21 July 2018

Resource Agency Destroys Grassland Vegetation

The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District recently destroyed wildland vegetation at the Valentine Mill Pond in order to comply with a recommendation from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.

A unique area of warm-season grasses, forbs and other plant species growing in a small tract northeast of the mill pond was intentionally mown as it is the emergency spillway for the mill pond. Not included in the discussion is the well established drain which can be opened to facilitate removal of water from the pond.

An inquiry at the MNNRD office indicated that the mowing was done because of a “recommendation” by DNR. Staff were indifferent to the distinction of a recommendation to a requirement.

Results of the mowing – which is the first time the site has been mown in the past few years – was more than dismal. Results are indicative:

1. Vegetation was sheared to a minimal height and in some instances was cut so low that bare ground was apparent.
2. Ruts were left where the mowing occurred in lowland while there were moist-soil conditions.
3. Several clumps of cut vegetation were left behind which could result in further degradation of vegetation due to a “smothering” effect of the piles.
4. Mowing was done during a time of the year when wildbirds were breeding in the immediate vicinity, including a resident Common Yellowthroat.
5. Areas were mown which had a ground elevation above what could be considered as being within the required spillway.

MNNRD officials took no responsibility for these results, instead agency staff said that the “recommended” mowing had to be done. There is a big difference between recommended and required. NRD staff did not want to consider this distinction.

An inspection by DNR staff occurred on March 28, 2018 according to a document provided by the state agency. One “deficiency requiring attention” was trees on a downstream slope. The two state of Nebraska employees must have been inattentive as this tract of vegetation did not have any tree or shrub growth. This is a place observed daily during the past three years and where there was no such growth. The NRD responded with an eventual mowing, once when there was an equipment breakdown and then a second time when the greatest extent of grassland vegetation was destroyed.

Following the second mowing in July, an email exchange occurred with DNR staff. Initially, there was an information exchange, but after indicating a short list that might help to protect vegetation values while still meeting the necessity for dam safety, the person at DNR cut off the communication by a terse comment that the NRD can cut the vegetation weekly if they want. This was their indicative response to establishing parameters that could protect a bit of a natural vegetation space.

When asked – via email by a DNR employee – what might be done to protect the natural values associated with the spillway area, my points were:

1. Mowing should not occur every year as biannual mowing would be sufficient
2. Do not mow to an extent that “scalping” of the vegetation occurs and nearly bare areas are a result; there should be approximately six inches of remaining vegetative height
3. Indicate the extent of emergency spillway area that would need to be mown so that natural vegetation on portions of the site could thrive without disturbance
4. Do not mow during the bird breeding season, or approximately April 15 to August 15
5. Consult with an authority on warm-season vegetation so that mowing would occur at a time that would be beneficial to the continuing vitality of this little bit of natural plants and which is a unique feature of the mill pond public space
6. These items should be established by a signed memorandum of agreement to ensure that the NRD and DNR agree on how the grassy space would be managed

Numerous pictures have been personally taken at what has been a quite fine growth of summer plants, including different sorts of warm-season grasses. There is nothing better than a view of “turkey-foot” or Big Bluestem as seen against a western sky. Indian Grass has also been indicative, as well as Switch-grass. Species of various special pollinator insects have appreciated the variety of special forbs including milkweed. There was common mullein they appreciated. Habitat was removed with particular intent.

A bit of natural space at the Mill Pond – known as Lake Minnechaduza in 1919 – has been important to many sorts of wildness that anyone could enjoy every day. It is deplorable that government officials whose job is conservation, do exactly the opposite in failing to conserve unique resources and where there is relatively barren ground instead of lush vegetation.

The final communication with the DNR was an email of indifference and a pathetic statement that the NRD could mow the tract every week if they wanted to. Whatever was to occur was something that the agency did not care about, as they were only responsible for the safety of the dam. This statement was made despite the inspection report having trees as an item specifically considered among the “downstream slope” section of the dam inspection checklist.

Something could have been done to reach an equitable solution, but instead state bureaucrats decided to do nothing for the vegetative resource and unique public setting. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources indicates requirements yet takes no responsibility for the results.

In the case at the Valentine Mill Pond, a unique resource is ravaged with apparent indifference by the NRD because of the DNR.

07 July 2018

June Birds at Valentine, Nebraska

There was nothing especially different associated with the occurrence of wildbirds in the immediate vicinity of Valentine, Neb. during June except that it was another exceptionally special month as resident species were busy breeding and raising young. Bird song started every day at 5:30 a.m. and continued to some extent throughout the day until the sun set. Juveniles of some species becoming very obvious towards the end of the month.

