31 October 2009

Latest Versions of Buildings Hazardous for Migratory Birds?

Designs for buildings to be constructed or pending construction that have been recently presented indicate ongoing plans for structures that will be hazardous to migratory birds in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska.

This is a gallery of the buildings. The renderings readily convey the hazards which commonly cause bird strikes, which in most cases result in the death of the bird!

This building is for the offices of the DLR Architectural firm. The local press publishing an article proclaiming it would be a "green structure" based on the LEED criteria, which, however, does not consider "bird-safe" features. There was no reply received when an inquiry was sent to the company, asking about how the structure would be bird safe.

Perhaps, they are boast about attaining one supposed goal, while ignoring how their place will probably lead to bird deaths.

There is the acclaimed proverb: "Ignorance is bliss," and perhaps this would apply in this instance, and others as presented here.

Notice the extensive use of glass on the north facade, in association with the prominent landscaping.

An unidentifiable carcass of a bird was noted in latter October at the adjacent building, so it is obvious that bird-strikes occur in this vicinity.

In Lincoln, there is a corporate structure also touted for being green, according to press in the local newspaper. Once again, this supposed accolade does not include making the place safe for migratory birds.

This rendering shows the typical, modern and deadly combination of glass and landscaping.

Another new structure is to be built at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It is an eye institute for people. Once again, note how the design architects do not have any eye for designing a building which will not be a hazard for birds.

This is another rendering that indicates how architects design buildings without any regard for the environment, except that it meets the "holy-grail" of the LEED criteria, which is a biased perspective on what is truly green.

Their ignorance is a sad statement about their efforts for green design, and the buildings they get built are nothing but hazards for birds!

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln continues to erect buildings with readily apparent hazards to birds. The campus of this university is readily known as a deadly place with hundreds of known bird strikes. Campus officials know about the casualties, but their response is nothing short of tepid.

These pictures show what will get placed on the pending "Innovation Campus" on the north end of the current campus, at the former fairgrounds.

There is no innovation apparent in these building designs! More birds will be casualties at the glass structures to be erected. The project manager for this development is the same as for Aksarben Village, where the new buildings were projected as being deleterious for birds, which has been confirmed this autumn.

The newest addition to the "wall of structures" along the riverfront and just to the west at Omaha is a second condominium that will be perched adjacent to the channel of the Missouri River. Another Riverfront Condominium is being built, with the groundbreaking on October 30, 2009.

There is the usual combination of glass, landscaping and location which will be hazardous for birds. The Missouri River is a major corridor for migratory birds, though this fact is basically unknown or ignored by building designers that continue to get buildings with hazards built.

Officials are estatic about the new building, as their are ignorant of how the new buildings continue to impact avifauna.

The mayor of Omaha, Jim Suttle, upon the ground-breaking for the Riverfront condos, proclaimed his "glee" to have another big tower be built and more cranes obvious on the skyline. His comments also stated how there should be more building construction, including how he would like to see the Wallstreet Tower building built in downtown.

The latter building, based on obvious features shown in architectural renderings, will be the Wallstreet Tower of glass. Based on its location just south of the "history park" created by the First National Bank, there will be a multitude of bird strikes since the 33 story building will have an entirely glass exterior.

It is readily obvious that architects are wrapped up in a short-sighted view without any regard to how their "monstrosities" are killing birds!

29 October 2009

Distinctive Flora and Diversity of Birds Abound at Spring Lake Park at Omaha

A small tract of woods of near the bluffs of the Missouri River valley has attracted enthusiasts of flora and fauna for more than a century, and continues to be the focus of attention because of its natural features and their associated values.

Originally established as the privately-owned Syndicate Park - named because it was owned by a group of businesses - in South Omaha, when the city annexed the community in 1917, the place became public property and was designated as Spring Lake Park.

Long before it was a park, a little-known plant enthusiast found the setting of deciduous woods an appealing natural setting to find distinctive plants he could pluck and preserve as botanical specimens. As William Cleburne continued his endeavors, his collection grew, and although the local park was just one place to study Great Plains botany, it was close to his residence on south 12th street, so was undoubtedly visited on many a pleasant day suited to appreciating local nature.

Cleburne obviously gave a lot of attention to botanical collection. His first Nebraska collection in the University herbarium is from 1869, and his last in 1904, according to Dr. Robert Kaul, a botanist at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

In 1904, a short blurb in some papers and proceedings announced his donation of 2200 species of 800 genera to the Omaha Public Library. The material had been collected in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Cleburne was associated with the railroad, and may have used work trips to gather plant material, or had gotten them via postal correspondence.

Spring Lake Park Acreage

• The tract north of F Street includes a bit more than 40 acres, which includes the swimming pool and vehicle drives
• South of F Street is a tract of about 9.5 acres of woodland
• East of the Golf Course is a wooded hillside of ca. 7 acres
• There is also a tract of woods east of the park along Spring Lake Boulevard, which is ca. 2.7 acres and is privately owned by Spring Lake LLC.]

(Information primarily derived from details given by the web-site of the Douglas County assessor).

Flora is the first known bit of history for this particular place, but birds came to the forefront in the 1930s.

A short but indicative note presented some of the first species that occurred amongst the park's habitats: Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, and a completely distinctive sighting of the Red Crossbill, according to information published by the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union.

Winter conditions seemed to have a certain attraction, with other birds notes given for December 1933, and January 1937. The notes are brief but they are among the first history for birds at this urban parkland.

A Place for Botany

When David Sutherland arrived at Omaha in 1968 as a newly degreed professor with a particular expertise in botany - taking a teaching and research position at the University of Nebraska at Omaha - certainly he was interested in places to find plants that would help in understanding the distribution of local flora. One of the first places he discovered was Spring Lake Park.

Dr. Sutherland, a co-author of the recently published tome Flora of Nebraska, knew about Mr. Cleburne. He must have "collected up a storm" with about 6000 botanical specimens in the collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. he professor of botanical studies, went looking for the wedge grass (Sphenopholis obtusata var. major) found by Cleburne, and successfully found a specimen in June 1973 in the northwest portion of the park.

Spring Lake Park is a good example" of an upland oak-hickory deciduous forest, the professor said. "I don't think anyone realizes that. The park is one of the better public parks for native flora in Omaha. The woods are a fine example of eastern deciduous forest and include some native tree species like redhaw (Crataegus mollis) and shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) that are not very common in other city parks." He mentioned that the park was probably more open in historic times.

Professor Sutherland has made many recent visits to the park. On a recent autumn outing in 2009, a graduate student went along on the days' foray with the professor, currently teaching Flora of the Great Plains to UNO students.

Bluebead, September 2002. These images courtesy of Dr. David M. Sutherland.

Moonseed, October 2001.

Shagbark hickory, May 2000.

Redhaw, October 2002.

There are no trails, he mentioned during a recent interview, so the two botanists just walked in and wandered about. This season he collected seeds of Arnoglossum atriplicifolium and sent them to a colleague in Texas. There is a colony of this tall herbaceous perennial species at the edge of the woods along F Street.

"You never know what you are going to find," Professor Sutherland mentioned. His remark was derived from something other than a botanical view, as he mentioned many other things which should not occur in a park, especially the amount of trash and tires.

"The park seems quite neglected and filled with junk," Sutherland said, mentioning the pervasive trash and thrown-away tires.

"During the winter someone puts in salt licks to attract deer so the park is way overpopulated with deer, which are not very kind to the plants because of their browsing."

Invasive species are negatively impacting the woods, that are "filling in with invasive trees, shrubs, and vines, including the tree-of-heaven invading at the tree line. Wild staghorn and mulberry trees are also invading" the park setting, and worsening conditions for the native flora.

