotting scopes and digital cameras, as well as a plethora of highly detailed field guides, would appear to have the upper hand.

Dave Inman / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The fifth annual Nantucket Birding Weekend this past weekend was a great success. Despite unseasonably cold temperatures, better suited to mid-December, and raging northerly winds, a good time was had by all, and the birding was very good.

Linda Tanner / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Cape and Islands during mid-October is a fantastic place to be, especially for those of us enamored of birds - anywhere else in New England pales in comparison. It is a paradise for birders, the volume and variety of the bird migration, mind-boggling.

Bill Thompson/USFWS / CC BY 2.0

Many land  birds have been feeding and resting in the north woods for weeks, biding their time, waiting for the right high pressure system and northwest winds on which to make their first southbound move. All their highly evolved migration triggers, honed through countless generations, are telling them to head south.

Jerry Oldenettel / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

September is out of control for bird migration. For example, on the morning of September 14, from dawn until 45 minutes after the sun was in the sky at Higbee Dike in Cape May, New Jersey, an astounding number of migrant warblers were seen and counted, far surpassing any single flight recorded there. Some 56,636 were counted and 71 percent were American Redstarts.