Weekly Bird Report

with E. Vernon Laux

The Weekly Bird Report can be heard every Wednesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

Vern is the author of Bird News: Vagrants and Visitors on a Peculiar Island. He also writes a bird column for the Cape Cod Times, and writes Nantucket's "Natural World" for the Inquirer and Mirror. He is the resident naturalist and land manager at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation on Nantucket.

For archives of Bird News, including episodes dating from before October 2012, go to the Bird News Archives

Vern Laux

With Independence Day falling on Saturday this coming weekend, the exodus to the beaches from the cities and suburbs begins in earnest. It's a perfect start to the summer season and - surprisingly - the beginning of the southward migration of birds. While land birds are finishing up the breeding season on the Cape and Islands or attempting a second brood, the spectacularly fit waders, sandpipers and plovers, are already taking flight on another leg of their staggering annual migration.

Hunter Desportes / flickr / CC2.0

This past weekend, was the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Of course, every day is the same length and comprised of 24 hours so to be more accurate these are the days with the most hours, minutes and seconds of daylight north of the equator. The length of day causes me to pause and ponder the wonder of the seasons, the planets geography, and birds breeding biology to take advantage of both.

Vern Laux

The din of bird song at dawn and dusk is remarkable at this time in June. Familiar Carolina Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees and American Robins have already fledged one batch of young and are close to bringing off a second brood. Most single clutch birds found here are now busy feeding young. It is a moment of heightened bird activity. Vern Laux has details in this week's Bird Report, audio posted above.

This episode of the Bird Report originally aired in June 2013.

Neil DeMaster / flickr / http://bit.ly/1dGcPd3

The middle of June is the breeding season for all the birds that are currently visiting the Cape and Islands. From American Robins in your yard, to Eastern Towhees in scrub oak and shrubby habitats, to widespread nesting yellow warblers and common yellowthroats, the region is awash in nesting birds. However, perhaps the most interesting birds from a birder's perspective are the seabirds: the tubenoses and jaegers that spend the summers off our coastline.

Tim Hamilton http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1

Baby birds require from their parents near-constant feeding. But cleaning up after them isn't so hard. Most land birds have developed a technique for ridding waste that make diapers look antiquated. Bird nestlings magically dispose of their excrement in little fecal sacks. The waste is packaged in a little white balloon for disposal, which the adults efficiently remove.

Wikimedia Commons

The Memorial Day Weekend, just passed, did not disappoint for birders or for outdoor activities. Historically one of the best weekends of the year for birds, it lived up to its lofty expectations. Most exciting and unexpected was the discovery of a species of tropical duck called a Black-bellied Whistling Duck. They used to be called Black-bellied Tree Ducks as they do spend lots of time in trees but they also whistle while most species of whistling ducks do not spend time in trees. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks routinely perch and nest in trees.


Many years, Memorial Day weekend is the best of the year for birding. Historically, it is the hands-down winner for providing the most exciting birding of the spring migration, as both vagrants and visitors alike appear during this long weekend.

Vern Laux

This May, with many of the flowering plants and emergent foliage just opening now at almost mid-month, has made the Cape and Islands pretty as a picture. The shadbush is blooming and in some places overwhelms the senses with its delicate white flowers. Meanwhile, lots of land birds have already passed by well inland and the spring migration at places like Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge have seen impressive flights of vireos, warblers and many other kinds of birds.

Amy Evenstad

Birding on the Cape and Islands, especially during the migration seasons, is all about the wind direction. During the spring we hope for moderate-to-strong winds from the southwest, which is the direction all the birds are coming from this time of year. Sometimes it brings “waves” of birds in the form of all the common nesting birds in eastern North America, and often many birds that nest far from here that “overshoot” the mark on the stirring south wind.

hjhipster / flickr

For the past few years I have been lucky enough to work with one of my favorite birds, the American Oystercatcher. Many of you most likely have seen one of these birds on a beach, or in a marsh, here on the Cape, the Islands, or on the South Coast.

These black-and-white birds sport a bright orange carrot-like bill. Often you will hear one of their raucous calls even before you see it!