Dr. Sutherland would like to see officials of the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department - the managers of parks in Omaha - recognize the natural values of the park resources and do something to conserve them. He also mentioned the need to control those invasive species.

One possibility that he likes is to promote the park as an important site of a "green corridor" along the Missouri River.

Spring Lake Park is located northward of other natural areas along the western side of the Missouri river. Starting at Haworth Park and Fontenelle Forest east of Bellevue, riverside woods extend from the northeast corner of Sarpy County into Douglas County and Mandan Park and the flats on its eastern side - where piles of "unneeded" rubble occur - and onward to the Mount Vernon Gardens (also a city park), then further along the hillside which is City of Omaha property, past the river bridge where the potential exists for developing suitable landscaping where houses were recently removed when the road system was redeveloped and the State of Nebraska became owner of the property parcels.

This vicinity is near the southeast corner of Spring Lake Park. The greenspace also continues onward to the Interstate corridor.

Eastward about a third of a mile is the former Riverview Park, now the Henry Doorly Zoo grounds. Across this highway to the north, is the Lauritzen Gardens, promoted as Omaha's botanical gardens, which does have an extensive amount of plantings, but with some valuable relicts of natural habitats.

The Professor, also suggested the park environs could be used for nature study, with the readily accessible opportunity for students to get outside to learn in the natural setting of the woods. Spring Lake School is adjacent to the park and could be a readily appreciated asset for educating kids.

Outdoor Days With the Birds

Natural places always are attractive to wild birds. Trees and shrubs in this park are a natural haven for a myriad of birds that occur during each year along the valley of the Missouri River.

Birds are always about, but irregular visits are made by observers, so any notes on species occurrence occur to a much lesser extent.

During recent years, contributors have gathered notes that do convey a realization and understanding of which particular species occur during the seasons.

When Jim Kovanda renewed his acquaintance with the park environs - having grown up nearby - he found the place was "a good habitat because of the woods and springs that were attractive to birds. It was a good place to bird because it was conducive to the occurrence of songbirds." During visits in recent years with his wife, Sandy, there was always a good diversity and number of birds they carefully watched and enjoyed.

Highlights he recalls include viewing or hearing Barred Owls, with Carolina Wrens and Fox Sparrows "pretty nice birds to see." During the spring and autumnal migrations, there have been different warblers garbed in their myriad of seasonal colors and patterns of plumage, leading to challenges in determining their identity, as the birds were subtly marked or hidden among the foliage, making a positive identification a challenge.

Audubon group at Spring Lake Park. Images courtesy of Janet Bonet.

Members of the Audubon group.

The Kovanda's have not visited the park in the past few months, because of the problem with parking on the north portion of the park, as the gates which block the access roads cause concerns with parking because of the potential for getting a parking ticket for blocking a gated entry.

Spring Lake Park would be a "nicer place to bird if the habitat was kept clean and made more conducive to visit," Kovanda said. He mentioned that there could also be "less cutting of grass," and how there could be more attention given to promoting the natural habitats, to "keep it as natural as it wants to be."

A compilation of records available for the park, indicate that a wide variety of species have been documented at the park place during the past ten years.

Among the 101 known species noted since 2000 - based on more than 850 observations - there is the very recently noted Eastern Bluebird, heard during a bird survey. Also recently seen was the American Woodcock, found near the spring seeps on three different days in September 2003. This was a new species for the park's avifauna. Also recently noted was the Great Horned Owl, a common species in the region.

There is one particular species which is a special species of the park. During the harsh months of winter, the little bits of habitat created by the flowing spring waters, are a haven for a feathered mite, the Winter Wren which relies on havens of this sort. The first observation was made on Halloween day in 2003, and other sightings followed during the final weeks of that year.

Spring north of F Street. October 19, 2009. J.E. Ducey photographs.

Bubbling spring south of F Street. October 19, 2009. This picture was taken after all of the trash had been removed from where the underground water pours from the ground, and can be visually appreciated.

This bit of a wren is known to prefer places where unfrozen water occurs during the winter, whether it is at Spring Lake Park, Elmwood Park or far to the northwest along the Niobrara River. The springs at Spring Lake Park - as well as at Mandan Park - certainly are a factor conducive to providing suitable winter habitat.

Birds noted at Spring Lake Park since A.D. 2000

  • Snow Goose - flyovers
  • Canada Goose - flyovers
  • Wood Duck
  • Wild Turkey
  • Double-crested Cormorant - flyovers
  • American Bittern
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Bald Eagle
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Woodcock
  • Franklin's Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Chimney Swift
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Philadelphia Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Carolina Wren
  • House Wren
  • Winter Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Swainson's Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Gray Catbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Ovenbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Wilson's Warbler
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Eastern Towhee
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lincoln's Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Harris's Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Brewer's Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • Common Redpoll
  • Pine Siskin
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

Some of the species recorded, though not directly part of the park's environs, can easily be seen flying overhead on their route along the Missouri River bird flyway.

One species noted prior to 2000, but still obviously present in the woods is the Eastern Screech-Owl. Add to the list the dynamic Killdeer and that one time observation of the Red Crossbill to complete the tally.

There are additional species which would be expected to occur in the arboreal realm of the park's natural settings, if birders were to visit on a regular, though occasional basis, and present their sightings to others to realize.

A recent visit to conduct a bird survey indicated there were at least 21 species present on 19 October. Noted among the autumn setting were the American Goldfinch, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird (heard), Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren (loudly proclaiming their presence), Chimney Swift in the aerial realm, Common Grackle, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Spotted Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrow, Wild Turkey (a flock foraging on the slopes of the hill at the northwest portion of the park), and the vivacious Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Every visit can be different in regards to what bird-life might be about!

A Neighborhood's Park

Looking back about 25 years, Janet Bonet, a resident of the Spring Lake neighborhood was captivated with the park's setting and since then has worked to one degree or another to make it an attractive place for people and natural residents. She has coordinated trash removal days - working to get rid of pesky tires rolled into the hollows - with poaching and litter other problems. "It should be harder to dump trash" in the park, she said.

Grants have been written to acquire funds to further park improvements. Working with local community enthusiasts, Bonet noted several accomplishments. In May 1999, there were 33 trees planted - species included the white swamp oak, cottonwood, red cedar and linden - in a project financed by the Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2002, a grant was received from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to prepare a plan to restore habitats.

The park is "priceless as green space and wildlife habitat and provides an opportunity to get out of the urban scramble. We have migrating big brown bat and then some small brown bats that stay all year. As the older trees are lost and none replaced, the bats are losing habitat."

"One of the three neighborhood visioning sessions facilitated by the Kansas State University team in 1999 just before we wrote the NETF grant that got funded." Left to right are Janet Bonet, Margaret Engstrom, and Dorothy Patach a South Omaha community activist. These images courtesy of Janet Bonet.

Jaime, James and John Bonet planting trees received through the Bockley grant.

Meeting at the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, discussing Spring Lake Park, July 2000.

Broken sewer north of F street.

Historically, there had been a lake at the park - mentioning three ponds present in the 1870s and 1880s at Syndicate Park - and Bonet would like to see the former ball-field - now growing domestic grasses - to become a stormwater catchment basin, rather than having the runoff flow into the woods.

The whole community can take advantage" of the park setting, Bonet said.

The park needs to be improved so people can have a better experience when they visit, Bonet said. She is currently continuing her efforts - despite somewhat limited involvement due to the uncertainties of the massive and pending sewer separation project underway in eastern Omaha - to get the community aware of the park and involved with making it an attractive place for residents.