Some notable items are:

  • Wild Turkey: numbers varied day-to-day but at least one arrived each morning to peck and eat. A regular visitor was a hen, given the name Mabel, who brought her friends of the flock to gobble up the sunflower seeds.
  • Turkey Vulture: numbers of these aerialists are enjoyed daily as they float above the North Lake Shore Hills and Clarkson Hill.
  • Mourning Dove: adult incubating a recently built nest at the end of the month.
  • Great Horned Owl: prevalently heard during early months of this year but very rarely heard or seen during late-spring and the first of summer month arrived.
  • Cedar Waxwing: two died upon hitting the glass of patio doors of a north Valentine residence; one died immediately and the other shortly later. This is a local indication that a glass expanse is always a danger anywhere. At my residence, birds repeatedly hit the big north window, but none have been found to have met their demise during strikes that occur regularly with Dark-eyed Junco during the winter season.
  • Common Nighthawk: certainly more prevalent than indicated, but there are no evening birding outings personally done.
  • Purple Martin: nesting at the house at Wacky West RV Park and also at one along the 500 block of north Ray Street. At both locales, the martins have to fight House Sparrows for a nesting berth. A house at the northeast corner of 6th and Valentine was not occupied.
  • Swallows: American Cliff Swallow nest at the Valentine Mill Pond, both at the west end on the Highway 83 bridge and then at the mill pond dam, and then down-stream at a concrete relict along Minnechaduza Creek, below the fishery. Northern Rough-winged Swallow occur daily but their nesting place will continue to be a mystery this year. Surprisingly rare is the Barn Swallow, which was only seen once along the Cowboy Trail near the livestock market. There are a multitude of other places where nest could be built, but apparently are not something suitable to the species.
  • House Wren: a pair busy all month at their appreciated shelter in a pipe that is part of the structure of the hay shed.
  • Common Grackle: numerous at the seed buffet and with numerous squawking juveniles, getting fed by their parents when the food source was literally at their feet; one juvenile that apparently got disconnected from its parents was very tolerant of any human presence as it could be approached within about three feet before taking flight. My name for it was Mo.
  • Red-winged Blackbird: numerous individuals appreciating the seed; near the end of the month, a male with a broken leg was obvious as it did not stand on its remaining leg but instead ate while crouching on the porch rail. It was seen on only one day while it strived to survive despite its injury.
  • Black-headed Grosbeak: the birds that took up residence about the eastern end of the Valentine Mill Pond and northward at the Water Tanks Tract continued to occur and that was notably different from the dearth of observations in the most recent previous years.

Prominent birds at my seed buffet include the Wild Turkey (especially a hen that visits daily and is almost deserving of personal birdly recognition; some of this birds realize food is available, they run to the place where they forage vivaciously outside the front door and even on the porch), bunches of Common Grackle of various ages, Red-winged Blackbird including busy females and Brown-headed Cowbird. Fewer numbers of Mourning Dove and Eurasian Collared Dove, along with Chipping Sparrow and Lark Sparrow occur. A Northern Cardinal visits occasionally. These species start eating starting at sunrise, then throughout the day and until sunset so there is a whole lot of bird activity daily. Notably appreciated are the sparrows. Add in the mammals White-tailed Deer, raccoon, White-tailed Rabbit and Fox-tailed Squirrel. All of these critters eat for free whenever they want! The seed mix disappears quite quickly since there is no accounting office where the feed bill should be sent!

Notably missing in the tally was any sighting of a Bald Eagle or any indication of the Belted Kingfisher which was certainly a breeding season resident somewhere in the area. Within the Heart City, Rock Dove are more prevalent than records convey. More effort should have been given to surveys at the Valentine City Park and Government Canyon where Red-headed Woodpecker have been known to prevail.

These are the 61 species noted:

