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

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.

Dominic Sherony / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A dedicated pelagic birding trip that left Hyannis on August 22 and returned on the evening of August 23 with about 60 birders aboard saw and photographed so many unusual birds that it raised the bar, so to speak, for future expeditions. There had never been a trip even close to this, and to say it was beyond all expectations would still be a very large understatement.

Eric Vondy / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These fragile outposts, the Cape and Islands are the most geologically dynamic area that one can imagine, with the exception of an erupting volcano. The constant and variable pressures of eroding sand and clay shorelines, sculpted by wave action, currents, tides and the prevailing wind, is a landscape in flux. Mirroring life, the only constant is change.

Vicky Somma / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The arrival of August ushers in very interesting birding. The breeding season has scaled way back, and only a few prolific multi-brooded species are still making more birds. Most birds have finished with their nesting chores for the year and many are already on the move.


At this time in July, gulls are fledging young, the beaches are crowded with people, making it time to talk about behavior at the beach. Gulls are adaptable, and once they figure out how to find a meal they quickly learn new behavior. The gulls I am talking about belong to the following species - Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull and Laughing Gull. They have beach smarts, often operating like a rogue gang, terrorizing beach goers. They are getting smarter as you read this.

Putneypics / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Hot fun in the summertime is a good way to describe what the birding has been like. Despite the scorching heat wave that has engulfed the entire country and is just beginning in this region, the birding is good and will only continue to improve. 

thenaturegeek / http://bit.ly/1CCZP4r

In a battle of enemies that dates back to before humans evolved, crows and owls have been at war with each other. Both families of birds are genetically imprinted with an intense, strong dislike of the other family. Without ever having seen an owl, a newly fledged crow instantly, aggressively, instinctually, knows in its being that it does not like the owl.

Peter Massas / flickr / CC2.0

The most beautiful raptor in the world, to this commentator's eyes, is the striking, black and white, rather large Swallow-tailed Kite, with its long thin pointed wings and an almost fake-looking long forked tail. One of these amazing birds was seen on Nantucket on July 1st and seen daily island-wide until July 4th, when it flew over a gathering of people on Tuckernuck Island having their annual meeting, just about 5 miles northwest of the west end of Nantucket. It was last seen on those islands on Independence Day and has not been reported again.