Some opportunities for the future include could include:

  • Improving walking trails to 13th street, and onward to the new bridge across the Missouri River, and over to Iowa.
  • Modifying the sledding hill to make it safer for kids and other sledders;
  • Improved handicap access and parking;
  • Closing the west portion of the park to prevent motorcycles and bicycles from creating unwanted trails; and
  • Getting rid of the illegal dumping of trash.

Spring Lake Park needs to be developed "in a manner conducive to natural creatures and attractive to local residents," Bonet said.

Green Space Opportunities

The Omaha Parks and Recreation Department is aware of the natural values of Spring Lake Park.

"We have many parks which have natural habitat areas and we consider these areas important," said Walter B. Mertz, a part-time arborist with the department. "We encourage wild life to inhabit" these area "by this nondisturbance" of natural growth.

We "believe springs are absolutely a benefit and a reason we have wildlife at certain areas, and we want to take care of those resources," Mertz said.

The Parks department continues to evaluate "grow-back" areas at different parks, said Brook Bench, also with Parks, Recreation and Public Property. One potential site for this is at Spring Lake Park in west of the former access drive in the northwest portion of the park and northward to the former ball diamond.

He said the department staff is learning more about these areas, and how residents respond to these places, and react to not having the grass mown and the growth of vegetation.

A representative of the department has been closely involved with the Environment Omaha initiative.

We "will agree with their objectives and willing to work closely" to achieve stated objectives, said Steve Scarpello, administrator of the department.

In the recently released report by the Natural Areas section, there are a couple of pertinent items related to recognition and management of natural habitats within the city.

One objective states: "Establish an ongoing inventory process to identify and evaluate sensitive areas (steep slopes, ravines, bluffs, wooded areas and highly erodible land and flood prone areas,), and both cultural and aesthetic features (Natural Habitat Inventory)."

A second objective in this section is to "Preserve native plant communities as a valued community resource, as habitat for native biota, and as a means to maintain ecosystem processes."

The Environment Omaha effort does not indicate any sources of funding which may be needed to achieve the state objectives.

An environmental coordinator has been recently hired to focus on how the City of Omaha can be "more green."

Spring Lake Park has numerous values associated with its natural features, though it is obvious that recognized problems need to be addressed in the near term to maintain the native flora and different sorts of fauna.

27 October 2009

International Show Will Highlight Birds Shown on Stamps

The sixth annual show presenting the international diversity of stamps depicting birds will be held in April 2010 at Antwerp, Belgium. [Birdpex 2010 graphic]

Birdpex 6 is an exhibition for postage stamps with a bird theme. The event is held every four years, always in a different country.

"This exhibition is open for every bird stamp exhibitor, beginner or advanced collector. Not only exhibits of thematic philately are invited, but also maximaphily, postal history, traditional philately, open class and one frame," according to information at the website for the event.

There will be other competitive exhibitions held concurrently with Birdpex 6 on 9-12 April, according to Koenraad Bracke, a planner for the event, whom resides in Antwerp.

  • The international FEPA (European) exhibition ANTVERPA 2010 (1600 frames)
  • National Belgian exhibition (600 frames)
  • Birdpex, the international thematic world exhibition for bird stamps, which is a competition for all philatelic exhibits with birds as topic, taking place every four years, always in another country.

This Birdpex coincides with an anniversary of Belgian bird stamp series of André Buzin, started in 1985, so there have been 100 bird species shown on 100 different stamps in 25 years, said Bracke in an email. This "must be a world record in bird philately. There are many stamp collectors of this bird issue and even a study group of the 'Birds of André Buzin,'" he said. [Belgian bird stamps set by Andre Buzin]

Buzin is a Belgian bird stamp designer, and regularly cooperates with nature conservation organization where a percentage of his stamp souvenirs are fund-raising for certain nature projects, Bracke said.

"Bird stamps are amongst the most popular topics in philately, and certainly so in Belgium," he indicated. "The highest rewarded thematic exhibit ever is also about 'birds' and this one will be in the honour class."

On 4 January 2010, the Belgian postal department will issue a vending machine stamp of BIRDPEX showing a Barn Owl (after a painting of Buzin) and logo of Birdpex. The Belgium postal department will also celebrate the event with a special sheetlet to be issued on the 12th of April 2010.

"This kind of thematic exhibition is very interesting for non philatelists too," Bracke said. "In these competitive exhibits you tell a story and you illustrate this with all kind of philatelic material."

Bird-stamp enthusiasts organized this type of birds only exhibition in 1999 and this was in cooperation with the local nature conservation group, Bracke said. "Many bird philatelists are also active in nature conservation," noting that in his free time he is also a also a nature guide and responsible for the local owl working group.

Birdpex 6 will continue the cooperation with national nature conservation organizations, Bracke said, and they will be represented at booths at the stamp show.

Bracke is looking forward to Birdpex 6, with its opportunity for "most of the visitors being interested in the smallest but the finest to observe the three exhibitions."

"Because birds are so popular we hope to attract many non philatelists too," he noted.

Bird stamps have changed during the years, with current modern stamps markedly different from past issues.

Historically there were the "very nice traditional engraved stamps which you may not find any more these days," Bracke said. "Nevertheless, you still have nice engraved stamps these days, but in another style." Some "countries are very inventive now with modern printing techniques and curiosa (i.e., next year in Belgium a sheetlet with flowers where you will find the seed of this flower in the edge of this sheet, so you can plant this stamp). [Set of bird stamps issued by Brazil in conjunction with Birdpex 2010]

"Countries with many engraved stamps are still popular collecting areas," Bracke noted, citing Sweden as an example. There are also "nice photographic stamps" from the United Kingdom, presenting a series of the Barn Owl and Kestrel, "where you can see the flight from one picture to another.

"On the other hand you have countries now who want to make fast money with stamps and are issuing birds that even are not typical for their country," he noted, mentioning a stamp from Tanzania which shows a Snowy Owl.

In association with Birdpex, the first series of 100 bird stamps from Belgium in 25 years which will be issued are "all are typical for this region and even some of the most common birds rarely seen on a stamp of any other country, are shown because they are so normal," Bracke noted.

The site for the Birdpex exhibition is decided at the previous event.

"It was decided last time in Denmark (Birdpex 5 in 2006) that it was time for Belgium to organize this exhibition, because we have a strong group of thematic (bird) collectors here," Bracke said. The five people on the planning committee for Birdpex 6, were all exhibitors of philatelic bird exhibits at Denmark.

The first Birdpex was held in New Zealand in 1990, with the second event in Germany in 1994, in association with the meeting of the International Ornithological Congress, Bracke said. "To organize this kind of event you should not only be active in ornithology, but most of all be a philatelist and know how these kind of exhibitions are arranged. The most active group of bird philatelists in Germany is the 'Motivgruppe Ornithologie,' and they had an international meeting at almost every Birdpex and build biggest group of exhibitors."

A Perfect Autumn Afternoon at a Wrens' Ravine

Monday afternoon came about without delay and it became obvious without a doubt that it was a fine time to be out amongst the woods, looking and the birds and otherwise appreciating natural conditions. After days of drab gray skies, wind gusts seemingly without end, ongoing drizzle or rain, the conditions were perfectly sublime for a change

The spot of choice for the day was along midtown's Wood Creek. These woods are a regular haunt for birds and other critters of smaller or larger size. There was no disappointment for the many minutes, stretching into hours, slowly spent watching birds and simply enjoying the coloration of the foliage, the animal antics and simply, the whole scene.

Conveying their active conditions, the so special feathered mites - the so small Winter Wrens - could be readily heard, and nearly as soon were seen bouncing here, to there and other where in search of a tasty bit. Their subtle call was the obvious indicator for where they were, for some visiting observer.

