29 October 2010

Hawkwatch Continues at Hitchcock Nature Center

The annual hawk watch at the Hitchcock Nature Center continues its daily counts of migratory raptors along the Missouri River valley.

With strong northerly winds for the past few days, there had been several reports of peak numbers of raptors being counted each day. Notes on migratory flocks of other birds were also kept.

Recent counts made by the "official counter" and observers have been: October 28th – 197 including Red-tailed Hawks (mostly), October 27 – 316 and on the 26th- 451, according to daily reports at the Hawk Migration Association of North America website. The previous day, only five migrating raptors were recorded.

Among the typical species at this time during the season, are numerous Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks.

During a visit to the hawk watch on October 28th, Loren and Babs Padelford were excited to have seen an Osprey attack a Golden Eagle. This was their first outing to the hawk watch, "though we had been trying to get here before."

View of the Missouri River valley, looking westward from the platform of the observation tower. October 28, 2010.

Loren and Babs Padelford, at the Hitchcock Nature Center.

Clem Klaphake was an observer, helping the official counter, Ryan Evans.

Klaphake has been a volunteer since the latter 1990s, and helps once a week, if not more often. Though he was present Thursday, he will be watching raptors this coming Saturday, not football, he said.

"Big days are when birds are going past in almost constant waves," He said. "On some days, there are kettles of Broad-winged or Swainson’s Hawk going past. These two species usually past through based on the time of the migration season. Species such as the Red-tailed Hawk have movements which are influenced more by weather conditions."

"This hawk count site is known for the number of species that have been recorded," Klaphake said. "We get eastern ‘broad-wings’ and western ‘Swainson’s'."

One of the more notable species he mentioned was the Mississippi Kite. "This bird is not known to nest north of here, so seeing them moving site is unusual," adding that they are known to nest eastward at Des Moines, IA, and to the west at Ogallala, NE.

Clem Klaphake, Ryan Evans and Phil Swanson at the hawk watch.

Clem Klaphake, volunteer at the Hitchcock Hawk Watch.

The count for the season is currently approaching 10,000, representing more than twenty species, according to count summaries at the hawk count website.

"Usually about 10-12,000 are seen each season," Klaphake said.

The count will continue until December 20, when weather conditions "can get pretty tough," Klaphake said, especially when there is a stiff northwest wind.

The Padelfords were the first to conduct the hawk counts from this site on the loess hills, they said, having started the effort in 1992. They watched each day of the migration season, through 1995.

The vantage point then was the west side of the nature center, rather than the 45-foot tower with a viewing platform that for the past five years provides a view of the river valley, and across the loess hills to the east.

Mark Orsag, upon his arrival from Pennsylvania, restarted the watch in 1998, and by 1999, a group of volunteers had gotten involved, and continue to help, according to a site history available online. The Pottawattamie County Conservation Board has provided important funding.

video

A map to the area near Honey Creek Iowa, is also available at the hawk count website, which features count results from member sites around the United States.

27 October 2010

Celebrating Arctic Birds at a Refuge's 50th Anniversary

When the Arctic NWR was established in 1960, there was relatively little known of its importance to the region's native birds.

The people essential in the creating the refuge recognized its avian, as this feature was, based on historic accounts, one of the several prominent reasons boundaries were drawn across the Alaskan arctic, and a new federal refuge was established.

With its fifty-year anniversary celebration now underway, recent studies have documented how the unique ecosystems of the refuge are of vital importance to many birds of different sorts.

Research on the avifauna has increased in the past few years, especially since biologist Steve Kendall became the refuge's first official ornithologist in 2002.

His study area is a vast setting with unlimited opportunities to learn more of the birds and their habits.

The refuge "is unique for its variety of ecosystems," Kendall said, "it is an incredibly vast and protected area, where there has been little alteration of habitat.

"There are other special places in Alaska to study birds," Kendall said, but based on his expressive voice and familiarity with the subject during a recent phone conversation, nothing could surpass the place where he works.

Each season, Kendall and his crew load trucks with gear at the refuge headquarters in Fairbanks, drive up the Dalton Highway to Galbraith Lake (mile 275), and everyone and everything is shuttled from the "rustic airport" in four-six flights to the research camp for a stay of six-seven weeks, along the coastal plain of the refuge.

This is just one aspect of studies on the refuge, with additional investigations on other flora and fauna.

Stephen Brown and Steve Kendall surveying post-breeding shorebirds in Refuge coastal habitats. Photograph by Heather Craig. All pictures courtesy of Steve Kendall.

Luke DeCicco and Steve Kendall searching for Gray-headed Chickadees. Photograph by Travis Booms.

The Arctic NWR covers 19,286,482 acres from the Beaufort Sea to the boreal forest just north of the Yukon River. It is the largest national wildlife refuge managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States.

"We have birds which fly here from southern South America," Kendall said, indicating, especially, the iconic Buff-breasted Sandpiper. "These are amazing and beautiful little birds" to have such a long migration. "I am in awe of their unique courtship displays."

A leaflet just prepared for the October 2010 World Bird Festival, highlights this species and has a series of illustrations showing their courting behavior on the summer lek.

A couple of summers ago, visitor Frank J. Keim wrote an essay of his encounter with some "buffies." This account, as well as one featuring Bluethroats is featured on the refuge website.

This shorebird is known as the Aklaktaq, by the Inupiat Eskimo which have lived in the region for generations.

This species is just one of the 201 known for the refuge.

There have been several recent additions, Kendall said.

"A vagrant Caspian Tern on the Beaufort Sea last summer," was the most unusual, he said. "While working in the boreal forest on the southern extent of the refuge, we found breeding Mountain Bluebirds, and Chipping Sparrows. Also seen were the Tennessee Warbler and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher."

"Near Barrow, one significant change has been an increase in Horned Puffins," Kendall said. "They have moved further north," along the coast of Alaska, "which may be a indication of changing climatic conditions."

Each species found, whether by a researcher from the refuge or a bird-watching visitor, further indicates the value of the refuge lands for an array of plants and animals, Kendall said. He noted that Debbie Miller, an Alaskan author and birder, knew of the nesting site for some Smith's Longspurs, and the information meant the place became an area of study for a research project.

Being the refuge ornithologist, Kendall directs all bird-related studies.

The federal agency has appreciated the contributions from studies by other students from the University during the past five years. This includes the work by Teri Wild on the Smith's Longspurs, and Audrey Taylor, investigating the habits of shorebirds.

During the past few years, there have been dramatic changes in technology so useful, and essential, for learning more about the birds and where they occur. Kendall noted. Satellite tracking devices are being used to determine migration routes. Satellite imagery helps to determine features of habitat, with localities easily determined using global position satellites. Satellite phones provide effective communication at a place with no cell-phone towers.

In the summer of 2010, the refuge got involved with the Arctic Shorebird Demographic Network.

"Populations of shorebirds are declining," Kendall said. "We hope to learn why a lesser number of birds are returning to the Arctic breeding grounds each summer season."

This broad-based project will evaluate shorebird occurrence from northern Alaska, eastward through Canada. Congregations of these distinct birds will be surveyed to determine habitat use and the age of birds. Participants in this five-year effort include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Fish and Game, Canadian Wildlife Service and Manomet Bird Observatory.

A doctoral study from the University of Fairbanks, Roy Churchwell, started an investigation into shorebird migration along the coast of the Beaufort Sea," Kendall said. "There is quite a bit of variability in use between sites, and we hope to determine what variables are determining use."

Staging juvenile Dunlin. Photograph by Heather Craig.

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, at Refuge coastal habitats during the staging period. Photograph by Luke DeCicco.

Kendall personally hopes to better understand how the native Eskimo know and recognize local birds.

"I previously worked at the Yukon Delta NWR, and learned the native names of birds," Kendall said. The people living on the coast of the Beaufort Sea have a much more "guttural manner of speaking," but "I hope to learn more."

Even during his short tenure of bird study on the refuge, Kendall sees changes which could threaten the avifauna.

Oil exploration is underway on the Beaufort Sea. Birds would be vulnerable to any detrimental impacts from spills from production wells, Kendall said. Beach erosion due to a warming climate could causing degradation in habitats for shorebirds.

"The Arctic refuge is a vast, and wild place for birds," Kendall said. "Founders of the refuge did not realize the current issues influencing conservation of the land."

