Regular and ongoing reports issued by an anonymous individual(s) in the Columbus Journal newspaper, present a distinctly unique history for bird occurrence in Nebraska.
There were regular report, often for each month, with a summary regularly presented in January, where details for the previous year were presented. The unknown author indicated weather-related conditions, including mean temperature, clear or cloudy days, windy days, and depending on the season, the extent of snow or rain. As well, there are dates for lunar or solar coronas, and the occurrence of one or more sort of a mirage.
The first known instance where a particular bird species was denoted was in August 1878, in the September issue of the paper.
"Martins leave for the season 15th," were the few, basic words that indicated the local presence of this species at Genoa, Nance County, for August season.
It is very probable that earlier issues of the Journal would include additional references, but as they are not available online at the Chronicling America website, they have not been reviewed.
Weather reports of particular interest continued for the next decade. Typically a yearly summary was published in January for the previous year. There were also, especially in the first few years considered, monthly reports. Details for the months especially pertaining to birds were summarized in the annual report.
Regarding 1878, the review for 1878 was issued in the January 15, 1878 issued of the Journal. Species mentioned included larks (meadowlarks), blackbirds (c.f. Red-winged Blackbird), geese (Canada Goose), brant (Snow Goose), cranes (Sandhill Crane). swallows (probably the Barn Swallow) and martins (Purple Martin).
Larks arrived on March 6th, with martins arriving on April 22nd, and departing on August 15th, at a time when locusts were flying south to southwest in the vicinity.
The author of these reports is not known. M.K. Turner and Company were the proprietors and publishers of the newspaper during these times. A single issued of a summery report, for 1885, included the initials G.S.T. If he was the regular author, his focus and attention is certainly a unique perspective of local outdoor conditions, as he not only looked to the sky to see weather phenomenon, but also was attentive to notable bird-related dates.
More than 75 distinct records of occurrence are known for March 1878 to April, 1887. The first date represents a notation for the spring arrival of larks; the latter the arrival of swallows at this place along the Platte River.
Of particular interest are details about the Purple Martins, especially since spring arrival and autumn departure dates. These observations are the first and, thus far based upon extensive research, the only reports for this species which are available from a newspaper source.
This is a summary of particulars with the weather report:
Purple Martin Observations at Genoa, Nebr.
The martins were noted as typically arriving during a two-week period, and departing during period of time which extended for a longer period.The dates reflect the occurrence of this dramatic species, based upon current, and modern dates of departure. The dates for Genoa indicate that these birds may have left the local vicinity for elsewhere, which may have been a regional roost location, especially as martin are known to occur in the 21st century, throughout August and into early September along the Missouri River valley.
Other species well represented by dates of occurrence are the Barn Swallow, Canada Goose, Sandhill Crane and Western Meadowlark, which would have been the prevalent prairie lark in this region at this time of history. The Red-winged Blackbird, American Crow, American Robin and Killdeer are mentioned very less frequently.
Not all of the bird records are from the weather report. Other items of a few words in a sentence or few - indicate the unusual occurrence of a gray eagle (Bald Eagle), shooting of a swan (Trumpeter Swan), the taking of a Whooping Crane, a note-worthy flight of geese or other bird-related events prevalent to the observer.
Overall, at more than a dozen species are represented by the various accounts.
Reports of sorts with dates of significant bird occurrence occurred through March, 1887 to a regular degree. Thereafter, there are additional, though scattered reports to the end of the century.