28 November 2017

Prose on Sandhills Fiction Lacking

December, 2017. Grant County News book review.

Some fictional novels select a geographic location and include in the narrative specifics that are proper and realistic for the setting.

Two novels recently released by Shannon Baker include features of sandhill’s land and its people but in many instances, fit the setting to work with her perspective and selected prose.

Stripped Bare was issued in 2016 and Dark Signal was issued in the later extent of 2017.

Her stories convey many features of a place she calls Grand County. This corresponds with Grant county, where the county seat is named Hodgekiss. A mention is even made of the windmill in the middle of main street.

The primary character is a ranch wife named Kate Fox Conner, working on the Frog Creek Ranch while husband Ted Conner is the county sheriff.

Each of the two fictional works deal with murder, and for each issue, the crime scene is conveyed amidst the first few pages.

In the first instance there is a killing of an oldtime rancher – Eldon Edwards former owner of a place of about 100,000 acres – and then the tragic shooting of the sheriff. With her husband in the hospital, Kate Fox takes on the task of finding the perpetrator(s). During the period of a few days that are needed to find the criminals, Fox travels throughout the county, and elsewhere, included Broken Butte, where the hospital is located. This obviously refers to Alliance, Box Butte county.

During the days of action, various characters or topics are regularly mentioned to convey features of the western ranch country in order to set the scene in the fictional sandhills of the books.

In each rendition, visits by Fox with various residents provides a means to introduce different residents so as to convey various “norms” of the ranch country.

In the first novel, a compatriot for the investigation is the county sheriff of the county to the north, the name of which has also been changed, and alluded to in various dubious ways.

There are also details included on a media mogul interested in creating a buffalo scheme by purchasing large tracts of ranch land. The derivation of this character, Glenn Baxter is obvious … just think CNN and realities of bought ranches where bison now roam. In the prose, there is obvious derision conveyed when the sheriff has to drive his electric car.

An aside thrown into Stripped Bare is the unneeded trivia that each sibling of the Fox clan has been named after a particular actor or actress. Fox’s family and relatives are regularly mentioned and serve as foils to make her efforts more difficult because while they can be helpful, they can also be troublesome. The artistic mother is conveyed as a character than any resident could gossip about because of her means of artistic inspiration.

A peculiar dubious item is why autogate is always spelled “AutoGate” as if the things deserve a proper name rather than just being a normal feature of county roads.

Why is Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said to be three hours from Hodgekiss? The distance is obviously much greater, but Kate Fox has to drive there in a day while searching for a family member so the distance is lessened to fit the narrative.

As the narrative of the first book continues, Fox soon discovers while she is looking into activities on many locals, that her husband has been having an affair with an old flame from years ago. This occurred prior to the marriage of Ted and Kate, eight years previously.

As the book closes, once the murders were found, Fox uses a devious means to change election signs. This changes provides a perfect introduction to the next book in the series.

Book two, Dark Signal, first pages present the grisly murder of a train conductor, occurring on the day when Fox was sworn in as county sheriff.

A brutal event that occurred with a swinging railroad tie at a railway overpass seven miles easterly from Hodgekiss. Of course, there is no train overpass in reality anywhere in the vicinity until at Thedford.

The prose continues to include local characters to add interest to the narrative. Some of the names are similar to actual residents of the region, including Hayward, Manning, Messersmith and Ostrander. Her relatively local compatriot was Trey Ridnoir, a state patrol officer from the west, and a character that Fox could use to show she was such a better officer, despite her lack of real experience. Typical clich├ęs are indicated: eating the donuts (i.e., cinnamon rolls), not understand local norms and schedules, appreciating fast food, and improper judgements. Each thing Fox did was, however, an accomplishment to achieve the final goal of closing the investigation, even if done wrongly and without a thorough consideration of the situation and possible outcomes, including personal safety.

During her search to the murderer(s), there were threats. Each instance – including a bolt removed from a tie rod that caused a vehicle accident, a fence cut (three strand barb wire?) and a murdered calf – provided a reason to talk with another resident, and meant she was getting closer to the killer and for the author to convey particulars associated with what our primary character thought was representative. Questions eventually arise about a long-time county commissioner, also a railroad employee.

