12 January 2012

La Platte Bottoms Bird Observations During 2011

For the La Platte Bottoms, 2011 was a period of dramatic change. Especially prominent was construction associated with the new freeway alignment directly through its midst, and then came the great flood.

Birders on an outing for observe what might be about made the first known visit on February 20th. During March to the end of May, nearly twenty visits were reported. There were then three visit dates for June, and then the great flood occurred. It wasn't until October that any reports of the birds present could be done, as access had been restricted. The roads were blocked to watchers, though undoubtedly there were birds present.

There were at least 94 distinct species reported for this locality. The tally is skewed towards waterfowl and waterbirds, but a few observations of other species were indicated. Ducks were prevalent with an expressive variety of shorebirds also present.

One particular highlight was the Eurasian Wigeon seen in mid-May during the Sarpy County spring count. Phone call communication brought many local birders to the scene to appreciate this vagrant.

Among the waterfowl, was a hybrid Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal, also noted in earlier May. Other species noted only once or twice during the year include the Canvasback, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Least Bittern, and Common Moorhen, which represent waterbirds. More than 30 Semipalmated Plover on April 30th, was a distinct occurrence, noted during the days when a Black-necked Stilt and Willet were also observed. In mid-May, a Stilt Sandpiper was added to the site bird-list for the year.

Other occurrences matching this criteria were the Cooper's Hawk, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and others. During the year, a single recorded instance of the Downy Woodpecker in latter November indicates a bias in species occurrence. The same perspective applies to the availability of only one record each for the Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, American Crow, as well as the Brown Thrasher. Add in single reports of the Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow. There was only one report of the American Goldfinch.

Each of these birds are relatively common in the area, yet rarely noted for the La Platte Bottoms as the focus is on shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl.

If there was greater access to the habitat of the area -especially the wooded areas - there would be a subsequent increase on the species reported.

Without the contributions of many area bird watchers, as expressed especially on the NEBirds online forum as well as personal bird surveys, this report could not have been prepared. The birders' efforts are gratefully acknowledged and appreciated as important contributions to ongoing history of ornithology in Nebraska, and since they indicate the value of the wild habitat remnants within the valley of the Missouri River.

There have been at least 144 different species recorded at the La Platte bottoms, since 1980 when local birders realized the place was a site that attracted birds of interest to watchers of the various species. Considering 2010 and 2011, the tally is 117 species.

This is a list of the species known to occur at the wetlands north of the Platte River confluence, during 2011.

Species with an asterisk (*) are new
additions for this locality

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier *
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle *
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Common Moorhen
American Coot
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt *
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Wilson's Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope
Franklin's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull *
Ring-billed Gull
Least Tern
Black Tern
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
American Crow *
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher *
European Starling
American Pipit
Yellow-rumped Warbler *
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow *
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch