31 October 2012

Summary for Five Years of Omaha Bird Strikes

Since May 1st, 2008 there have been 1421 known window-strikes by birds in the Omaha area. On that first spring-day in downtown, five instances were discovered on the sidewalks of the area. Since then, strikes have been documented on 419 additional dates.

The majority of the details have been personally gathered, with twenty of these records from May-October 2012 as denoted by staff of the National Park Service, at their riverfront headquarters building.

There are 102 species that have been recorded. There are actual records for 101, plus another — American Woodcock — as denoted during a personal conversation with someone who personally knew of this bird hitting glass at a private area, not accessible for any survey attempts, the Conagra Campus at the riverfront.

During this period, strikes have been denoted on 181 different days of the year, from Julian Date 96 (April 5, 2012) to Julian Date 332 (November 27, 2008). Window-strikes may have occurred during other dates, but would have less likely been denoted due to weather conditions not suitable for what has primarily been a bicycle-based survey.

Window-strike Details

The following is a summary of details, which are especially pertinent, and poignant after so many mornings where dead or disabled birds were personally observed.

Number of Records for a Specific Species

Bird Species: Number of Instances

Lincoln's Sparrow: 155
Common Yellowthroat: 151
Purple Martin: 98
Common Grackle: 85
Nashville Warbler: 85
Clay-colored Sparrow: 47
Indigo Bunting: 42
Wilson's Warbler: 42
Tennessee Warbler: 41
White-throated Sparrow: 41
Mourning Dove: 32
Mourning Warbler: 30
Ovenbird: 28
Orange-crowned Warbler: 28
Dark-eyed Junco: 24

Gray Catbird: 24
Rose-breasted Grosbeak: 23
Grasshopper Sparrow: 21
Marsh Wren: 20
Northern Waterthrush: 20
House Wren: 20
Yellow Warbler: 17
Sora: 16
Brown Thrasher: 15
Swainson's Thrush: 15
Yellow-billed Cuckoo: 14
Baltimore Oriole: 14
Swamp Sparrow: 14
American Robin: 13
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 12

A total for the species given does not equal the overall tally, because in some instances a specific identity could not be determined since, perhaps, the carcass was too mangled, the little bird flew away, or some other reason obvious during at the time during the years.

Greatest Tally at Particular Buildings

There are 89 different buildings where bird strikes are known to occur. Several have just a single record. The following have numerous and repeated instances.

¶ Qwest/CenturyLink Center Omaha: 440 known occurrences (ca. 31% of the overall number) where birds have hit the glass of the building exterior, primarily on the west side. Deterrent decals placed upon the upper portion of the west wall glass a couple of years have been ineffective, as more strikes occurred in 2012 than previously determined. Overall, there are 231 dates represented during the five years: 2008: 60 dates and 123 records; 2009: 60 dates with 104 records; 2010: 22, 37; 2011: 20, 34; 2012: 69 dates, with 143 records.
¶ 1200 Landmark Center: 112 records as follows starting in 2008: 19 dates, 28 instances; 2009: 27, 37; 2010: 16, 17; 2011: 6, 7; and, 2012: 20 dates, 23 instances.
¶ Holland Performing Arts Center: 99 known occurrences occurring in 2008: 22 dates, 27 instances; 2009: 18, 26; 2010: 16, 22; 2011: 9, 9; and, 2012: 9 dates, 15 instances. There is undoubtedly a greater extent of occurrence as building staff do their best to remove carcasses and drive away disabled birds, as personally noted during the autumn of 2012; their latest remodeling effort will increase the hazard as it is has transparent glass on the south side and north side, and there is a situation of glass walls and light in an interior courtyard from which birds have trouble escaping.
¶ Kiewit-Clarkson Skywalk, on the Nebraska Medical Center campus: 97; predominantly Purple Martins which strike the building walkways despite efforts of using banners to provide a visual banner. The largest number of strikes occurred in 2008 (38) and in 2010 (17) and 2011 (10), which represents a decline as coverage was consistent.
¶ Union Pacific Center: 89, with an obvious decline, primarily because of the removal of interior vegetation on the north side. The company also has placed informational signs in the atrium areas, urging staff to close blinds and turn off lights. The change is reflected in the numbers, thus 2008: 27, 36; 2009: 23, 28; 2010: 7, 8; 2011: 9, 9; and, 2012: 7, 8, mostly on the south side of the building.
¶ Central Park Plaza: 75 overall, thus 2008: 19 dates and 29 instances; 2009: 21, 21; 2010: 5, 6; 2011: 6, 7; and 2012: 9 dates, 12 instances. There have been no measures taken here to reduce the hazards associated mostly with the lower glass areas on the east side of the two towers.
¶ Zorinsky Federal Building: 53; a U.S. building where the building manager has been informed several times about the bird deaths
¶ First National Tower: 49, where there has been an ongoing occurrence of strikes, and where officials made numerous comments and have made no effort to reduce obvious building hazards.
¶ Omaha Public Power District Energy Plaza: 45, where strikes continue to occur despite pioneering attempts to reduce the hazard by placing screen material on the glass.
¶ Gottschalk Freedom Center: 44, thus, 2008: 19 dates, 22 instances; 2009: 3, 3; 2010: 2, 2; 2011: 5, 6; and, 2012: 7 dates, 11 instances. The expanse of glass where these strikes occur is on the west side. As the park-space to the west develops further, the tree-canopy is increasing, and there will likely be an increase in bird-strikes due to the reflective character of the wall. No measures have been taken to address the situation of the building, operated by the Omaha World-Herald company.
¶ Omaha-Douglas Civic Center: 38, with non visits in 2008, thus 2009: 12 dates, 14 instances; 2010: 7, 7; 2011: 3, 3; and, 2012: 12 dates, 4 instances. A majority of these are at the glass wall on the north side of the atrium. No efforts have been made to reduce the tally.
¶ Harper Center, Creighton University: 26, with no recent records, which was probably mostly due to the closure of blinds on the buildings south side.. The recent completion of the Rasmussen Sports and Fitness Center and the landscaping placed on the south side, has added a new hazard to the area, however.
¶ Law Building: 26; at a vacant building
¶ Curtis Park Service Building: 23 at the regional headquarters for the National Park Service. There are a couple of small decals on the exterior glass, but the 20 occurrences indicates an obvious danger exists here along the river.
¶ Woodmen Tower Skywalk: 21
¶ Redfield and Company Building: 16
¶ Omaha World-Herald Building: 14