Another statement which is blatantly wrong concerns a statement that robins and kingfishers “raised a ruckus” at the calving lot. Although this happened on the “Frog Creek Ranch” there is no such waterway in the given geographic locality, and there is not enough of a creek for kingfishers to occur. If the author had mentioned kingbirds, there would be no reason to question this statement. Anytime a kingfisher raises a ruckus, it is always just a bird or two and they do not occur at lot housing calves, according to the realities of a bird watcher.

The time-frame for this second work of fiction is also just a few days, which, similar to the first novel, does not allow any real expansive development of setting and land features, other than the personal view of the primary characters. There was certainly enough said about the Fox clan and their family matters.

The author took the opportunity to convey the family of the dead man as being intolerant of the region of the people, as they had not lived there for decades and thus simply did not understand the reality.

During both periods of time conveyed in the books, the weather is consistently indicated as being cold and snowy, with perhaps a day or two of moderate conditions. Their time frame is separated by nine months.

Included in the second novel, the media mogul is mentioned time and again, as he has become a friend, regularly talked to on the telephone. There is also the mention of the “Black Socks” a religious sect following particular strictures of faith. Both of these items can be interpreted as being similar to modern-day reality of the region.

One more problematic item closed Dark Signal. With ongoing pressure from family, and to get a life, sheriff Fox leased a home nearby at Stryker Lake, a relative short distance from Hodgekiss. It did not look so nice upon her initial viewing with a realtor whose medical condition was well described. The house looked more like a home when she arrived to move in. Her “friend,” the billionaire mogul Baxter, had refurbished the house, adding appropriate furnishings and making the place comfortable and welcoming. It would seem that this would be illegal as a county official cannot accept donations for their personal gain as given by any private citizen. Furnishing a home would seemingly fit within this constraint.

These books are an enjoyable and easy read, but if you have any sense of history and place, do not expect to read them without repeatedly finding statements which are not factual and thus detract from the value of these novels, despite any proclamation to having them set in the unique Sand Hills.

The Baker fiction can be a great read, but it does not properly represent the genre when facts are wrong presented, again and again. When an author decides to use the Sand Hills as a setting, they should at least be able to suitable convey the particulars and indicate details that represent reality. An author should convey the reality of the place and use their writing skills to refer to their characters and to express a comfortable story.

Give the prose some space and pay attention to details but don’t ignore the facts.

Changes to Zoning Regulations Approved by Cherry County Planning Board

November 16, 2017. Grant County News 133(16): 1, 4.

Valentine — Several significant changes to the zoning regulations were approved by the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board at their monthly meeting during the evening on November 7th.

Items approved by a board member vote of 6-2 were:

  • a setback of one mile from a non-participant property boundary for any turbine
  • a setback of two mile from the dwelling of any non-participant
  • a setback of three times total wind tower height from any road right-of-way or other rights-of way; and associated with this: no wind energy conversion system (WECS) shall cast any shadow flicker on any public road
  • a setback of one mile from any public conservation lands including wildlife management areas and state recreation areas
  • no WECS shall exceed 35 dba at the nearest non-participant dwelling during normal weather conditions

There were 28 people that provided testimony during the public hearing, with 18 against wind turbines in the county, and ten turbine proponents. Many of the comments made represent the many topics heard since an initial proposal for a conditional use permit for a wind turbine facility south of Kilgore, many months ago. Several people that spoke had not originally planned to speak, but after hearing comments, added their testimony to the public discourse.

An essential item not included in the tentative regulation revisions was a suggestion that there be legal documentation that a non-participant in a project has waived any setback distance(s). It was suggested that there be a “wind energy easement” filed as an official county record. No action was taken on this.

These items will be further considered by the Cherry County commissioners, probably before the end of the year.