His goals include maintaining the variety of functioning ecosystems, retaining viable populations of birds, and to "have the birds return each season" to the habitats they have used during their own, relatively brief generations.

The Arctic is a harsh land, and Kendall emphasized this point by describing a recent visit to the Canning River delta. We flew in to land on a frozen lake during a 50 m.p.h. wind. The Semipalmated Sandpipers were already there, dealing with the weather beginning their summer breeding season. "This is an important area for them," said Kendall as he noted the extreme situation these little birds have to deal with before they can try to raise another brood.

In association with the refuge's anniversary, Kendall will be giving a presentation about refuge birdlife to Arctic Audubon, on November 8th in Fairbanks. This will be the groups own celebration of the 50 year history.

The Arctic National Wildlife Range was established in 1960. In 1980, it was renamed the William O. Douglas Arctic Wildlife Range in February, but by December, the name became Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A list of anniversary events is available on the refuge website.

23 October 2010

Early Autumn Survey of Water Conditions at Mitigation Sites

A survey on September 27th indicated the extent of wet lands along the Missouri River between Langdon Bend and northward to near Sioux City in Nebraska.

With ongoing high releases of water from Gavins Point Dam, the plane survey was done to evaluate water conditions at the Missouri River Recovery Program project sites, according to Lynn Heng, a Natural Resource Specialist in the Omaha District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Overall, "it was wet in the southern extent of the survey area, and extremely wet in the northward region," Heng said of the six-hour aerial survey.

The flight allowed Heng to become familiar with the sites and to get a perspective of their conditions. He is responsible for management of several of the land tracts. Because of the higher-than-normal water levels, he also wanted to get a preliminary assessment of any damage, such as excessive sediment deposition in backwaters and chutes, and to see how much timber debris may have accumulated.

At some of the prominent chutes, many which have been created in recent years in conjunction with the Corps' Missouri River Recovery Program, the high water was actually having a beneficial effect.

The chutes were built with a particular width and bottom slope, and the natural erosive influence of the river waters has altered these features to where they mimic what would have been present when the river was unaltered in the centuries prior to the 1940s.

Heng called this adaptive management, where current engineering design and methods are used with projects.

Variable Conditions

Conditions at the different project sites varied during the survey, with Heng noting several prominent findings:

- Snyder Bend: "really inundated"
- Glovers Point Bend: the majority of the area, which now includes a dredged backwater and chute, was completely inundated. "The bank of the river was not even visible in many locations," Heng noted.
- Tieville-Blackbird-Upper Decatur Bends: The rock-armored outflows were working as planned to allow the high levels of water to flow outward from the project sites, and back into the river. "It was neat to see the system functioning as it was meant to be," Heng said. With the high level of water, there has been no need to operate electric pumps which are typically used to augment autumn water conditions at these sites.
- Bullard Bend: extremely wet with a "good amount" of standing water over much of the area. This is one of the newest Corps' project sites and includes a backwater.
- Sandy Point Bend: this site would normally have an isolated, off-channel lake, but with the greater than average flows, the bit of a lake looked as if it was part of a continual chute adjacent to the primary channel.
- South of the Platte River confluence, at Tobacco Island, the lowland next to the river was wet, but not inundated, with the chute still obvious.
- At Van Horn's Bend, one of the most recent properties acquired by the Corps, what had been cropland was flooded. A big help in creating this situation, Heng said, was a notch placed in a riverside levee which allowed the water to flow onto the land. This 240-acre tract was still really wet in early October.
At this particular site, once the land dries, the plans to establish some native grasses and limited tree plantings, and where cottonwood saplings have sprouted, allow them to continue to thrive. A chute may also be created here, Heng noted.
- Hamburg Bend: the lowland was dry in April, allowing vehicular access to the river, but in July it was inundated with water from the levee to the river, and this latter condition continued into early autumn.

As water levels recede, Heng will assess the conditions at the different sites and determine what maintenance work may be necessary. Typical work has had to be postponed during to the high-water, and other work such as placing rip-rap has also been delayed.

Overall, the aerial reconnaissance trip was very beneficial in providing a snapshot of current water levels and an idea on what the Corps can expect to see once the high flows subside.