Coloration of the leaves was at its autumnal peak. The creek was adorned with fallen foliage, dramatically presented in the bright sun of the afternoon, highlighting the variety of color of arboreal relics from different trees along the languid creek through the middle of the city.

The Winter Wrens were the highlight, as they regularly are each wintery season hereabouts at these city park lands. So small, yet so dynamic as they forage in - around - between branches and trunks of fallen trees and other low-level places of their choice, nearly continually announcing their place. First one, then another were readily noted, up close, yet exquisite in such small details of brown, with spots and that indicative tail posture erected to announce their presence.

A period of time spent watching one or the other of these wrens was no waste of effort. Instead it was a joy to catch a glimpse of their life under a sunny sky ... a time that could only be appreciated and enjoyed.

There were other birds around the Elmwood Park Ravine, including, notably, some White-throated Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Hermit Thrush and Brown Creeper, and some other regular residents that for this day, will remain unidentified, though no less appreciated.

During the slow walk along the creek, a boisterous Carolina Wren made certain it was recognized with its clarion call. Its rolling chant could not be missed, and as the scape was scanned, it could be seen flitting along the way. Then a few minutes later, as the outing was ending, there were two of these wrens calling at the south end of the ravine.

It was a fine ending for the time in the woods of the park on October 26th. The temperature was 55o, with only a slight breeze, beneath occasional clouds with dynamic cerulean skies.

Record Single-day Casualties Due to Bird-Strikes at Omaha

The deadliest day ever known at Omaha for migratory wild birds killed or disabled by bird-strikes occurred October 24, 2009. There were 31 recorded instances. This is the largest number of strikes ever documented for a particular day at buildings in Nebraska, based on a review of hundreds of records from Omaha and Lincoln.

This is the tally for this particular Saturday, presenting details for each strike in the order which they were found. Four hours were spent bicycling about to document these occurrences, with about a quarter of time during a steady drizzle. Additional time was spent processing the dismal results. The list presents the basics details, with a documentary photograph, and without editorial comments.

  1. White-throated Sparrow: carcass at the southwest entry of the Harper Center at Creighton University, along the north wall
  2. Marsh Wren: disabled bird on the south side of the 22 building at 1304 Webster Street; this is the first known instance of a bird strike at this North Downtown building
  3. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass near the main, box-office entry of the Qwest Center Omaha between 6-7 a.m., any earlier strikes had already been removed by security personnel which start their patrol earlier than the arrival on this day, and others
  4. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass at the west side of the west portion of the south wall of the central courtyard at the Holland Center for Performing Arts
  5. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass at the east side of the west portion of the south wall of the central courtyard at the Holland Center for Performing Arts
  6. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass at the west end of the south exterior wall at the Holland Center for Performing Arts
  7. Lincoln's Sparrow: disabled bird on the north side of the atrium on the north side of the First National Bank tower
  8. Harris's Sparrow: carcass on the south side of the entry atrium at 1200 Landmark Center, just to the west of the entryway
  9. Chipping Sparrow: carcass on the east side, right outside the south entry into the Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza building
  10. White-throated Sparrow: carcass outside the main entry of the Keeline Building; this is the first known instance of a bird strike at this structure
  11. White-throated Sparrow: carcass on the north side of the atrium for the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, near the very west end
  12. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass on the east side, at the north end of the Law Building
  13. White-throated Sparrow: carcass on the north side of the Law Building, at the west end
  14. Yellow-rumped Warbler: carcass on the west side of the Law Building, at the north end
  15. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: carcass on the east side of the Redfield and Company Building, at the south side of the third section of glass from the north end
  16. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass on the east side of the Durham Research Centers Commons, at the south end; this is the first known instance of a bird strike at this building
  17. ... pause ...

  18. Harris's Sparrow: carcass on the west side of the third floor of the Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library, Creighton University; just south of the second pillar from the north
  19. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass on the north side of the Eppley CBA Building, Creighton University; at the third section of glass from the east side of the structure
  20. Ruby-crowned Kinglet: carcass at the entry to the former Quick City delivery service building on Webster Street, on the south side of the structure; this is the first known instance of a bird strike at this building
  21. Lincoln's Sparrow: carcass on the west side of the Slowdown Lounge, at the north end of the southern-most section of glass
  22. Swamp Sparrow: rigid carcass on the north side of the Curtis National Park Service building on the riverfront; right next to the building just west of the second pillar from the east; strikes have been documented here by NPS personnel, but this is the first external instance of documenting a strike
  23. Swainson's Thrush: rigid carcass on the north side of the Harriman Dispatching Center, at the west end
  24. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass south of the southeast corner of the 1200 Landmark Center tower
  25. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass at the middle of the north wall of the tower at 1200 Landmark Center
  26. Field Sparrow: carcass at the middle of the north wall of the tower at 1200 Landmark Center
  27. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass at the middle of the north wall of the tower at 1200 Landmark Center
  28. Orange-crowned Warbler: carcass on the east side of the Union Pacific Center, at the very south end
  29. Harris's Sparrow: carcass of a sub-adult on the east side of the Zorinsky Federal Building, at the very south end
  30. Swainson's Thrush: carcass at the south side of the south tower at Central Park Plaza, on the sidewalk at the eastern corner
  31. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass on the south side of the atrium, east of the entry doors
  32. Dark-eyed Junco: carcass on the west side of the Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza building, at the very south corner of the tower

There were undoubtedly additional strikes around the city, considering that carcasses had already been thrown away, and the survey route did not get to locations where dangerous buildings would occur.

The previous greatest tally of strikes had been 23 casualties on 25 September 2008, followed by the 20 instances on 20 October 2009, as previously documented.

26 October 2009

Saga of Travel Travails for a Misplaced Snipe

In the first-light of a late October night, a particular waterbird made its way southward on its seasonal migration, along a route followed for many millennia unknown as its past relatives flew along the great muddy river of the central plains. The route was regular, though the conditions experienced have dramatically changed as alterations were placed - again and again - upon the landscape.

During the night of a lesser moon, this bird flew onward, until the time when the sun would soon poke above the eastern horizon, a time for nocturnal migrants to return to the land.

For the snipe, its situation would be dramatically influenced. This species realized, based on biological dictates that it was time to get down to the ground, as would other migrants.

The results would vary.

Situation of a misplaced snipe in downtown Omaha.

Partially eaten carcass of a snipe on the south side of the First National Bank tower, downtown Omaha. This image has been digitally altered.

For a bird which prefers wetlands, its fate was less drastic as it flew among the buildings of the city, looking for a safe haven. Its final position was at the entry to a downtown condominium, where it sat on the sidewalk under city lights, oblivious to anything other than its condition which had been dramatically changed.

There were no options for this Wilson's Snipe to pursue, when it discovered in the urban environment during some human's early morning survey to determine where other migratory wild birds had struck a building, as they regularly do along the misery river.

For this waterbird, its position dramatically changed once some documentary pictures were taken.

The snipe was grabbed by some perp - and despite a profound yet momentary chirp - was placed into a small bag where a soft cloth bag was already in place to cushion the ride as the man on a bicycle continued for a short time around downtown to determine if there might be some other causalities to denote in the morning.

One of its cohorts was soon noticed to have struck a well-lit, towering skyscraper just west of the Missouri River, and tumbled down, ending up on a sidewalk, where it died. The carcass was partially eaten upon by some unknown predator about in the river city.

Especially dramatic for the alive, wild, migratory bird, was a short ride along as a passenger on a bicycle. The destination was a bus-stop, since travel to a suitable haven would be less disruptive via motorized travel.

Hidden snipe's don't have to pay any fare to ride on public transit.

The perp responsible for its predicament at least took the pouch containing the bird off of the bike placed on the rack on the front of the bus, in order to make the birds' ride somewhat less bumpy and disruptive.