Also approved at the meeting was a document giving a report on three items, as requested by the commissioners. The zoning board had been working on the report since January, and during this period there was a “moratorium” on any conditional use permits associated with wind turbines. The three topics were:

1) influence of wind turbines on property values
2) findings regarding a wind turbine fire and how it will be dealt with by volunteer fire departments
3) impacts on health because of operational turbines

In addition, the report identified five other “major concerns” including viewscape/landscape; wildlife protection; powerline encroachment; decommissioning of WECS; and, property rights. There was also some verbiage that the commissioners review details associated with Nebraska legislative bill 504 and testimony presented at a public hearing at Lincoln on legislative resolution 125.

This report was approved by an 8-0 vote of planning board members.

More than 50 people attended the meeting held in the county court room.

The county commissioners will also have a public hearing before voting on any permanent changes to the zoning regulations.

14 November 2017

Newly Opened Saline Wetland Tract Attracts Wildbirds

A recently opened tract of saline wetlands north of Lincoln has been an exciting place to visit for area birders.

Marsh Wren Community Wetlands "just opened in July and most birders weren't aware of it until September when I told Esa Jarvi about it and that's when he started promoting it on NEBirds," said Shari Schwartz, of Lincoln who has visited the area a few times.

"A mixture of available habitat is a factor that explains the extended list of species," Schwartz said. "A walk along the path leads past saline habitats with narrow-leaf cattails that host good marsh sparrows, wooded edges that attract accipiters and sparrows that utilize brush, seedy prairie patches for grassland sparrows, and a pond for ducks that has shallow edges bordered with cattails that houses rails and bitterns. There's even a bald eagle nest that hopefully will be active this spring."

"It's fun to explore a place that is somewhat yet undiscovered," said Schwartz. "The unit was so new and untrammeled, there wasn't a single scrap of litter in the new gravel parking lot. That was a memorable moment in my life!"

"It's really awesome it was protected because you can see housing has already gone in on the east border of the property," said Schwartz. "One concern I noticed was the source of the emergent springs is at the base of a hill where there's a private corn field that you can guarantee is depositing all kinds of pesticide and fertilizer into the ground water there. The Lower Platte South NRD (LPSNRD) co-manages it so you'd think they'd care about that but there's likely nothing they can do about that adjacent private property."

Management goals for the area include, said Tom Malmstrom, saline wetlands coordinator for the NRD:

  • Restore a source of saline ground water to the historical basins.
  • Manipulate the surface water hydrology providing multiple benefits for migratory avian species, halophytes, fresh water and saline water dependent non migratory species.
  • Utilize the restored wetlands for the benefits of threatened and endangered species.

Site work included fence construction, sediment removal, drainage channel stabilization structures and sediment traps, designation of vegetation management zones, embankment repair, placement of water control structures, and installation of a wetland enhancement berm.

Site restoration work was recently completed, with funding for the site work and engineering provided by the LPSNRD and a 2012 Nebraska Environmental Trust grant to the City of Lincoln, and funds from the eastern saline wetlands project, said Malmstrom. Other support was provided through the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership, which consist of the City of Lincoln, LPSNRD, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Pheasants Forever.

The eastern portion of the tract comprising 80 acres was purchased in 2009, said Mamlstrom. An addition of 50 acres on the western extent of the property was purchased in 2012. The Lower Platte South NRD is the area owner. The eastern extent of the area was used for years as a hunting club.

Particularly notable features of the site includes: saline wetland habitat, freshwater pond, two spring seeps, the confluence of Little Salt Creek and Salt Creek which forms the southern boundary, a small woodland area where bald eagle nests occur. In addition to a foot path and overlook, there is a roadway that can be hiked. The area parking lot is on Alvo Road, eastward from Northwest 40th Street.

This is a tally of the species that have been observed at the area from near the end of September through the first week of November, 2017. More than 35 checklists have been submitted to ebirds, enough to make the site a birding hotspot. The number of species seen during a particular visit have ranged from eight to 53, as well as 46 and 47. The ebird "species list was initially compiled during a time frame for the peak intersection of breeding marsh birds and migrating sparrows making for a hefty total right out of the gate," said Schwartz.

Figure showing management work done at the wetland area.