Water releases from Gavins Point Dam are expected to continue at about 45,000 cubic feet per second, into December.

21 October 2010

Weekly Activities - October at Crescent Lake NWR

Refuge week 2010 has come and gone at Crescent Lake NWR located among the grassy, rolling dunes south of Ellsworth, in western Nebraska.

A highlight of the week - though there were not any particular activities for the "official" event - was the passing of migratory Sandhill Cranes, flying southward, as noted by Marlin French, a refuge biologist working on surveys of the vegetation. The evaluations indicate habitat conditions, and the plant cover available for different species of animals.

"We are in the second year of a wet cycle," French said, "and there is now more vegetative growth on the refuge in comparison to dry seasons."

At the 45,849 acre Crescent Lake refuge, the prairie setting is managed for grassland species, with prescribed fire and grazing two of the most essential and important methods of management.

"Our goal is to increase forb and insect diversity," French said, which are beneficial to the animals of the sand hills' grasslands on the refuge.

The numbers of wetland birds has been greater in the past two season, French said, noting that the number of Sora and Virginia Rail have been more pervasive. On the dry prairie areas, there have been fewer Horned Larks due to more vegetative cover.

Trends in bird occurrence are determined by annual point counts and nest surveys. These counts have been done for many years, and indicate a relative status for the species present.

Smith Lake has been especially notable for colonial nesting birds, including the White-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Cattle Egret, with the Great Blue Heron also a notable breeding species.

There are also the Barn Owls, with the refuge having a local population. Its occurrence obviously benefits from the 24 nest boxes maintained by refuge staff. About 90 birds are produced each season, French said.

A cycle of the season continues at the refuge, which has been recognized for the local avifauna since the early days in the 1880s when ranchers ran livestock, and visiting shootists periodically hunted waterfowl. Prominent in those times were Miles Maryott and Sandy Griswold.

Not recognized during the few days of a week, yet always prominent at the federal refuge, are the generations of fowl, resident or migratory, for which the refuge is managed.

The peak in the local Sandhill Crane season is expected soon in this area of the sand hills. These big birds and a myriad of others continue their use of the hills' habitats which refuge staff closely consider in order to manage for the benefit of birds and other fauna.

There will soon be another week at the refuge and the cycle will continue, as it has for decade by the Fish and Wildlife Service staff, and prior to that by others whom had an influence on the lakes and land in this portion of the western sandhills.

20 October 2010

Mid-October Birdlife of a Section of the Lower Missouri River

A ten-day period of bird observations at sites along the lower Missouri River indicate the variety of species which occur in the diverse array of wildlife habitats present in the valley.

A variety of observations occurred from October 6-17 from Desoto NWR (west of Missouri Valley Iowa), and southward to Hamburg Bend WMA, near Nebraska City indicate the many avian species present at the different publicly accessible habitats.

Autumn sunrise. October 10, 2010.

Wetlands have been especially prevalent during this autumn season, because of greater than normal water releases from Gavins Point Dam, and the higher flows have flooded many lowland places adjacent to the primary river channel, of which only a few have been observed with attention given to the birds which were present.

There have not been any particular attention given to surveys which would indicate the various types of birds which occur, but a unique combination of reports provide the details needed to recognize the autumn avifauna of 2010.

Notes of particular importance were derived from these places, primarily in Nebraska:

  • Bird counts done at Desoto NWR and noted as weekly bird counts, as well as the Big Sit on October 10th
  • Birder visits to Boyers Chute NWR
  • Daily surveys from 9-11 October at the Horseshoe Lake Flats including Nathans Lake, in the immediate vicinity of the Boyer Chute refuge
  • Birders visits to Hummel Park, Carter Lake, Big Lake on the north side of Council Bluffs in Iowa, Mandan Park and flats to the east along the Missouri River, the La Platte Bottoms (October 9, 10, 11 and 16th), Schilling WMA east of Plattsmouth (October 10th by Clem Klaphake), and a sole visit to Hamburg Bend WMA (limited report by Keith Dyche) which is a state-managed Corps of Engineers mitigation site south of Nebraska City.

Overall there are more than 350 distinct records available for comparison and evaluation.