June Birds at Valentine
Proper Name        Julian Date = 155 158 163 172 173 180
Canada Goose 11 -- -- 16 -- 14
Wild Turkey 10 2 16 6 10 4
Great Blue Heron 1 -- 1 2 -- --
Turkey Vulture 10 -- 21 11 -- 17
Cooper's Hawk -- 1 -- -- -- --
Red-tailed Hawk -- -- 1 2 -- --
Killdeer -- -- 1 -- 1 1
Rock Dove 5 -- 5 -- -- --
Eurasian Collared Dove 5 -- 10 8 -- 7
Mourning Dove 7 4 8 7 -- 6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1 -- 1 -- -- --
Common Nighthawk 1 -- -- -- -- --
Chimney Swift 8 -- 7 6 -- 6
Belted Kingfisher 1 -- -- -- -- --
Red-headed Woodpecker 1 -- 1 -- -- --
Downy Woodpecker 1 -- 1 3 -- 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1 -- -- -- -- --
Northern Flicker 1 -- 1 1 -- 1
American Kestrel 1 -- -- -- -- --
Eastern Phoebe -- -- 1 -- -- 1
Eastern Wood Pewee 1 -- 1 -- -- --
Western Kingbird 7 -- 7 5 -- 6
Eastern Kingbird 4 1 2 1 -- 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 5 -- 4 4 -- 4
Bell's Vireo 1 -- 1 -- -- --
Warbling Vireo -- -- 1 -- -- --
Red-eyed Vireo 2 -- 1 2 -- 1
Blue Jay 3 -- -- -- -- 1
American Crow 2 -- 1 2 -- --
Cedar Waxwing 5 -- 3 6 2 5
Black-capped Chickadee 2 -- -- 2 -- 2
Purple Martin -- -- 6 -- -- 14
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5 -- 8 6 -- 6
Barn Swallow -- -- 1 -- -- --
American Cliff Swallow 15 -- 30 25 -- 35
House Wren 8 3 12 6 -- 10
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 -- 2 1 -- 1
Grey Catbird 1 1 1 1 1 1
Brown Thrasher 1 1 1 -- 1 1
Common Starling 2 -- 2 -- -- 2
Eastern Bluebird 4 1 1 -- 3 --
American Robin 14 1 27 23 -- 30
House Sparrow -- -- 10 -- -- 10
House Finch 3 2 4 5 -- 5
American Goldfinch 3 2 3 2 -- 3
Common Yellowthroat 2 -- 2 2 -- 2
American Redstart 2 -- -- -- -- --
American Yellow Warbler 2 -- 1 2 -- 1
Western Meadowlark 2 -- -- -- -- --
Baltimore Oriole 1 -- 2 4 -- 2
Orchard Oriole 1 1 -- 3 -- 1
Red-winged Blackbird -- 10 25 25 -- 30
Brown-headed Cowbird 10 -- 12 12 -- 10
Common Grackle 12 -- 32 30 30 30
Chipping Sparrow 5 2 10 7 -- 7
Field Sparrow 1 -- 1 1 -- 1
Lark Sparrow 4 4 4 4 -- 6
Spotted Towhee 1 -- 1 1 -- 1
Black-headed Grosbeak -- -- 1 1 -- 1
Northern Cardinal 1 1 1 1 -- 1
Indigo Bunting 1 -- 1 -- 1 --

The tally in 2017 was 53 species from four dates of records; and then 66 species from five dates in 2016. The combined total is 74 species.


26 June 2018

Ranch Land Facing Threat of Eminent Domain

June 21, 2018. Ranch land facing threat of eminent domain. Grant County News 133(47): 1, 3.

Ranchland heritage established by Dan and Barbara Welch is facing the threat of eminent domain that would impose an industrial powerline on their place south of Thedford.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued multiple documents, each of them titled as a “determination of no hazard to air navigation” for a transmission line, which is basically for 35 industrial powerline towers – built 1350 feet apart – associated with the Nebraska Public Power District r-project. The powerline constructs would transit the Brush Creek Ranch and other private property south and southeast of Thedford.

One of the approved towers, more than 132 feet in height, would be placed on the southern edge of the Brush Creek Ranch, and adjacent to highway 83. The proposed powerline would continue a short distance to the north, then go easterly, and then again northward as the final tower having been considered by the FAA would be adjacent to the Middle Loup River, just south of what would be an expanded power substation east of Thedford, along Highway 2.

The towers needed for the 345-kV industrial powerline at the designated locations would vary in height from 62 feet to 140 feet, with 29 more than a hundred feet in height. Work is scheduled to be completed from January 2019 to December 2020. The “determination” would expire if construction had not been started by December 4, 2019. There would be no requirements for marking or lighting, according to the FAA documents. Maps indicating the specific placement of each tower are provided at the agency website.

The type of tower is not indicated by the FAA summary page. There would apparently be several monopole towers along a short distance of Highway 83 and then steel-lattice towers on rangeland of the Brush Creek Ranch, according to environmental review documentation.

NPPD would have to also use eminent domain to place monopoles on nearby property owned by Brent Steffen, just south of the Brush Creek Ranch, and along Highway 83. Both Welch – who has undertaken legal action to prevent NPPD from accessing his property – and Steffen – who has written several letters to editors in different newspapers – have been very consistent and vocal opponents to the r-project. Neither of them have signed an easement agreement to allow powerline construction on their personally owned private property. Thus eminent domain procedures by NPPD would be required for construction to occur in Thomas county and notably elsewhere along the proposed 225 mile powerline corridor where every request by the power company for many easements have been unacceptable to multiple property owners.

Vehicular access would be necessary along the entire length of the transmission line and would continue to be needed for years for ongoing maintenance requirements.

Construction through the middle of the Welch Ranch would involve placement of monopoles using huge cranes and seemingly be done because of readily available access along Highway 83? Then lattice towers, would apparently be placed using a helicopter, according to r-project documents; associated ground crews would drive vehicles across the hills. A very local staging area where lattice tower pieces would be put together and flight landings would be required, according to details provided by NPPD in federal project application documents. There is a dearth of details on “staging areas” where towers would be built or helicopters would land, specifically for the south Thedford area. There also may be the need for a “pull-site” on the Welch Ranch, since the proposed line makes a change from north-south to east-west alignment near the southern most towers as approved by the FAA.

There was no opportunity for public comment on the FAA applications, which for the initial filings did not provide any “sponsor information” and for which details were only indicated once final determination was made, based upon a comparison of online documentation on different dates in late May and early June.