  1. Greater White-fronted Goose
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Wood Duck
  4. American Wigeon
  5. Mallard
  6. Blue-winged Teal
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Northern Pintail
  9. Green-winged Teal
  10. Ring-necked Pheasant
  11. Wild Turkey
  12. Northern Bobwhite
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Double-crested Cormorant
  15. American Bittern
  16. Great Blue Heron
  17. Great Egret
  18. Green Heron
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Bald Eagle
  21. Northern Harrier
  22. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  23. Cooper's Hawk
  24. Red-tailed Hawk
  25. Rough-legged Hawk
  26. American Kestrel
  27. Merlin
  28. Virginia Rail
  29. Sora
  30. American Coot
  31. Killdeer
  32. Spotted Sandpiper
  33. Lesser Yellowlegs
  34. Wilson's Snipe
  35. Franklin's Gull
  36. Ring-billed Gull
  37. Herring Gull
  38. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  39. Mourning Dove
  40. Great Horned Owl
  41. Belted Kingfisher
  42. Red-headed Woodpecker
  43. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  44. Downy Woodpecker
  45. Hairy Woodpecker
  46. Northern Flicker
  47. Blue Jay
  48. American Crow
  49. Horned Lark

    Aerial view showing property boundary of the wetland area.

  50. Barn Swallow
  51. Black-capped Chickadee
  52. White-breasted Nuthatch
  53. House Wren
  54. Sedge Wren
  55. Marsh Wren
  56. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  57. Eastern Bluebird
  58. American Robin
  59. Gray Catbird
  60. European Starling
  61. Orange-crowned Warbler
  62. Nashville Warbler
  63. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  64. Palm Warbler
  65. Common Yellowthroat
  66. Spotted Towhee
  67. American Tree Sparrow
  68. Chipping Sparrow
  69. Clay-colored Sparrow
  70. Field Sparrow
  71. Vesper Sparrow
  72. Lark Sparrow
  73. Savannah Sparrow
  74. Grasshopper Sparrow
  75. Henslow's Sparrow
  76. Le Conte's Sparrow
  77. Nelson's Sparrow
  78. Fox Sparrow
  79. Song Sparrow
  80. Lincoln's Sparrow
  81. Swamp Sparrow
  82. White-throated Sparrow
  83. Harris's Sparrow
  84. White-crowned Sparrow
  85. Dark-eyed Junco
  86. Dickcissel
  87. Red-winged Blackbird
  88. Eastern Meadowlark
  89. Western Meadowlark
  90. Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  91. Common Grackle
  92. Brown-headed Cowbird
  93. House Finch
  94. Pine Siskin
  95. American Goldfinch

There will certainly be more species observed as birders continue their visits. Especially valuable will be details on species present during the breeding season.

This area is an addition to other saline wetlands protected and which occur mostly northward of Lincoln.

"There are approximately 4,309 acres of Nebraska’s eastern saline wetlands remaining," Malmstrom said. "To date, approximately 1,590 acres of these wetlands are protected through conservation partner ownership and are open to the public."

13 November 2017

Chronology of Autumn Turkey Vulture Movement at Valentine

Turkey Vultures are a common summer resident in the vicinity of north Valentine, and the number present increases as fall migration occurs. By mid-summer of 2017, there were more than 100 that would congregate in tree snags at the western extent of Government Pond, immediately west of the Valentine Fish Hatchery.

From mid-September through early October, once the vultures left the roost in the morning, a group of them would soar westerly along the ridge of the Minnechaduza Creek valley. With their regular occurrence, several days were spent recording how many vultures were seen and the time of their occurrence. Details were also occasionally kept on local weather conditions, notably temperature, wind speed and its direction.

Information was derived from 88 records of observation as designated to a particular 15-minute period of time (i.e., all records between 10:30 to 10:44 within period for 10:30) for the same vantage point a bit more than one mile westward of the vulture night roost. Birds were denoted when they passed a particular line of demarcation of the landscape. A few of the records were associated with the nearby Valentine Mill Pond and the city of Valentine.

Regarding general bird movement, for most of the morning observations the vultures were going westerly. Those associated with late day times were going easterly, likely returning to the roost site.

In general, vultures would not occur until after 9 a.m. When there were windy conditions early in the morning, there would be vultures earlier than on calm days. If there had any precipitation or extensive dew, the vultures would also be seen flying at a later time.