For the Wilson's Snipe, it was probably the first time ever that it or others of its same ilk, unknowingly experienced a ride on a city bus.

The perp's surmised goal was to get the bird away from downtown, to a place more conducive for it to recover without any of the threats of demise - especially ignorant pedestrians with big feet - until it could recover to an extent conducive to continue its migratory flight.

Though it was in a dark, sheltered, yet confined place, the snipe would occasionally indicate its preference for being elsewhere, as it would struggle in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. What a situation that would have caused: Escaped Snipe Causes Mayhem on City Bus!

A snipe on the bus is not a happy bird. Being carried along on a mass-transit bus ended at midtown. Then there was further travel to a habitat where a Wilson's Snipe could recover on its own time, warmed by sun-rays of early morning in a park.

Up on some heights, where ryas of the sun at first-morning shined, this particular Wilson's Snipe, was carefully held as it was removed from its specially held travel container. Once a warm, sheltering spot was found, the struggling snipe was placed upon the ground, where it sat without any attempt to move someplace else.

The grandeur of the bird, its sublime featheration was an interlude rarely experienced.

The bird and its watcher continued to sit for a length of time. Though there had been struggles, once free of any constraints, the waterbird did not move. When it was grasped again - without a peep - and moved to a colorful, leafy situation, its behavior was no different, and stoic for some remaining minutes.

The finality for this wonderful bird, was when after its unusual interlude getting moved around under another power, the agreeable and dramatically feathered accomplice, it was finally put somewhere that would be undisturbed - a place where park personnel would not run over with a mower, perhaps! - and left to its own fate. Once on the ground, the snipe simply walked away. Though watched with close intent, the bird was gone at the edge of the parklands, with its life to continue onward, its existence which would have been much simpler if it had not struck a downtown building, and been subsequently carried along.

This saga is a blended mix of fact and fiction.

25 October 2009

Analysis of Trumpeter Swan Habitat Underway for Greater Yellowstone Region

Research is currently underway in the Yellowstone National Park region to understand habitats features of breeding habitat available for the majestic Trumpeter Swan, the largest swan in the world.

Laura Cockrell - a Master's program student at the Department of Biological Sciences of Eastern Kentucky University - is evaluating the "Historical Nest Site Use by Trumpeter Swans in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem."

The study revolves around the use of LANDSAT imagery in an "attempt to find ideal Trumpeter Swan nesting habitat based on the spectral reflectance" shown by the aerial images of habitat conditions, Cockrell said. This analysis includes a comparison of recent and historic images to "determine if the satellite images can be used to detect changes in the habitat over time. We are trying to see if the LANDSAT images can determine habitat features that have changed over time, which would cause the swans to abandon previously used nesting sites."

Laura Cockrell, with Grizzly Lake (one of our territories sampled) in the background. Images courtesy of Laura Cockrell.

Laura Cockrell, in an orange safety-vest worn when sampling in the eye of the public; in this case, along the roadway where Pelican Creek meets Yellowstone Lake.

"I plan to discern differences between historically used ponds and currently used ponds, and to identify local and landscape-level features that may have changed over the years and influenced the nesting preference and success of breeding Trumpeter Swans," Cockrell said in her research proposal. Information derived from the satellite imagery will be further evaluated, based on on-site evaluations conducted during the field studies phase of her research, that will include measuring vegetation, food availability, distance from the nesting pond to nearby ponds, water quality and an evaluation of the extent of lead present at nesting sites.

"The Yellowstone nesting population of Trumpeter Swans has decreased a great deal in the last few years, to the point that only three pairs of Trumpeter Swans occurred in the park" in 2009, with only one pair attempting to nest, she explained in an email.

"Although it has been long thought that the population that is nesting within the park is a sink population, which relies on populations in higher quality habitat outside of the park as the source population, there is still an interest - primarily fueled by bird watchers - in why the Yellowstone Park nesting population has declined."

Weather is a prominent, potential factor.

"Currently the Palmer Drought Severity Index shows that the Greater Yellowstone Region has been in an extended drought, which is likely a factor in the decline. Nesting populations outside the park have also recently seen reductions in nesting attempts as well as cygnets produced."

During July this year, Cockrell, and Matt Manuel, the research assistant, traveled to Yellowstone to sample habitat characteristics of sites historically used by Trumpeter Swans. Line transects were used to evaluate aquatic vegetation in 16 former swan territories, she said. The next onsite visit will be during late August and early September, 2010, when 20 territories can hopefully be sampled.

"I am using the UTM coordinates of line transects to determine the reflectance characteristics of the LANDSAT images and evaluate whether the LANDSAT reflectance is capable of determining" the suitability of the habitat for swans.

By mapping nesting locations and characteristics of "used" versus "potential" habitat, her research can be used to identify potential nesting sites. This information is expected to be a "valuable tool" for achieving objectives for management of the Trumpeter Swan in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

An example of LANDSAT imagery showing Trumpeter Swan habitat. This is an image of the "undisclosed location" where the swans attempted to nest during the summer of 2009.

If the research works as planned, "it will allow the park an easy method to track the quality of nesting locations," she said. "As the park does not actively manage for wildlife, but instead attempts to have a 'hands-off' approach to allow nature to take its own course, no management efforts are in place to improve or create nesting sites within the park. If conditions continue to change in an unfavorable manner, it is possible that resident swans could leave the park entirely, however this tool could help park biologists to monitor locations for potential future nesting swans. We certainly hope that natural conditions will change in time that the swans will again be successful within the park, however we cannot predict how the conditions will change.

"If this tool does work, managers of areas outside the park (e.g. Red Rocks Lake NWR) can use it to locate suitable nesting habitat, as well as locating suitable habitat outside of managed areas that could potentially be preserved. As the park population is thought to be a 'sink' population, with the breeding population outside the park as the 'source'. If these sites can be located and managed appropriately, there will be a greater number of swans looking for potential breeding sites in the future, and hopefully moving back into the park as conditions improve.

"As the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is linked as a whole, it will be beneficial to evaluate these locations and protect them from development or degradation. The trumpeter swan was brought to the brink of extinction, and the Greater Yellowstone population has been critical in bringing the entire trumpeter swan population back to stable levels. Through management efforts within the GYE, we are now seeing relocation and breeding efforts in the US and Canada trying to restore populations in historical areas, including much of the mid-west. If we can fine-tune this tool to locate these ideal sites, it could potentially assist agencies who are attempting to find suitable relocation sites for their population restoration efforts.

Her biological research with the Trumpeter Swans is a continuation of Cockrell’s interest in studying waterfowl, which started with a college course.

"I became interested after working in my undergrad at California State University, Chico (my hometown college) where I took a natural History course on waterfowl from Jay Boggiatto, Cockrell explained. Under Professor Boggiatto, "I worked on a wintering ecology project with American and Eurasian Wigeon, as well as working for the California Department of Fish and Game, monitoring for waterfowl die-offs during the winter and Wood Duck monitoring during the spring and summer. I also worked for the California Waterfowl Association banding ducks in the Sacramento Valley."

The swan project was started by her adviser, Dr. Robert Frederick, whom did work similar to this during a sabbatical in 2006, working with Rick Sojda from the United States Geological Survey. "My graduate work is a continuation of the work that he began which originated by trying to find appropriate wintering locations for trumpeter swans in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem."

A trumpeter swan research sign posted in the Targee National Forest, just south of Yellowstone Park.

An "undisclosed" location where trumpeter swans attempted nesting this year. The birds are visible in the distant background.

