Vern Laux

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

He has written thousands of newspaper columns about birds and the natural world appearing 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 are 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 lives on Nantucket and is the Resident Naturalist, Land Manager and Education Director for the Linda Loring Nature Foundation. 

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Weekly Bird Report
1:51 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Courtship Prompts Local Raptors to Unusual Sounds and Behavior

Osprey female
Credit Vern Laux

At this season the Cape and Island’s nesting species of raptors engage in courtship displays and behavior only seen a few weeks a year. Most amazing is the sounds that they make - since the birds are mostly silent for the rest of the year, it is a mild shock to hear what they sound like!

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Weekly Bird Report
10:48 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Indigo Bunting and Osprey are Eye-catching Forerunners of the Spring Migration

Indigo Buntings create a lot of excitement when they appear on birdfeeders at this time of year. A handful now nest along power lines on the Upper Cape and a few pairs are nesting in wooded heavily wooded sections of the Vineyard.
Credit Kelly Colgan Azar / flickr

Springtime Bird Migration, April 9, 2014, by Vern Laux

    

Ospreys are back on nest poles all over the region. Their arrival at precisely the same time as the herring return to area estuaries and streams, which I'm only aware of because I have been watching Ospreys catching and eating these anadromous fish, is like clockwork. The herring also attract other fish eating birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons. The Ospreys are nest building, displaying, mating and will be laying eggs in the near future. The far-carrying, shrill, high-pitched calls of the male as he hangs in the sky dangling a fish for his mate will be a common sound near Osprey nest poles over the next couple of weeks.

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Weekly Bird Report
8:39 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Ospreys vs. Owls

Brad Winn

Ospreys have returned to the Cape and Islands.  And they're finding snowy owls in their territory.  Ospreys and owls intensely dislike each other.  Ornithologist Vernon Laux shares his perspective on the matter in this week's Bird Report.  Encounters between the two bird species are dramatic.  Brad Winn, shorebird biologist for the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, watched an impressive display of an osprey attempting to drive off a snowy owl.  He shares his photos with us.

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Weekly Bird Report
5:51 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Winged Harbingers of Spring Arrive: Ospreys, Oystercatchers, & Swallow-tailed Kite

A Swallow-tailed Kite was seen by separate observers on March 12th in Orleans and Brewster.
Credit cuatrok77 / flickr

Ospreys, “the Cape and Islands harbinger of spring” returned on Saturday afternoon, March 15th, in at least 5 places almost simultaneously. This is very early and all these reports and careful, excited observers were accompanied by photos indicating they knew what a big deal this is. Ospreys were reported from Orleans, Dennis, Falmouth, West Barnstable and Nantucket from 2:30-4 P.M. on March 15th, which is really early. Just knowing these birds are back brings a smile to not only my face but to all happy to see that the winter is finally going to come to an end.

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Weekly Bird Report
5:46 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Will Snowy Owls and Ospreys Come to Battle?

No one really knows what the Snowy Owls are going to do next: when are they going to leave, are they going to nest here, will they be back? It is assumed most will start making their way north, but some may very well take a leisurely route back, which will bring them into contact with many species that they have never encountered and conversely have never encountered them. With ospreys on the move out of South America, the first males arriving here about a week from now, the potential for conflict is very real.

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Weekly Bird Report
4:26 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Tips for Observing "One of the Best Kept Birding Secrets on the Cape and Islands"

Credit Vern Laux

In March and April one of the best kept secrets on the Cape and Islands is the display of the American woodcock. Woodcock are nocturnal birds, and while rarely seen, they are surprisingly common. They make a living by eating earthworms at night with their ridiculously long bill as a probe.

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Weekly Bird Report
5:40 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

In Praise of Poison Ivy (Really). Birds Love It.

Credit Dean Gugler / flickr

While nasty for most humans, poison ivy has immeasurable value to shoreline areas and wildlife due to its salt tolerance and ability to grow in impoverished soils. For many birds it is vitally important, as its fruits provide calories that would otherwise not be available, and without which the birds would not survive the winter at this latitude.

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Weekly Bird Report
5:38 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Dovekies, Rarely Seen from Land, May Appear When Driven to Shore by Storm

Credit V. Laux

Dovekies are crazy cute, small black-and-white birds resembling nothing so much as a wind-up bathroom toy.  Once ashore Dovekies are in serious trouble as they cannot walk on land or take off unless on water. Helpless on land, they become victims of gulls and other predators. Humans, glad to take a little “penguin” under their protection, adopt others.

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Weekly Bird Report
5:45 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Red-winged Blackbirds Herald our Progress Toward Spring

Credit Simply Col / flickr

As we creep toward spring, roaming flocks of blackbirds may show up at any time.

Red-winged blackbirds are one of the most widespread and successful land bird species on this continent. They range across its entirety, breeding from central Alaska to Newfoundland south throughout the United States. They occur in winter south to Costa Rica in Central America. They are hardy, adaptable and abundant.

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Weekly Bird Report
3:39 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Nantucket Birdwatching Excursion Ends in Red-necked Grebe Rescue

A red-necked grebe labors to take flight from ice.
Vern Laux

On Saturday February first, WCAI’s Morning Edition Host, Dan Tritle and his wife Janet Gardner were visiting Nantucket to participate in the third annual Moby Dick-reading marathon. Having heard me carry on incessantly about this year’s Snowy Owl incursion, Dan and Janet were hot to see one of these magnificent birds.  So after they had completed their Moby Dick readings, we headed out to try to find one.

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