This week’s column would not be complete without mention of the passing of Vern Laux on Jan. 21. His knowledge and passion for birds radiated from him, whether he was in the field, on his radio shows or anywhere else. He had the unique ability to make everyone interested in birds.

My favorite anecdote about Mr. Laux dates back to the late 1970s. We were birding in Aquinnah, and he was driving down Moshup Trail when a small sandpiper flew by. He identified it as a western sandpiper, one of the most difficult of the shorebirds to identify. We stopped, put a scope on it, and it was indeed a western sandpiper. His incredible eyesight was legendary, as he could identify birds that were just blurs to everyone else.

He is already missed.

Bird Sightings

John Nelson birded Katama on Jan. 17, and found three American pipits in the community gardens at the Farm Institute and 24 eastern meadowlarks along the road through the fields. He also observed a male and female northern harrier hunting together at the Katama air park.

Patricia Donovan reports a ruby-crowned kinglet visiting her suet feeder on Jan. 21.

Female northern harrier. — Lanny McDowell

On Jan. 22, Lanny McDowell found a few birds at the Oak Bluffs pumping station. There were three ruddy ducks, a species that is unusual there. More typically they are found on Squibnocket Pond. Also at the pumping station were bufflehead, one great egret and at least three black-crowned night-herons. American crows and great black-backed gulls were also feeding on the scup that stayed in the pond too long. They usually migrate south before the winter comes, but not this year, and the ever-colder waters in Lagoon Pond likely killed them.

Carolina wrens are still making news. Holly Mercier had two of them at her feeder, in the snowstorm of Jan. 23. I also had one at my feeder that day, and heard another one singing (yes, singing) near a neighbor’s house as I was shoveling snow. And on Jan. 24, Matt Pelikan reports hearing his first cardinal song of the year. It is still January, but days are getting longer and spring is coming.

There are lots of birds around, so please get out looking for them, and be sure to report your bird sightings to

Robert Culbert leads guided birding tours and is an ecological consultant living in Vineyard Haven.

View results of the 2016 Christmas Bird Count, and photos of recent bird sightings on the Vineyard.