The trip to evaluate swan habitat at Yellowstone Park last summer, was her visit, Cockrell said. "It was an amazing experience, especially working for over three weeks. The majority of park visitors never travel through the back country, whereas the majority of our work took us through back country hiking trails. We sampled across virtually every area of the park this year, and I look forward to traveling back to the park next year and seeing an entirely different season of the park, as well as new sampling locations. Traveling through areas such as the Lamar and Hayden Valleys were incredible with the amount of wildlife present. We were forced to re-think our travel plans more than once because of wildlife (such as a bison 'surprise' or grizzly kill along a hiking trail)."

"We went into this project not expecting to encounter any of the swans, however we were excited to see a total of five trumpeter swans during our trip; one pair that attempted nesting and failed, one pair that did not attempt to nest, and a solitary swan who has lost its mate and has not yet re-mated (we did not locate the third pair during our trip this year). It was rather bitter-sweet to see the swans - they are beautiful birds but it was sad to see them knowing that no cygnets were produced. The solitary swan prevented us from sampling the territory since drought conditions have shrunk the pond it was on to a size where we could not sample without disturbing the swan, which would have violated park policy. In all of our swan sightings, we were very careful to minimize any potential disturbance that would cause the swans to abandon their chosen territory.

"It was definitely an incredible journey!"

A $10,000 grant from the Yellowstone Foundation was provided for this research to fund a stipend, and to pay for lodging and travel and field equipment, and for which Cockrell is very appreciative.

Staff at Yellowstone National Park were also very helpful: "Thanks to Dr. Doug Smith of YNP for his help coordinating my field research and funding, and to Christie Hendrix from YNP permit office, Lisa Baril, Leslie Henry, and Josh Irving (all of YNP) for their assistance with field work. A big thanks to Matt Manuel, who was my field assistant during the entire trip, and to Dr. Frederick - my adviser at EKU." Additional financial support is being provided by Eastern Kentucky University.

A final report for this project is expected in October 2010.

Cockrell hopes to continue working with waterfowl following the completion of her thesis research and coursework at EKU.

22 October 2009

Late-autumn Season of Chimney Swifts at River City

During the late-autumn times for Chimney Swifts at Omaha during 2009, weather was a big factor that certainly influenced their end-of-season occurrence as well as affecting attempts to observe where they were present.

Once these birdly bugeaters arrive in town, there are here to stay until the autumnal migration. Certainly their occurrence is of utmost importance, but since it would be a huge task impossible for any individual to map this information, this report will indicate where swifts were noted in particular after mid-September.

Swifts were present at 32 different east-Omaha localities from 10 September to October 21. The general vicinities, listed in alphabetic order, were:

  • Benson
  • Blackstone District
  • Brownell-Talbot School Grounds
  • Carthage
  • Cathedral
  • Creighton University Campus
  • Downtown Omaha
  • Drake Area
  • Duchesne Academy
  • Dundee at Dodge Street
  • Dundee Place
  • Elmwood East Neighborhood
  • Elmwood Park Meadow
  • Elmwood Park Pines
  • Elmwood Park Ravine
  • Field Club
  • Fontenelle Forest
  • Hanscom Park Neighborhood
  • Happy Hollow Creek
  • Izard Industrial Zone
  • Memorial Park
  • Nebraska Medical Center Campus
  • Old Market
  • Saddle Creek Environs
  • Shadow Lake, Elmwood Park
  • Spring Creek Prairie
  • Spring Lake Park
  • Turner/Dewey Park
  • UNOmaha Campus
  • Walnut Hill
  • West Downtown
  • Wood Creek, Elmwood Park

Since swifts are such an easy species to identify, any occurrences could be determined in just a few moments when these birds can be seen above in the skyscape, and most importantly at chimneys which provide vital and essential overnight roost sites. Attention was given to visiting buildings with chimneys which swifts had been known to visit (based on information from 2008 and previous years) as well as any new sites were activity was noted in the early morning when swifts leave their overnight roosts, or in the late evening, when these birds gather about the chimney where they are going to roost.

Notable places in particular, during latter September, were:

  • 468 leaving the big chimney of a historic building at Duchesne Academy on 11 September
  • 304 using the chimney at the Casa Linda apartment house on south 49th Avenue at Dodge Street on 12 September
  • 475 at the chimney at the Casa Linda apartment house on south 49th Avenue at Dodge Street on 21 September, where there was a count of 368 done on 29 September.

Numerous other counts were made from mid- to late-September at various places at the general localities indicated.

Swifts were prevalent during early October, and the continued to occur into the middle of the month, despite weather conditions which did not seem favorable for a bird which relies upon bugs for their daily sustenance.

Since Omaha is a primary locality for Chimney Swifts during the breeding and migratory season, the following records provide some indication of their occurrence during the end of the season. These are the known occurrences of the best bugeater in Nebraska, during October, presenting details on the general vicinity, date including the Julian date, number and notations to indicate details essential to knowing precisely where the swifts were.

Notes on the swifts' occurrence were done in a systematic manner based on visits to known roost sites, but when their occurrence otherwise became especially prominent, information was recorded and entered into a database which includes more than 1000 records of occurrence for just this species. This dataset makes a comparative analysis possible.

  • Blackstone District - 10/01/2009; 336 swifts - p.m. count, done a few minutes before 7:30, with sunset at 7:05: Columbian School Apartments; partly cloud with strong winds
  • Drake Area - 10/01/2009; 388 swifts - a.m. departure from CASA building; cloudy and windy
  • Benson - 10/03/2009; 178 - p.m. count at Benson Community Center
  • Dundee Place - 10/04/2009; 297 - p.m. entrants at Dundee Presbyterian Church
  • Shadow Lake, Elmwood Park - 10/04/2009; 2 - flying about during bird survey
  • Drake Area - 10/04/2009; 17 - a.m. departure; clear and temperatures in the upper 30s; extended departure not done by sunup; 1908 Leavenworth Street
  • Drake Area - 10/04/2009; 180 - a.m. return, during partial count upon return to chimney at Anderson Apartments; morning clear and temp around 40o
  • Happy Hollow Creek - 10/04/2009; 5 - more to the north at church roost
  • Elmwood Park Ravine - 10/04/2009; 5 - flying about during bird survey
  • Elmwood Park Pines - 10/04/2009; 5 - flying about during bird survey
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/05/2009; 42 - done by 7:15 p.m. with cloudy and light rain: 6, 25, 9, 2 in Dundee Theater in p.m.; once these were in, in a few brief moments, about half flew out and went into Casa Linda chimney across Dodge Street, where large numbers had already roosted
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/06/2009; 228 - p.m.: none present at arrival, then 14, 39, 68, 69, 37 into Casa Linda chimney; done by 7:20; one also in chimney of Elwood Apartment House
  • Old Market - 10/07/2009; 65 - p.m. touristy visit and drive after eating; ca. 20 into Fairmont Building chimney; with others foraging above the buildings
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/08/2009; 105 - p.m.: into Casa Linda chimney; others over at Dundee Theater; cloudy, temps in mid-40s
  • Dundee Place - 10/08/2009; 2 - p.m.: into chimney at Alhambra Apartments; possibly others
  • Elmwood Park Meadow - 10/09/2009; 9 - swifting for bugs above the woods
  • Elmwood Park Pines - 10/09/2009; 4 - above the conifers and westward to the UNOmaha campus
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/09/2009; 86 - p.m. watching; at Dundee Theater; 5.5x6 bricks; height about two stories; many others using chimney across Dodge Street
  • Memorial Park - 10/09/2009; 3 - higher in the aerial realm
  • Turner/Dewey Park - 10/09/2009; 125 - swirling about in the a.m., a few from chimney of First Lutheran Church; 4x4.5 bricks, four stories; at 542 south 31st Street
  • Alhambra Apartments. These three pictures were taken the morning of 10 October.