These are a couple of examples of details associated with sightings of a greater number of vultures on a particular morning:


  • 09/27/2017: one soaring westerly at 1004
  • one soaring westerly at 1009
  • three soaring westerly at 1012
  • two soaring westerly at 1024
  • one soaring easterly at 1042; a bird returning easterly was not typical for the morning observations
  • one seen at 1110; calm winds with a few wispy clouds; temp at 59o
  • one at 1141 soaring above in slight winds less than 5 mph

Since an overall tally for a period of time was not determined, the difference in birds going westerly or easterly does not influence the extent of overall occurrence numbers as that particular detail was not determined.

  • 09/29/2017: ten in an obvious bunch moving westward above the pine-clad ridge; northeast wind at 6 mph, temp 54o and partly cloudy; the ten occurred at ten at 1004 and then another one at 1008 a.m.

Later in the day, there was a flock of 27 seen at the North Park Ridge, a prairie area just to the north of the roost site. Notations indicate: at 1640, soaring above the hills with some others above the heart city; what a magnificent sight; sunset near 7:30 p.m.

This is an example of a sightings on the morning of October 1st:

  • three at 9:45
  • one at 0950
  • three at 9:54; going westerly; at 10 a.m. 62o, winds ssw at 12 mph with gusts up to 18 mph
  • six soaring about above the ridge at 1008
  • one at 1010
  • one at 1012
  • two at 1017
  • two at 1020

The records kept indicate that the vultures set flight and were moving in small groups and from 915 to 1045 a.m.

Daytime Chronology of Turkey Vultures at the North Lake Shore Hills and Valentine
Time of Day 9/17 9/19 9/20 9/21 9/22 9/24 9/26 9/27 9/28 9/29 10/1 10/3 10/4
815 - - - - - - - - - - - 2 -
900 - - - - 3 - - - - - - - -
915 - 7 - 12 2 - - - - - - 1 -
930 - 6 - 5 - - - - - 1 - - -
945 - 5 - 2 - - 2 - - 6 8 - -
1000 - 1 5 3 - 1 1 5 2 11 8 - -
1015 - - - 3 - - - 2 2 - 4 - 1
1030 1 1 1 2 - - - 1 13 4 - - -
1045 4 3 - - - - - - - - - - -
1100 2 - - - - - - 1 - - - - 1
1130 - - - - - - 8 1 - - - - -
1300 - - - - 1 - - - - - - - -
1330 5 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1430 2 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1600 - - - 10 - - - 2 - - - - -
1615 - 2 - - - - - - - - - - 1
1630 - - - - - - - - - 27 - - -
1645 - - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
1700 - - - - - - 1 3 - - - - -
1730 - - - - - - - 1 - - - - -
1815 - - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
1830 - - - - - - 2 - - - - - -
1915 - 1 - - - - - - - - - - -

With only a relatively lesser percentage of the vultures noted going westerly along the Minnechaduza valley ridge, obviously many of the vultures went elsewhere. On occasion they could be seen going southwesterly. The destination for others is not known.

If there was one mystery for the breeding season occurrence of a few vultures and then the migratory season congregation, what did they eat? The carcass of a fox was placed at a spot visible to the soaring vultures, but it was never even visited.

Most of the roost trees used by the vultures are pine tree snags that are the result of a wild fire in 2012. The extent of these trees has decreased through the years as the trees rot and eventually fall to the ground. Eventually the snag trees now present will be gone so the vultures will have to find an alternative roosting site.

Testimony on Proposed Regulation Changes for Wind Turbines in Cherry County


Comments read November 7, 2017 during public hearing held by the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board. While reading this, additional comments were conveyed on the need for turbine facility owners to have greater responsibility to extinguish any wind turbine fire.

Although I am personally opposed to the placement of any wind turbines within Cherry county, some of the proposed changes to the county zoning regulations are steps in the right direction.

Notably deficient, however, is the review of impacts on land values due to wind turbines. This bare perspective is not thorough and in no way reflects what should be a comprehensive review of the topic. For one, there have not been enough comparisons and the details given are so sparse as to be misleading.