The overall species list was developed from these observations as reported online or as compiled from personal sightings. All of the records were integrated into a database which provided the details essential in developing an overall indication of the birds present since habitats visited ranged from oxbow lakes, flooded lowlands, a lowland lake, river-side woods and timber on the river valley bluff.

Species Diversity

There were at least 94 species noted during this mid-October period. Numbers varied and the distribution varied, but the overall tally is indicative of the diversity of this particular section of the Missouri Valley.

The following table summarizes the spatial occurrence of the bird observations. The numbers given are the composite tally for the species during the period of evaluation. A zero (0) value indicates a species was present, but no count was made.

Common Name

Desoto NWR

Boyer Chute NWR

Horseshoe Lake Flats

Nathans Lake

Hummel Park

Carter Lake

Big Lake Park

Mandan Flats

Mandan Park

La Platte Bottoms

Schilling WMA

Hamburg Bend WMA

Canada Goose

618

-

149

-

-

-

16

-

-

-

-

-

Wood Duck

580

-

-

1

-

-

3

-

-

2

-

-

Gadwall

12

-

-

21

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

American Wigeon

35

-

4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Mallard

565

-

137

8

-

16

-

-

-

75

-

-

Blue-winged Teal

695

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

90

-

-

Northern Shoveler

0

-

12

-

-

-

-

-

-

21

-

-

Northern Pintail

707

-

85

-

-

-

-

-

-

221

-

-

Green-winged Teal

0

-

1

8

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Canvasback

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Redhead

-

-

-

6

-

-

-

-

-

3

-

-

Ring-necked Duck

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

15

-

-

Lesser Scaup

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Common Goldeneye

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Common Merganser

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Ruddy Duck

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

Ring-necked Pheasant

0

-

5

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Wild Turkey

260

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Pied-billed Grebe

12

3

38

14

-

1

-

-

-

12

-

-

Horned Grebe

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

American White Pelican

78

-

111

5

-

-

-

-

-

30

15

230

Double-crested Cormorant

34

-

-

4

-

-

-

-

-

49

-

-

Great Blue Heron

52

-

62

-

-

-

-

-

-

7

3

-

Great Egret

14

-

56

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

23

Snowy Egret

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Cattle Egret

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Green Heron

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Turkey Vulture

0

-

-

-

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

Osprey

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

1

-

Bald Eagle

7

3

10

1

-

-

-

-

-

33

2

-

Northern Harrier

3

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Sharp-shinned Hawk

5

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Cooper's Hawk

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Broad-winged Hawk

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Swainson's Hawk

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Red-tailed Hawk

8

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

American Kestrel

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

Merlin

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Sora

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

American Coot

0

-

8

2079

-

-

25

-

-

1169

-

-

Killdeer

36

-

60

2

-

-

1

-

-

14

15

-

Solitary Sandpiper

18

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Greater Yellowlegs

37

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Lesser Yellowlegs

10

-

5

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

Wilson's Snipe

-

-

6

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

Ring-billed Gull

0

5

313

23

-

-

-

-

-

28

3

-

Herring Gull

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

30

-

-

Rock Pigeon

0

-

25

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Mourning Dove

0

-

1

2

-

-

-

-

-

5

-

-

Great Horned Owl

0

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Barred Owl

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Belted Kingfisher

0

-

4

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

1

-

Red-bellied Woodpecker

0

-

-

-

1

-

1

-

-

-

1

-

Downy Woodpecker

-

-

-

-

1

-

1

-

1

-

-

-

Northern Flicker

0

-

-

-

5

-

2

1

3

-

-

-

Eastern Phoebe

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

Blue Jay

0

-

1

-

2

-

1

-

2

-

-

-

American Crow

0

-

2

-

-

-

2

-

2

-

-

-

Horned Lark

-

-

3

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

8

-

Tree Swallow

0

-

-

1100

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

-

Cliff Swallow

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Barn Swallow

0

-

250

25

-

-

-

-

-

55

-

-

Black-capped Chickadee

0

-

-

-

5

-

2

-

3

-

-

-

White-breasted Nuthatch

-

-

-

-

4

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

Brown Creeper

-

-

-

-

3

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

House Wren

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Winter Wren

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