    Casa Linda apartments.

    Dundee Theater.

  • Memorial Park - 10/10/2009; 24 - at midday, low-height foraging amidst a few flurries, with a few inches of snow on the ground; many later noted at less than ten feet above the ground
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/10/2009; 41 - dusk at Casa Linda: 2 out, 2 in, 8, 10, bunch arrived, 21; no swarming with an early roosting; done before 7 p.m.; none noted across Dodge Street
  • Brownell-Talbot School Grounds - 10/10/2009; 25 - latter afternoon just above tree height
  • Dundee at Dodge Street - 10/11/2009; 2 - dusk at Casa Linda: 1 in at 6:45, the other at 6:49; cloudy, with days high temps in the upper 30s
  • Benson - 10/12/2009; 8 - p.m. at Benson Community Center: 1 at 6:39, 1 at 6:41, 2 at 6:42, 3 at 6:44, 1 at 7:02; cloudy with days' temps max in upper 30s; sunset at 6:47
  • Benson - 10/15/2009; 1 - noted flying about above east Benson; roost not apparent on a cloudy evening
  • Memorial Park - 10/16/2009; 16 - noted flying about above park and to westward about 1:30 p.m.
  • Elmwood Park Ravine - 10/18/2009; 1 - particularly noted above the creek and trees during the early afternoon; noticed during a focused look after leaving the UNO library
  • Spring Lake Park - 10/19/2009; 2 - readily seen above the magnificent trees as the bugeaters were searching for another buggy bit to eat
  • Carthage - 10/19/2009; 7 - foraging about in the late evening; expected overnight low about 50o
  • Dundee Place - 10/19/2009; 5 - foraging about in the late evening
  • Memorial Park - 10/19/2009; 40 - foraging about above the park scene in the late evening about 6 p.m.; includes UNOmaha campus and above Dundee Presbyterian Church
  • UNOmaha Campus - 10/21/2009; 9 - at 7:30 a.m., west of the library; temp 59o with temporary, partially clear skies; lows overnight from 61-63o; temps dropped after 10 a.m., sliding into the 40's, with drizzle throughout the day

The most profound aspect of this tally is that Chimney Swifts continued to occur after the 10 October snowfall when several inches of snowfall occurred, though later in the day, temperatures warmed, and swifts were seen foraging above Memorial Park.

Weather on subsequent days did not seem conducive for swifts to continue to occur. Skies were a drab gray. These are the temperature for the following days, according to records of the National Weather Service:

10 Oct: day's high 41o Fahrenheit, low 27o
11 Oct: 40, 31
12 Oct: 45, 33
13 Oct: 47, 30
14 Oct: 45, 37
15 Oct: 49, 43

Yet swifts were still to be seen foraging in the skies. On the 15th of October, a single swift seen at Benson, seemed to be one of the last of these birds to be lingering in the region on another chilly day; and the sighting was expected to be the last of the year.

This was in incorrect assumption. The following day - 16 October - there was a bunch above Memorial Park. Further observations continued, and each was a notable event. Especially surprising were the numbers on 19 October, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus eastward to Dundee and the Carthage neighborhood.

Site / Region

Date

Number

Gifford Park

09/09/2008

350

Elmwood East Neighborhood

10/07/2008

360

Duchesne Academy

09/11/2009

468

Dundee at Dodge Street

09/12/2009

304

Dundee at Dodge Street

09/21/2009

475

Dundee at Dodge Street

09/29/2009

368

Blackstone District

10/01/2009

336

Drake Area

10/01/2009

388

The end of season highlight was on 21 October, on a wet and warm morning. When a few swifts were seen in the skies above a bus-stop on Dodge Street near the UNO campus, this was the latest date when this species had ever been personally observed, and was certainly a notable personal achievement derived from regular looking to the skies to see if these wonderful birds were still around.

On 22 October, it was cold with temperatures steady around 41o, and steady rain, so once again this observers view was that the swifts had moved southward. According to notes on a couple of online bird forums, observers in Kansas and Missouri were surprised that this species was still obvious in the skies above their towns and cities, a day or two earlier.

There were several counts of more than 300 swifts at one particular place made this season, as well as last year, as shown in the table.

More than ten counts from 205 to 297 swifts were also made.

The chimney with a continued, large-scale use during the period was at the Casa Linda apartment house at the 100 block of south 49th Avenue.

There were likely other chimneys with larger numbers - especially downtown - but constraints on travel prevented any surveys except for what could get safely done during daylight hours in a limited region from midtown to Benson, or at downtown Omaha during early morning hours.

Swift Migration Times

Chimney at a building which will likely soon be razed as it is abandoned. The structure was built in 1900. Picture taken 18 September 2009.

There are latter known dates when swifts have occurred in southeast Nebraska, but there has been little attention given to documenting the particular places where they roost and occur in particular during the end of their season along the Missouri River.

Three later dates are 24, and 27 October in the south and east portion of the state, according to known occurrence details associated with the updated information associated with the Birds of Nebraska book, as maintained by Ross Silcock, one of its authors. The latest date of occurrence is 5 November, in Douglas County.

Details derived during the 2009 autumn included findings of new places important to the species and their ongoing survival. Thankfully, there were no known chimney sites which were destroyed, though a couple of roost chimneys will certainly be razed in the near future, based on their obvious decrepit condition.

According to those 1025 available records, the Chimney Swift - in Douglas and Sarpy Counties - is present from mid-April to 21 October. This would be a period of about 194 days, based upon Julian date details. Other sources would present something different.

21 October 2009

Chain-saw Vandal Destroys Numerous Trees at Omaha's Hummel Park

During a hike to survey bird diversity at Hummel Park on 19 October, it became readily apparent upon reaching the ridge just south of Ponca Creek, that dozens of trees had been very recently cut-down by someone wielding a chainsaw that was obviously working perfectly.

Destruction was first noted upon reaching the uplands to the northeast of the day camp area at the northern section of the park. There were some stumps here and there and elsewhere, which were the remnants of what had been live trees.

The extent of what had been sawn down increased upon walking eastward along the ridge-top hiking trail. Continuing along, there were trees cutoff to one extent or another along the entire path to the eastern edge of the park at North River Road, including some at the northern entrance to the park. Additional trees were destroyed among the woods at a couple of places.

The tree removal was obvious, but while hiking along, the reason for it having occurred was not apparent.

City officials were contacted later in the day, and asked about what had occurred at the park.

Officials were aware of the situation, which was vandalism.

A report has been filed with the Omaha Police Department, according to Steve Scarpello, administrator of the department.

Officials are expected to continue attempts to determine the person(s) responsible for destroying the trees in the forest of the park.

Hummel Park has ongoing problems with vandalism.

This year Parks' officials placed barriers on the two routes to access the hilltop picnic and shelter area at the north portion of the park. Improvements are being made to the structures, and vehicular access was limited by gates across the roads, though access by hiking is still possible.

Access to the northwest corner of the park has been recently closed by placing concrete barriers to prevent vehicular travel. One site along this former street had been regularly used as a dumping site for a variety of trash.

The former roadway now provides a fine path for hikers.

Additional efforts are being made to stop vandalism at the park and to suitably improve the place for visitors.

Plans include changes to increase the presence of people at the park, to help thwart illegal activities.

Hummel Park is currently taken care of by a caretaker at N.P. Dodge Park, a position which is currently vacant, but with someone expected to be onsite early in November.

In 2011, according to management staff of Parks Recreation and Public Property, the three buildings which currently comprise the Hummel Park Day Camp will be removed, and a single new structure will be built and will provide accommodations for a resident caretaker.