I am supportive of the proposed changes that will increase setbacks, including to a two mile distance from non-participant dwellings -- as needed as a bare minimum based upon experience of residents near turbine facilities in Holt county -- and a mile from the nearest nonparticipating property owner. Keeping turbine flicker off any county roads is also essential.

Also important is setting a 35 dba noise level for the nearest nonparticipating dwelling.

Addressing turbine fire concerns, the stance that the fire departments will only secure the area is reasonable. There does however need to be active involvement by the turbine owner to suppress any fire in the quickest manner possible. A turbine fire should not just be left to burn as this allows toxic fumes to spread and places a undue burden on the fire crew volunteers needed to monitor the site.

It is essential that the development of any wind turbine facility first and foremost respect the essential values appreciated by residents and that any facility not degrade the land and rural settings essential to the citizens of Cherry county as well as others which enjoy this country.

06 November 2017

Saturday Drive in Cherry County Country

With a temperate day of latter autumn expected, a drive to look for birds was done through eastern Cherry county on Saturday, November 4th.

The bird-watching route began east of Brownlee, and continued west and then northerly, including along Pass Creek to Swan Lake, west of Brownlee, along the road from Brownlee to Highway 97, then north to Spur 16B and past the northwest edge of Valentine NWR. Along the way, birds were recorded for seventeen distinct localities.

This is the tally of 35 species seen, based upon 72 records of occurrence. There were no large numbers of waterfowl at different water bodies but small-sized flocks of different species at the different places.

  • Canada Goose: only at Swan Lake
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Pintail
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Canvasback: enjoyed at Hackberry Lake
  • Redhead
  • Bufflehead
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Wild Turkey: a flock of 17 in a mown hay meadow in northern Wamaduze Valley
  • Common Pheasant
  • Pied-billed Grebe: the three species of grebes were all seen at Alkali Pond, along Highway 97
  • Black-necked Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant: at Swan Lake and Hackberry Lake
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Northern Harrier: three along Brush Creek and also present elsewhere
  • Bald Eagle: a few seen with single adult birds at each place observed
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rough-legged Buzzard: in a tree on the north side of Brush Creek
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel: single birds foraging along the county roads
  • Merlin: a very pale bird perched atop a tree on the north side of Brush Creek
  • American Crow
  • Horned Lark
  • Common Starling
  • American Robin: nice numbers at several different places
  • Red Crossbill: four heard flying over Swan Lake
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-winged Blackbird: flocks of hundreds at two locations
  • Brewer's Blackbird: amidst the Red-winged Blackbirds east of Brownlee
  • Harris's Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • American Tree Sparrow

The weather was especially enjoyable at Swan Lake, when early in the afternoon there were warmer temperatures, slight winds and partly cloudy skies. Conditions at this place made the days' outing especially enjoyable.

During the day, 150 miles were travelled during about four hours of observation time. A special thanks to Gordon Warrick for his company and providing transportation.

18 September 2017

Valentine Area Birds in August, 2017

This month was very humdrum with hot temperatures and troublesome transportation be limitave, especially when there was a good book or two to read in an absorptive manner.

There are a few notable comments, including:

  • Wild Turkey: sparse with no young seen at at a time when the poults should have been walking about as a brood with a hen bird
  • Turkey Vulture: It was nice to see good numbers soaring past in the mornings, with numbers greater than expected in comparison to previous years; their roost is east of the Valentine City Park, on pine tree snags occurring due to a wild fire several years ago, and whose condition continues to deteriorate; this site was not visited because of not having any interest in walking there on a hot evening!
  • Great Horned Owl: seemingly much more expressive this month than a year ago when they were not even heard, which is perhaps due to "night-owl" times and keeping the front door open to dissipate a days worth of hot air
  • Common Nighthawk: only one night of any notable number of migrating birds, despite several nights of watching; during the evening of the peak count, there were also 50 seen easterly of Valentine near the Borman Bridge WMA
  • Cedar Waxwing: known to nest along Lake Shore Drive on the north side of the mill pond, as single fledgling liked to sit atop a sprig of a blue-spruce conifer where it was readily seen multiple times, where the parents had been initially heard; often the youngster sat alone as if it did not want to depart, but that eventually did occur as the local waxwings gathered to forage in a greater vicinity
  • Purple Martin: a few initially roosted on power lines along the Cowboy Trail west and then east of Main street, as they also congregated atop the cellular tower in central downtown; later in the month, fewer numbers congregated near 8th and Main streets, with some of the birds foraging over the mill pond and hills to the north
  • American Cliff Swallow: nested on the dam across Minnechaduza creek that creates the mill pond, though not realized until later in the season due to limited visits to the particular locale
  • House Wren: a pair nested north of my residence and another to the south in the fixture of a yard light; both nests were successful