Any other applications for FAA consideration of transmission line placements for the r-project were not found at the agency website as of the first week of June. Each powerline tower needs a distinct “determination of no hazard” finding.

The r-project is still currently being evaluated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has thus-far issued no environmental permits necessary for construction to be started. There has been no time indicated when the findings of this agency will be available for public consideration.

21 June 2018

Industrial Development Stopped Upon Avia

Galactic Year 102018. Based upon a release of information by the Avia Federation.

A decision to continue the entirety of the planet of Avia as a preserve for avians recently occurred, thus halting plans by an interplanetary developer to establish a mining operation on the planet, located in the Andromeda cosmos.


Their request was denied, following a decision by the Queen of Light.



Avia is a planet dedicated to the preservation of birds in the many habitats of the natural ecosystem encompassing the entire planet, with very few research monitoring outposts, as supported by a galactic community of contributors.

Another recent attempt to establish an industrial presence by a mining conglomerate of a nearby planet, and known to establish operations wherever they could to make a profit was stopped, with essential intergalactic assistance and arbitration required.

The ephemeral Queen of Light arrived with her assistant, the Princess of Light, along with a delegation that included several Angels of Light to indicate that any decision would be enforced. Each of them were prominent yet hard to see.


Following her arrival and once suitably settled in the planetary administrative building, readings of the will of planetary residents and others within the stellar realm occurred multiple times. The Queen of Light – with her supreme powers of empathy and understanding – then presented a diagram indicating multiple boxes of different colors that conveyed the preference for what should occur. The graphic figure was prominent and distinctive in a singular perspective, with protection the preferred option.


While the delegation was upon Avia, multiple attempts were made by parties associated with the development entity, to thwart the arbitration. An attempt to block the solar light to diminish stellar power failed in its effort to inhibit efforts to understand the pulse of the planet.

The decision was obvious, with the majority rejecting the industrial proposal. The planetary land would continue to be a space where birds should would thrive, and any contrary efforts would be prohibited.

Just a few years ago, there was a battle at the central headquarters of the Avia Federation, at its headquarters situated upon a vast grassland plain. An attack by pirate spacecraft was repulsed during a single-day confrontation. Damage did occur to the single administrative building on the planet.

Avia is about half the size of Sol – the sun of Gaia – but the forcible effort to impose industrialization was thwarted.

This fight was an initial intergalactic effort – involving a party from Gaia, within the Milky Way and having an appropriate resume – helped with tactics based upon the reality of knowing birds and what could be done to repel the invaders. The result was a cooperative agreement that the planet would solely be a vast landscape of myriad floral habitats where birds would thrive and survive in abundance.

The fight indicated a victory and definitive decision to get bird conservation enacted on a planetary scale with an official designation by cosmic administration officials that Avia would be a bird haven where any artificial constructs would not be acceptable.

An edict has been issued by the intergalactic council to indicate the planet is being managed for the benefit of thousands of different sorts with habitats and a plan where so many sorts of birds survive and thrive. The planet has a multitude of habitats, including oceans and islands, multiple sorts of forests, many different lakes, riverine woods, wetlands and prairies, as well as other spaces.

No details are available from any chronicles of the Milky Way to indicate the many thousands of sorts of avians that dwell upon Avia. There is no bird guide available. Information that might become available in the future may convey additional specifics for this planetary ecosystem.

There could be a multitude of knowledge to indicate "species" of avians present on Avia. There are no known surveys that would be helpful.
 

16 June 2018

Birdly Wonders of a Cherry County Spring

June 6, 2018. Birdly wonders of a Cherry county spring. Valentine Midland News 46(49): 11. A paid advertisement. The cost was $132 for the 2 x 11 ad.

Every day can be a bird day and spring in Cherry County and at Valentine was indicative as many different wildbirds got lots of attention as appreciated by multiple observers. On various days during March through May birders visited prominent places including near Valentine at the city park and mill pond, Valentine NWR (12 checklists), three visits each to Fort Niobrara NWR and Smith Falls State Park, as well as to Anderson Bridge, Shell Lake and Ballards Marsh WMAs, and even along the county road northward from Brownlee.

There were some especially exciting sightings among nearly 1800 records, many by visitors reporting their observations to the ebird online repository and that were significant in indicating many of the 176 species seen to occur. The tally for the immediate vicinity of Valentine was 115 species during the three months.

The mid-April blizzard wrought destruction to birds. Carcasses of migratory Sandhill Crane were found a few miles south of Valentine, days later. A significant flight of the cranes going northward did occur on 17 April, and the flight and calls perfectly showed that winter was finally finished! During the blizzard event, a nest box with Eastern Bluebird eggs filled with blowing snow, ruining the breeding attempt. After the pair had not returned for weeks, the box caretaker let some Tree Swallow use it instead.

Notably prominent at Valentine were two indications of the potentiality of bird hybridization in the so diverse Niobrara Valley environs. A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak had a contention during mid-May over breeding habitat with a couple of Black-headed Grosbeak just north of the Mill Pond. The latter species was still present at the end of the month. A hybrid Bullocks Oriole x Baltimore Oriole was also indicative as closely seen during the same days, also north of town.

A couple of local highlights were the Great-tailed Grackle in mid-May, seemingly getting established here and elsewhere in north-central Nebraska, and a simply beautiful Lazuli Bunting appreciating some of the bird seed. At least two pair of Great Blue Heron have been busy raising a brood at nests in trees at the eastern extent of the city park. Bald Eagle were not reported but were certainly raising young in their massive nests.

Various warblers were seen on branches and boughs in the sylvan setting of the city park, including the Yellow Warbler, American Redstart and Ovenbird. The itty-bitty Common Yellowthroat appreciates its bit of space among the cattail habitat at the western extent of the Mill Pond, where Spotted Sandpiper are busy nearby on the sandy creek bank. Many other species are local residents. You can’t miss the robins, Blue Jay or Eurasian Collared Dove around town.

Daily, the local flock of Turkey Vulture soar in search of some edible carrion near Valentine, as well as other suitable country spaces. The north side flock of Wild Turkey survived intact after the hunting season. Red-winged Blackbird were visibly perturbed as the big hens and gobblers – a very apt term – ruled at the seed buffet. Daily a horde of black birds of three species eat a bunch of seeds. While they feed, it is quite interesting to watch the birds’ behavior as they interact to get something to eat. Female redwings, for example, use a wing-flutter action to indicate their space ... momma is hungry, so stay away.

By the end of May, two pair of Canada Goose had goslings at the Mill Pond. Swallows were busily eating bugs with a colony of Cliff Swallow on the Highway 83 bridge over Minnechaduza Creek. Rough-winged swallows were busy in the same vicinity. Chimney Swift continue to be prominent over Main Street being bugeaters all day long. Purple Martin with a similar purpose, dwell where a suitable nest house is present, and not overtaken by the pesky House Sparrow. During the night, Common Nighthawk also fly in search of insects somewhere near where they nest on the ground or a city building roof?

The overall county bird variety ranges in size from the magnificent Trumpeter Swan to the mighty mite, the house wren. The call of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo was heard in late May and is a certain sign of summer’s arrival.

A grand variety of wildbirds are essential wildlife around Valentine, within the county and overall in the Great American Sandhills. The current and historic reality conveys many people spend tourist money and hundreds of hours to appreciate nature and the many ranchland and wildlife values amidst a landscape mostly free of constructs and blinking lights that destroy night sky views.

Nearly every bird sighting can be a distinctive story with every outing an opportunity for unique memories. Wildbirds though are indifferent to being a mark on a tally sheet, so there is a responsibility for actions to make a difference to ensure the “voice” of birds is realized and their airspace and habitat is suitably conserved so the special wildbird wonders of these days can be appreciated in a similar manner tomorrow, next years and by future generations.

There is no place in our unique county where industrial wind turbines and mega-powerlines should in any manner be allowed to kill wildbirds by spinning turbine blades or destroy wildlands habitat. Don’t ruin treasures just so some misdirected people can put tax-payer subsidized dollars in their pocket.

Ad paid for by James E. Ducey. Details online at Wildbirds Broadcasting.


The numbers given in the table indicate an overall summary of the number observed for each of the species at any locale within the county during the particular month.

