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

Putneypics / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

What better bird to talk about on the day before Thanksgiving than the Turkey? No, not the one stuffed, roasted, and gracing your table, but the wild turkey. Here are a few tasty bits of information to regale your holiday guests with, should the table conversation fall silent.

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. 

wikimedia commons

The arrival of the Labor Day Weekend and September, the perfect month, is the stuff of dreams for birders. This month has everything. Such as; typically fantastic weather, all species of birds migrating with their respective populations at an annual peak, the possibility of getting hit by the “great undeveloper” a.k.a. a big hurricane, and the potential for any bird to arrive on Cape and Island shores from anywhere. This month is full of promise and invariably delivers the goods.