There were no Chimney Swift roost counts done, as my ride was not working properly so only a morning trip was taken into the city. Also not noted this year was any Ruby-throated Hummingbird activity. One residence that had formerly had a feeder did not have this attractant this year.

Efforts to attract species by providing food failed. A first effort to see if they might be attracted to horse grain failed as there was no interest except by grasshoppers. There was no interest in dried mealworms which were marketed as wildbird and poultry food. Once the birds showed no interest, not even a red ant colony had any interest in the edibles. At least the American Goldfinch appreciated the goatsbeard seeds, while the plume was discarded.

There were 53 species observed as recorded on basically four dates when records were kept. Excessive heat was an issue on several days when the high temperature of the day exceeded 100o and were often the highest temperature in the state of Nebraska. Most of the records are associated with north Valentine and especially in the immediate vicinity of my residence. Sometimes the best bird times of watching birds is while watching those outside a residence window.

Species             Julian Date > 218 227 238 239 243
Canada Goose 5 1 -- -- --
Wood Duck -- -- 8 -- 3
Wild Turkey -- -- 3 -- --
Great Blue Heron -- 1 -- -- --
Turkey Vulture 28 31 34 -- 17
Bald Eagle -- 1 -- -- --
Red-tailed Hawk -- 1 -- -- --
Killdeer 2 -- -- -- --
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 -- -- --
Rock Dove -- 5 14 -- 16
Eurasian Collared Dove 18 9 4 -- 4
Mourning Dove 9 19 6 -- 4
Great Horned Owl -- 1 -- -- 2
Common Nighthawk 3 2 9 70 --
Chimney Swift 17 5 2 -- --
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 -- -- --
Red-headed Woodpecker -- -- 1 -- --
Red-bellied Woodpecker -- 1 -- -- --
Downy Woodpecker 1 1 -- -- 1
Northern Flicker 1 1 1 -- 2
Eastern Phoebe -- 2 -- -- 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee -- 1 -- -- --
Western Kingbird 2 6 -- -- --
Eastern Kingbird 5 3 -- -- 2
Great Crested Flycatcher 4 4 1 -- 1
Bell's Vireo -- 1 -- -- --
Warbling Vireo 1 -- -- -- --
Red-eyed Vireo -- 1 1 -- --
Blue Jay 7 6 1 -- 5
Cedar Waxwing 7 12 4 -- --
Black-capped Chickadee 2 4 2 -- 2
Purple Martin 3 45 18 -- 10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5 -- -- -- --
American Cliff Swallow 12 -- -- -- --
House Wren 8 11 4 -- 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 1 3 -- --
White-breasted Nuthatch 2 1 1 -- 2
Grey Catbird 2 2 -- -- 4
Brown Thrasher -- 1 -- -- 1
Common Starling 4 23 -- -- --
Eastern Bluebird 1 4 -- -- 4
American Robin 23 20 -- -- 2
House Sparrow 42 25 -- -- 8
House Finch -- 19 6 -- 8
American Goldfinch 6 3 3 -- --
Common Yellowthroat 3 -- -- -- --
American Yellow Warbler 1 -- -- -- --
Red-winged Blackbird 20 12 35 -- --
Common Grackle 1 6 -- -- --
Chipping Sparrow 2 7 -- -- --
Lark Sparrow 1 4 -- -- --
Spotted Towhee 1 -- -- -- --
Northern Cardinal 2 1 -- -- --

This tally compares to 64 species noted on 12 dates during this month in 2016, when there were a few more localities visited.