Birds of Cherry County - Spring, 2018
Proper Name March April May
Canada Goose 220 3853 181
Cackling Goose -- 16 --
Snow Goose -- 336 --
Trumpeter Swan -- 10 6
Wood Duck 19 6 8
Cinnamon Teal -- -- 1
Blue-winged Teal 78 -- 122
Northern Shoveler 196 5 43
Gadwall 227 7 20
American Wigeon 12 7 6
Mallard 51 35 48
Northern Pintail -- 4 1
Green-winged Teal 39 8 4
Canvasback 96 12 --
Redhead 158 10 18
Ring-necked Duck 27 10 3
Greater Scaup 2 -- --
Lesser Scaup 125 21 3
Bufflehead 82 7 1
Common Goldeneye 1 8 --
Common Merganser 24 81 --
Ruddy Duck 182 -- 55
Northern Bobwhite -- -- 1
Wild Turkey 103 76 64
Sharp-tailed Grouse 5 -- 9
Common Pheasant 5 2 8
Common Loon -- -- 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1 -- 5
Horned Grebe 5 -- --
Black-necked Grebe -- -- 18
Western Grebe 12 -- 103
White-faced Ibis 1 -- 34
American Bittern -- -- 7
Black-crowned Night Heron 1 -- --
Western Cattle Egret -- -- 5
Great Blue Heron 15 3 15
American White Pelican 73 -- 86
Double-crested Cormorant 50 -- 16
Turkey Vulture 171 28 125
Western Osprey -- -- 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4 1 --
Cooper's Hawk 1 1 --
Northern Harrier 7 1 2
Bald Eagle 4 6 2
Mississippi Kite -- -- 1
Swainson's Hawk -- -- 1
Red-tailed Hawk 5 21 9
Rough-legged Buzzard 1 3 --
Virginia Rail -- -- 2
Sora -- -- 1
American Coot 546 -- 20
Sandhill Crane 1545 -- 6
Black-necked Stilt -- -- 1
American Avocet -- -- 4
Killdeer 14 4 26
Upland Sandpiper -- -- 34
Long-billed Curlew -- -- 2
Stilt Sandpiper -- -- 63
Sanderling -- -- 1
Least Sandpiper -- -- 12
White-rumped Sandpiper -- -- 3
Semipalmated Sandpiper -- -- 31
Long-billed Dowitcher -- -- 1
Wilson's Snipe -- -- 7
Wilson's Phalarope -- -- 45
Spotted Sandpiper 1 -- 13
Greater Yellowlegs 3 -- --
Franklin's Gull -- 2 6
Ring-billed Gull 6 19 20
American Herring Gull 4 22 --
Forster's Tern -- -- 7
Black Tern -- -- 43
Rock Dove 17 27 --
Eurasian Collared Dove 47 47 57
Mourning Dove 67 9 97
Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- -- 2
Great Horned Owl 3 1 3
Burrowing Owl -- -- 1
Common Nighthawk -- -- 16
Chimney Swift 3 -- 64
Ruby-throated Hummingbird -- -- 1
Belted Kingfisher 8 1 2
Red-headed Woodpecker -- -- 22
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 3 1
Downy Woodpecker 11 12 7
Hairy Woodpecker 1 3 4
Northern Flicker 16 19 10
American Kestrel 4 -- 2
Merlin -- 1 --
Peregrine Falcon -- -- 1
Eastern Phoebe 7 1 9
Eastern Wood Pewee -- -- 2
Willow Flycatcher -- -- 1
Least Flycatcher -- -- 8
Western Kingbird 1 -- 37
Eastern Kingbird -- -- 73
Great Crested Flycatcher -- -- 17
Loggerhead Shrike 1 -- 1
Great Grey Shrike -- 1 --
Bell's Vireo -- -- 13
Warbling Vireo -- -- 9
Red-eyed Vireo -- -- 10
Blue Jay 5 6 15
American Crow 14 39 18
Cedar Waxwing -- 94 30
Black-capped Chickadee 20 26 17
Horned Lark -- -- 63
Sand Martin -- -- 6
Tree Swallow 23 -- 99
Purple Martin -- -- 12
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5 -- 103
Barn Swallow 1 -- 59
American Cliff Swallow 15 -- 250
Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- 1 --
Sedge Wren -- -- 1
Marsh Wren -- 1 25
House Wren -- -- 53
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher -- -- 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5 3 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 13 19 7
Grey Catbird -- -- 15
Brown Thrasher 1 -- 29
Common Starling 22 97 19
Eastern Bluebird 19 18 12
Townsend's Solitaire -- 2 --
Swainson's Thrush -- -- 8
American Robin 278 253 125
House Sparrow 70 122 32
House Finch 39 50 23
Common Redpoll -- 75 --
Red Crossbill -- 12 --
American Goldfinch 39 24 35
Pine Siskin 1 2 4
Ovenbird -- -- 6
Northern Waterthrush -- -- 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 5 -- 5
Common Yellowthroat -- -- 29
American Redstart -- -- 25
American Yellow Warbler -- -- 83
Blackpoll Warbler -- -- 2
Palm Warbler -- -- 1
Myrtle Warbler 3 -- 6
Audubon's Warbler 11 -- 10
Yellow-breasted Chat -- -- 3
Yellow-headed Blackbird 12 -- 82
Bobolink -- -- 9
Western Meadowlark 20 6 77
Eastern Meadowlark -- -- 13
Baltimore Oriole -- -- 21
Bullock's Oriole x Baltimore Oriole -- -- 1
Orchard Oriole -- -- 23
Red-winged Blackbird 706 840 476
Brown-headed Cowbird 20 -- 147
Common Grackle 140 14 204
Great-tailed Grackle -- -- 2
Lark Bunting -- -- 2
Song Sparrow 8 4 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 4 -- 4
Harris's Sparrow 6 -- 23
White-crowned Sparrow 2 -- 47
White-throated Sparrow -- -- 11
Dark-eyed Junco 198 234 --
Savannah Sparrow 8 1 --
Grasshopper Sparrow -- -- 43
American Tree Sparrow 84 326 --
Chipping sparrow 21 -- 132
Field Sparrow 1 -- 14
Clay-colored Sparrow 3 -- 81
Lark Sparrow -- -- 86
Spotted Towhee 1 -- 30
Lapland Longspur -- 2 --
Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- -- 2
Black-headed Grosbeak -- -- 12
Northern Cardinal 10 15 18
Blue Grosbeak -- -- 2
Indigo Bunting -- -- 5
Lazuli Bunting 1 -- --

04 June 2018

Wildbirds During May at Valentine

A very nice variety of wildbirds were observed in the immediate vicinity of Valentine during the spring month of May. The month started with the passage of migrants and ended with young waterfowl by the end of the month.

