19 April 2012

Birds Convey Exceptional Value of Missouri Valley Habitats

A wonderful confluence of bird reports for a few-day period vividly express the occurrence of birds during the current spring migration. The special value of the reports is that they occurred at different localities on different days, and most especially some visits to the same place which convey the variance in species and numbers from one occasion to the next.

This report conveys details of reported observations from Saturday April 14 through April 17th, as noted by personal bird surveys and online bird reports. There is no special significance in any particular effort, but the overall result provides a detailed account of the many species now present in the region.

Starting on Saturday — a day of the wandering storminess — multiple details express bird-watching efforts within the river valley and associated places:

  • April 14: Forney Lake, Bartlett SWA, Schilling WMA, La Platte Bottoms and Offutt Base Lake prior to stormageddon, where winds exceeded 100 miles per hour and semitrucks were blown off Interstate 29 near Thurman
  • April 14: some bird notes from Fontenelle Forest contributed by Rick Schmid
  • April 14: a singular note about a female Mottled Duck at New Lake near Sioux City by Bill Huser
  • April 15: Lake Manawa, Big Lake Park and Carter Lake to get a Sunday morning perspective of birds at lakes of the valley
  • April 16: Lake Manawa report issued on IABirds by Benjamin Griffith, Newmarket, NH, during a travel layover
  • April 16: Offutt Base Lake, Harlan-Lewis Flats and La Platte Bottoms as reported by Clem Klaphake
  • April 16: terse notes from John Carlini and Sheri Schwartz for Forney Lake SWA
  • April 17: a hike about Elmwood Park and Memorial Park places in midtown Omaha
  • April 17: a few notes from Forney Lake SWA by Denny Thompson and for the Fontenelle Forest floodplain by Clem Klaphake and Eric Scholar
  • April 17: evening visit to Offutt Base Lake and La Platte Bottoms by Justin Rink

It is only because of the variety of bird observation efforts that such a diversity of birds are now known to have been present at various places in different numbers. For most of the observations, particular attention was given to counting the numbers of each species. This is especially valuable for the bird chronicles.

A list was developed from more than four hundred records, with many derived from online, public forums which indicate sightings of significance. The 102 species reported:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-heron
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Mississippi Kite
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
American Avocet
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Franklin's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Harris's Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Add in the Rock Pigeon, certainly present in the overall vicinity, and the Wild Turkeys strutting a block west of Levi Carter Park, so the tally is even greater than indicated.

Especially interesting are reports for the same locale, but on different days, especially at Forney Lake SWA, Lake Manawa, Offutt Base Lake and the La Platte Bottoms.

For Forney Lake, the tally on the 14th denoted 37 species. Only five different types were reported for the 16th, but it added four additional species that were using the wetland. Records of two species of ibis was especially exciting. There will be more wonderful birds here as spring continues its progression northward in the river valley.

On Sunday the 14th at Lake Manawa, there were 36 species denoted, with particular attention given to getting notes on all the birds observed. On Monday, the number was 30, with a similar effort, but hurried by a visiting birder. Overall, there were 46 species determined during both days, which provides a unique tally as all species seen were noted.

At Offutt Base Lake, there were 14 species present during a hurried survey before the storm weather arrived. Two days later, the report indicated 14 species, though only waterfowl were indicated. The overall tally was 26 species, with more songbirds noted on the April 14 survey. There were many more waterfowl upon the lake on the 16th.

A bit to the south, at the La Platte Bottoms on the 14th there were 11 species observed. The tally on the 16th denoted five species, with one special addition a single Merlin. Overall, the number of species was 12. Because of the "partial" closure of the La Platte Road for utility work, some species may have been missed. On Saturday the occurrence of many Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret was significant at the shrinking pond on the westward portion of the bottoms. None of the other reports indicated the presence of any herons.

Though Elmwood Park and Memorial Park are a relative ways away from the Missouri River ditch, the habitats are regularly used by species migrating along the valley. Without a time-consuming walk-about through the green-spaces, the Red-breasted Nuthatch occurrence would not be known. It was also a complete surprise to see two Pied-billed Grebe atop Wood Creek near the Elmwood Park Grotto. Certainly they are common upon the riverine lakes and marshes, but at a narrow creek in midtown is certainly not expected. The woods also are appreciated by other species, and an observation of an Eastern Towhee and hearing a Carolina Wren were distinctive among the period of interest. The largest count of Turkey Vultures is from this area.

Overall, a wonderful variety of birds were seen, and more importantly recorded and documented which continues the wonderful documentation to the avifaunal variety of the region. As spring continues, hopefully, similar juxtapositions might occur that could be helpful in illustrating species and their occurrence.

Further details of migrational movement and numbers could be developed from this set of data where repeat surveys at the same locales were made upon days within a short period of time.

Wednesday started the cycle anew...