Sedge Wren

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

Marsh Wren

-

-

6

2

-

-

1

-

-

5

-

-

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

Eastern Bluebird

-

-

1

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

American Robin

-

-

-

-

-

-

3

-

2

-

-

-

Northern Mockingbird

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

European Starling

0

-

22

-

-

-

8

-

-

14

-

-

Yellow-rumped Warbler

0

-

-

-

0

-

9

4

-

-

-

-

American Redstart

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Common Yellowthroat

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0

Eastern Towhee

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Vesper Sparrow

-

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Savannah Sparrow

-

-

5

-

-

-

-

-

-

3

20

-

Fox Sparrow

-

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Song Sparrow

-

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

Lincoln's Sparrow

-

0

25

3

0

-

-

-

-

2

-

4

Swamp Sparrow

-

-

1

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

7

White-throated Sparrow

-

0

-

-

0

-

-

8

4

-

-

-

Harris's Sparrow

-

0

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

White-crowned Sparrow

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0

Dark-eyed Junco

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

Northern Cardinal

0

-

-

-

2

-

-

1

2

-

-

-

Red-winged Blackbird

-

-

3485

60

-

-

25

-

-

635

-

-

Common Grackle

0

-

25

-

95

-

1

-

2

2

-

-

Brown-headed Cowbird

-

-

7

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

American Goldfinch

0

-

2

-

11

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

House Sparrow

0

-

3

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

The number of species present during the period is a pertinent indication for the bird diversity in the valley during this season. Migration is underway, and a birds' presence and extent can change each day.

There may have been a greater species tally if all of the species seen at a particular place were noted. This is a common short-coming of bird reports which continues to minimize the actual bird diversity of places because observors do not make an effort to denote all species present.

Highlights of particular significance include:

  • Late season individual Pied-billed Grebes, floating atop the waters in their search for a tasty morsel, including a half-sized youngster noted at the Horseshoe Lake Flats which was prominent because of its lesser size than the others of its ilk
  • Lingering numbers of the majestic Great Egret, including a bunch of at least 34 on October 11th at the Horseshoe Lake Flats
  • More than a dozen Bald Eagle of varying ages at the La Platte Bottoms, in association with the waterfowl; there were 14 on October 9th, and a dozen, two days later; they seemed to prefer lurking at the edge of the area and often were noted only after an extended period of observation when they took flight
  • Pervasive flocks of the American White Pelican, floating along and predominant upon the waters
  • Numerous American Coots especially consistent at Nathans Lake, providing an attractive scene for people driving past, with some of them seen taking pictures of the bird congregation
  • A few late season shorebirds at the wetlands of the Horseshoe Lake Flats; a personal highlight were the Wilson's Snipe, subtle in their presence
  • About a thousand Tree Swallows on the October 11, sitting placidly on the power lines on the south side of Nathans Lake, making it a relatively easy task to count them in groups present on different sections of the wires
  • A fine variety of sparrows occurring at the end of the period
  • The feathered mite, a.k.a Winter Wren, in the woods along Ponca Crek at Hummel Park, and also at the bluffs of Mandan Park

With the particular details available, there could be further particulars recognized, but suffice it to say, there are a number of fine places along the river this autumn where wild birds have found a haven.

Tree Swallows on the powerlines on the south edge of Nathans Lake. October 11, 2010.

American Coots at Nathans Lake. October 17, 2010.

A variety of wild lands have been utilized by a diverse array of birdlife, and the surveys during the period as least indicate a diversity which is known only because of the interest of birders which took the time to get out and look about, then to note their observations. Nearly all of the sightings are based upon observations for which there was no remuneration to the person whom spent their time and funds to visit a place, observe the birds and then compile and report their sightings.

This effort provides a glimpse of the valley birds, but is not comprehensive, nor complete in any manner. Only with a better focus on species occurrence and distribution at a greater number of places during a wider variety of times - without a reliance on the typically scattered and irregular observations of local birders - but instead through a an effort of particular focus will the avifauna of this and other portions of the Missouri River environs be known in some detail. It will require a thorough consideration to get thorough and accurate details in order to sufficiently convey the value of local habitats and indicate the details needed to show their importance.

Formerly flooded field with hunter walking to the refuge lands, on October 17th. This is the same place as the image with the geese, at the start of this article.