Bird observations were made on more days than typical because of the need to record an unusual occurrence. Also helpful were three ebird reports from the Valentine City Park (14th, 17th with the ebird report combined with personal observations, and the 30th).

The following is some analysis of species occurrence.

  • Canada Goose: the first goslings were seen on May 18th (julian date 138) at the western extent of the Valentine Mill Pond; at least two pair raised young here.
  • Wild Turkey: regularly seen earlier in the month and then sparse until the end of the month when the flock of ten was prominent at the bird seeds fed at my residence at the North Lake Shore Hills.
  • Great Blue Heron: regularly seen flying along above the north hills and occasionally at the Mill Pond; two occupied nests were present in the east woods at the Valentine City Park and was noted that none of the ebird reports made any reference to the presence of this species at this locale.
  • Turkey Vulture: more prevalent this season than in previous years, and most typically seen in numbers at their roost locale with birds notable throughout the day soaring over the north hills.
  • Red-tailed Hawk: a pair certainly nested in the North Lake Shore Hills, as at least one of the birds could be seen nearly every day.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: along Minnechaduza Creek with a surprising three at some sandy beach habitat at the west end of the mill pond.
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo: their presence late in the month was a sure sign of summer.
  • Chimney Swift: most prevalent in Valentine.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker: surprisingly sparse.
  • Hairy Woodpecker: more prevalent than the single record would indicate; the bird seen was carrying food at the western edge of the city park.
  • Eastern Phoebe: most readily seen along Minnechaduza Creek in the city park and near the mill pond dam.
  • Western Kingbird: pairs most prevalent at several places among the urban setting of the Heart City.
  • Tree Swallow: eventually allowed to use a nest box where the mid-April blizzard froze the eggs of a pair of nesting Eastern Bluebird.
  • Purple Martin: there are at least three known house in Valentine, the most prominent one at the Wacky West campground.
  • American Cliff Swallow: the largest nesting colony is on the Highway 83 bridge over Minnechaduza Creek.
  • Marsh Wren: vagrant at the mill pond.
  • Blue-grey Gnatcatcher: notable seen perched for a short time on a powerline near a line of trees.
  • Grey Catbird and Brown Thrasher: not seen or heard very often once they get actively nesting.
  • Swainson's Thrush: two of the three sightings at the city park.
  • American Robin: much more prevalent than minimal numbers indicate; first seen carrying food on May 23rd.
  • Ovenbird: reported from the city park.
  • Orange-crowned Warbler: also only from the city park.
  • Bullock's Oriole x Baltimore Oriole: well seen foraging outside a window of my residence; seen earlier this year than the two sightings in 2016.
  • Black birds: Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Grackle were regular and common visitors to bird seed being provided to the local animals.
  • Great-tailed Grackle: heard then seen at a building just west of the livestock market and then seen a bit later in the parking lot of the elementary school this May record is much more indicative of breeding season occurrence that the 28 March record in 2016.
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak: only single birds seen on the north side.
  • On the 23rd, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and two Black-headed Grosbeak had a contention about habitat along Lake Shore Drive at the northeast extent of the mill pond.
  • Black-headed Grosbeak: more prevalent in the vicinity this year, with a pair first seen at the western edge of the city park on the 10th; a pair continued to be present at the place where the two grosbeak species contended over habitat.
  • Blue Grosbeak: male well seen in the north hills mid-month.

This is a list of the species observed.