Frisbee Golf Course Nixed

A frisbee golf course will not be installed in the northern woods of Hummel Park.

City officials said that the volunteer effort to create this recreational feature will not continue. There had been three holes created in the upland area of the north picnic grounds.

Factors influencing this decision included the insufficient extent of efforts by volunteers which offered to create the course, and a realization that the summer conditions along Ponca Creek are not conducive this sort of outdoor recreation.

During the summer, the woods along the creek are hot and humid, with pesky bugs prominent. Vegetative growth also was inhibitory.

Portions of the course had been expected to be placed along the designated nature trail along Ponca creek.

There are now no plans for any recreational developments along the trail. It will continue to be managed as a natural area, which is conducive to passive pursuits such as watching birds.

This section of the park and its habitats are known to have been a place to observe Cerulean Warblers - a species of concern - during the summer season, and Winter Wrens from late autumn to early spring. A plethora of other species are known to occur, based on reports posted on the NEBirds online forum.

Bird Strikes of One Day in Mid-October at Omaha Buildings

When the pre-dawn morning of October 20th arrived, the clock indicated it was 1.5 hours past the typical time to get up and get going, based on forays on recent days. The latter start was intentional as the birdly focus had changed somewhat in order to determine if Chimney Swifts were still present. More than 50 were seen on the evening of the 19th in the Memorial Park and Dundee area, and as it was late in the season for their ongoing residence in the river city, the intent was to be downtown during the early morning, so if any swifts were about, they could be seen and noted.

The mornings' outing was underway about 6:30 a.m., after doing regular duties around the house, including placing the recyclables bin on the curb, and putting out a very small bag of trash out front for the weekly removal. The yard waste container had been dealt with the evening before.

The survey route followed the typical route. Hard pedaling up the Cuming Street hill to 39th Street, then over to Burt Street and a relatively easy downhill ride to 30th Street and onward.

At the Harper Center on the Creighton University campus, there was a subtle indication of what was pending for this particular day. Calls of numerous birds were heard and some were readily seen.

Upon reaching the site of numerous previous bird-strikes at the southwest entry for the building, a bird was seen careening off the glass, but it continued onward.

Upon looking closely, there were no obvious carcasses, but it seemed appropriate to look closer. The result: a bug-eaten warbler of some sort on the south side of the building, at the windows just east of the entry.

The first picture of the day documented this bird strike occurrence.

There was another dead bird at the southeast corner of the same building. It was fresh and had probably happened very recently, perhaps just minutes earlier. Another picture was taken, including one of the carcass and the scene.

The morning's ride continued on the self-propelled bicycle.

At the Qwest Center Omaha, there was the normal uncertainty about the day's situation.

This morning, there were a bunch of sparrows on the north side at the north entry, with about five birds congregating against the glass at the northern entrance. Upon an approach, they all flew away. More of these birds were along the sidewalk just to the north, and they were chased about while looking at the situation, though they did not depart, instead they scattered but returned to the same place.

My route went southward along the west facade of this ugly place. There was a carcass noted, so my travels were stopped to document this, just seconds before the security man was there. His job was to throw away the dead bird, but I was there so he kept walking, apparently in communication with whomever he is supposed to report to.

Further south along the west facade of the deadliest building for birds in Omaha, there was another species of the same ilk. It was not dead, but disabled and just could not seem to find a means to get away. Assistance was rendered.

It seems that the dead bird patrol during the dawn hours at the Qwest Center Omaha will not deal with live birds, as they seem to remain. Perhaps the security guys have been instructed to leave them alone. At least this gives them an opportunity to recover and hopefully fly away and continue their migration.

It is the obvious intent of the management personnel associated with the Qwest Center Omaha to get rid of the dead birds in an attempt to make sure no one knows about the many bird strikes which occur at this building.

The morning's route went onward amongst the buildings of downtown Omaha.

There was a dead Lincoln's Sparrow at the Holland Center for Performing Arts. The day before there had been a lively discussion with a representative of the management group for this facility, but the bird that died certainly did not care about that rhetorical discussion.

One interesting comment: "We don't want to be like them," was said in reference to what was occurring at the Qwest Center Omaha, in regards to security men throwing birds into the trash.

The next spot of prominence for this day was the Union Pacific Center, at its north side. There were two disabled birds on the sidewalk and another appreciating shelter beside some bits of sidewalk landscaping.

Species noted here were a Nashville Warbler, a subtly-colored Orange-Crowned Warbler and a big American Coot that did its best to avoid having anything to do with the pedestrians on the sidewalk, though it was forced to move and make its own way.

The morning continued, thankfully without any harassment from any security force, which is prevalent in downtown at certain buildings.

On the west side of the Zorinsky Federal Building was a dead Lincoln's Sparrow, photographed while certainly being watched on the surveillance cameras mounted at each corner of the place. This documentary interlude was short enough so there was no confrontation. Though when an inquiry was made to get a name and phone number for the building manager, one guardian would not provide any details. Outside, another security man at least provided a name.

At the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, another dead Lincoln's Sparrow was photographed, while two smoking females workers watched with some interest or another.

Onward to the east, at the Nebraska State Office Building and once again on the north side, were two more dead warblers. During the too-long interlude to take pictures, Bill, who formerly lived in Alaska explained the inane means of providing light and power to Bering Sea settlements, so some time lingering occurred.

Pictures were taken and a departure soon followed. One interesting tidbit was that the State of Nebraska leases the building which is owned by Kiewit, so they are responsible for the situation.

Across the street, there was a disabled Orange-crowned Warbler on the north side of the 1200 Landmark Center. A picture of the situation was taken for documentary purposes. Then, on the south side of the same place, was a dead Lincoln's Sparrow.

The morning was deadly, and it was obvious that a whole bunch of birds were moving southward in their autumnal migration. It was a condition that indicated that perhaps some places should be looked at again.

Onward the route went and the premonition was correct.

At the north side of the Union Pacific Center, there were two more disabled birds. One was a forlorn and suffering Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. The other was a species first unknown, but it soon became apparent that it was a Yellow-rumped Warbler that was clinging to the building's wall outside of where there was interior landscaping.

These two birds were not here for very long. It was interesting to be able to observe how strikes occurred at different times in the early morning. The prognosis is that the American Coot hit first. Then the warblers suffered a similar fate. And just a short time later, the Yellow-rumped Warbler and kinglet also struck the building because of the interior landscaping at this building.

The route of the day went westward a far ways, and there was another apparent carcass. It was a dead Lincoln's Sparrow on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus at a site which had appeared to be a hazard. The situation was confirmed by the dead bird lying in the Tritsch Garden. This was the first known bird strike on the campus of the college.

With the numerous bird strike instances in the morning, it somehow seemed appropriate to check further into what was happening on this October day. It was a suitable decision to check out the situation later in the day, during the afternoon.

The first site visited resulted in seeing another dead Lincoln's Sparrow, at the southwest entrance for the Harper Center on the campus of Creighton University. This site is a regular hazard.

Just a short jaunt to the east, there was a carcass of an Orange-crowned Warbler and another of the Field Sparrow at the Qwest Center Omaha.

The day's activities ended as an ambassador to inform a public official about the multitude of bird strikes and the prominent hazards at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center. He was informed of the several recent bird strikes and how the Migratory Bird Treaty Act pertains to the situation.

An email to the Fish and Wildlife was sent asking that they provide the building administrator with further information.

There were 20 known bird strikes, during what was obviously a bad day for migratory birds in the river city! Disabled and dead birds cannot speak for what they sorrowfully deal with. This account conveys what happened on one October day, and indicates the extent of hazardous conditions for migratory song birds along the Missouri River in east-central Nebraska.