Wildbirds Reported at Valentine During May
Proper Name 122 125 127 128 130 133 134 135 137 138 139 143 148 150 151
Canada Goose -- 8 -- -- 5 -- -- -- 8 11 -- 11 -- -- 11
Wood Duck -- 2 -- -- 3 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Blue-winged Teal -- -- -- -- 4 -- -- -- -- 4 -- -- -- -- --
Northern Shoveler -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- --
Wild Turkey -- 5 -- -- 7 -- -- -- 3 -- -- -- 1 -- 10
Pied-billed Grebe -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- --
Great Blue Heron -- 1 -- -- 1 -- -- -- 3 -- -- 1 1 -- 1
Turkey Vulture -- 8 -- -- 11 5 -- -- 7 -- -- 23 27 2 24
Western Osprey -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Red-tailed Hawk 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1 -- 2
Spotted Sandpiper -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 -- 1 1 -- -- -- -- 3
Eurasian Collared Dove -- 4 -- -- 7 -- -- -- 7 -- -- 4 3 -- 8
Mourning Dove -- 3 -- -- 3 -- -- 5 4 -- -- 4 4 -- 7
Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 --
Common Nighthawk -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- -- -- 2
Chimney Swift -- 6 -- -- 20 3 8 -- 13 -- -- 2 3 -- 8
Red-headed Woodpecker -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 4 -- -- -- -- -- 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Downy Woodpecker -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 -- 1 -- -- -- -- 1 1
Hairy Woodpecker -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1
Northern Flicker -- -- 1 -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1
American Kestrel -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- --
Eastern Phoebe -- -- -- 1 -- 1 1 -- 3 1 -- -- -- -- --
Eastern Wood Pewee -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 --
Least Flycatcher -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- --
Western Kingbird -- 1 -- -- 3 -- -- 6 6 -- -- -- -- -- 6
Eastern Kingbird -- -- 1 1 1 -- -- -- 6 -- -- 1 4 -- 2
Great Crested Flycatcher -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- 2 -- -- 1 2 1 3
Bell's Vireo -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 1
Warbling Vireo -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- 1 1 1 1
Red-eyed Vireo -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- -- 1 1
Blue Jay -- 1 -- -- -- 1 1 -- 3 -- -- 1 -- -- 1
American Crow -- 1 -- 1 1 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- 5 -- 2
Cedar Waxwing -- 3 -- -- -- 6 -- -- 5 -- -- 1 -- -- --
Black-capped Chickadee -- 3 -- -- 2 -- 2 -- 4 -- -- -- -- -- 1
Tree Swallow -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 2
Purple Martin -- 6 -- -- -- -- -- -- 6 -- -- -- -- -- --
Northern Rough-winged Swallow -- -- -- 2 23 12 -- -- 15 5 -- 6 6 -- 6
American Cliff Swallow -- -- -- -- -- -- 4 -- 5 50 -- 3 -- -- 35
Marsh Wren -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- --
House Wren -- 2 1 -- 5 -- 1 -- 14 -- -- 3 -- 3 6
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- --
Red-breasted Nuthatch -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- --
White-breasted Nuthatch -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- 2 -- -- 1 -- 1 --
Grey Catbird -- -- -- -- 2 -- 2 -- 6 -- -- 2 -- -- --
Brown Thrasher 1 -- -- 1 -- 1 -- -- 1 1 -- 2 -- -- --
Common Starling -- -- -- -- 3 -- -- -- 7 -- -- -- -- -- 2
Eastern Bluebird -- 1 -- -- -- 2 -- -- 1 -- 2 -- -- 1 1
Swainson's Thrush -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- 1 1 -- -- -- -- --
American Robin -- 10 -- -- 14 -- 4 -- 33 -- -- 10 6 2 25
House Sparrow -- -- -- -- 10 -- -- -- 12 -- -- -- -- -- 10
House Finch -- -- -- 4 -- -- -- -- 9 -- -- 4 4 -- 2
American Goldfinch -- -- -- 2 -- 2 1 -- 7 3 -- 3 3 -- 3
Pine Siskin -- -- -- 1 2 -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- --
Ovenbird -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- -- -- -- 1 --
Orange-crowned Warbler -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Common Yellowthroat -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- 3 3 -- -- -- -- 1
American Redstart -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 8 -- -- -- -- 2 --
American Yellow Warbler -- -- 2 -- 2 3 8 -- 5 -- -- 4 1 2 1
Myrtle Warbler -- -- -- -- 3 -- 2 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Yellow-headed Blackbird -- 1 2 -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Baltimore Oriole -- -- -- -- 3 -- -- -- 3 1 -- 2 1 -- 4
Bullock's Oriole x Baltimore Oriole -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Orchard Oriole -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 2 1 -- 2
Red-winged Blackbird -- 30 -- -- 25 25 -- -- -- 25 -- 20 15 -- 30
Brown-headed Cowbird -- 20 -- 1 25 -- 3 -- 14 -- -- 8 10 2 10
Common Grackle -- 12 -- -- 39 -- -- -- 40 -- -- 10 10 1 20
Great-tailed Grackle -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Song Sparrow -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Lincoln's Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Harris's Sparrow -- -- -- -- 2 1 1 -- 1 1 1 -- -- -- --
White-crowned Sparrow 1 1 -- 3 6 7 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
White-throated Sparrow -- 1 -- -- -- -- 6 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Chipping Sparrow -- 10 -- -- 9 6 6 -- 14 -- -- 6 5 2 9
Field Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 3 4 5 -- 6 6 2 6 2 -- 1 -- -- -- --
Lark Sparrow -- 1 -- 1 2 2 -- -- 4 -- 5 4 4 -- 6
Spotted Towhee 1 -- -- 1 3 1 2 -- 6 -- -- 1 1 1 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- 1 -- -- --
Black-headed Grosbeak -- -- -- 2 2 -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- 1 2
Northern Cardinal -- -- -- 1 1 1 -- -- 3 -- 1 3 -- -- 3
Blue Grosbeak -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- --
Indigo Bunting -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 1 1 -- 1

The tally of 82 species this year compares to 74 in 2017 and 86 in 2016. The combined total is 98 species and one hybrid sort.