Areas managed as a campus where strikes occur at different buildings include:

  • the Nebraska Medical Center campus, including buildings operated by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
  • the University of Nebraska at Omaha city campus, including the UNO Criss Library - Tritsch Garden and UNO Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building; the new community center to be built soon also will have features known to cause bird strikes at other places. This structure will also "block" the only near-ground open-space from the tree-laden yards of the neighborhood on the north side of Dodge Street, and Elmwood Park to the south.
  • the Conagra Campus, based upon second-hand comments, and because of the proximity of large windows near the pond at Heartland of America Park and birds moving along the bank of the Missouri River.

Greatest Number of Instances on a Particular Date

The dates when the larger number of strikes occur are predominantly during the autumn, when birds raised during the breeding season are migrating, and experiencing new hazards in urban landscapes.

Date: Number of Instances

10/24/2009: 31
09/25/2008: 23
10/20/2009: 20
09/13/2008: 17
09/28/2008: 16
05/24/2012: 15
09/09/2012: 15

08/28/2009: 14
09/24/2009: 13
09/26/2008: 13
10/07/2010: 13
09/13/2009: 12
09/26/2010: 11
05/29/2008: 11

05/10/2008: 10
05/26/2008: 10
09/18/2012: 10
10/22/2012: 10

More details can be derived from the available window-strike records, especially temporal details for bird groups, extent of records at particular places, and calendar distribution of records at particular buildings.

There are also the general perspectives from the federal agency responsible for bird protection, efforts to reduce window-strikes and considerations regarding their efficacy, newly constructed buildings which are another threat to migratory birds, the disposition of bird carcasses, and perhaps, how building owners respond to their discovery that their structure is a bird hazard.

This summary has been prepared in particular to convey details to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services Office, Grand Island, Nebraska which — based upon several phone conversations thus autumn — has seemingly agreed to initiate an education and outreach program for the Omaha area. Details are not known.

There were ten more strike occurrences on Thursday, November 1st, represented the American Tree Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco. Seven of them were at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

30 October 2012

Considering Corps Decision Regarding the Platte Confluence

A recent meeting with staff of the Corps of Engineers provided details regarding the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to focus resources from the Platte River confluence to other recovery sites along the Missouri River.

The Corps had been considering the purchase of a 399-acre land tract north of the Platte River, at the confluence with the Missouri River.

Particular reasons given by the agency to instead focus their limited resources elsewhere along the river, were:

1) Soil and groundwater contamination resulting from industrial activities associated with the PCS Nitrogen facility. A map graphic was provided which indicates several sites which exceed the allowable level of ammonia, notably on the upland along La Platte Road. Other spots in the immediate vicinity have lesser amounts, but with the groundwater flow towards the south and east, there is the potential for contamination downstream.

Yellow markers on the map indicate sites where the ammonia levels exceed an allowable limit.

Additional details were provided, which indicate, based upon a table of metal detected in groundwater at the site landfill, as indicated by the "Brownfield Phase II ESA Report" for the PCS Nitrogen facility. Metals listed as exceeding the Nebraska "VCP standard" were arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium.

Corps officials indicated they would not want to purchase a tract of land for which they may become legally liable for cleanup of site contamination, as repeatedly indicated by Corps staff, based upon their detailed evaluations.

Mentioned during the meeting was that the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality recently issued a legal mandate for PCS Nitrogen to continue to monitor their property for contaminates for another ten-year period.

It was obvious, based upon the current situation as presented and agency decisions, that the contaminant problem is not going away.

There are no known efforts underway to remediate the situation.

2) A relict landfill comprising seven acres, occurs directly north of the tract which the Corps had been considered, and on the west edge of the area commonly known as the La Platte Bottoms.

This may also be a possible source of contamination.

The landfill area is indicated in the center of the map area. The white hatched area was the parcel the Corps had considered purchasing.

3) A drainage ditch from the PCS Nitrogen facility just east of La Platte runs eastward through the bottoms, and may also have contamination issues, according to a Corps official.

4) There are site improvement limitations at this site due to its proximity to the Offutt Airbase runway. There would be no opportunity to create shallow water habitat, because of the threat of bird gathering in the vicinity of planes routes. Any habitat that would attract flocks of waterfowl or waterbirds, might endanger airplane flights.

The limited extent of habitat recovery funds available to the Corps can be better spent at other sites, Corps staff said. There are numerous examples of other efforts to create habitat features along the river, including shallow water habitat, emergent sandbars, and other riverine features to promote the vitality of fish and wildlife. None of these management activities could occur at the parcel considered at the Platte confluence.

The proximity to the airbase has also imposed limitations on management options at the St. Mary's Island tract, previously purchased and on the Iowa side of the Missouri River. This site is a dryland, floodplain habitat, as a result.

An ancillary item discussed Friday morning was an effort to setback the levee along the north side of the Platte.

Any effort to move the levee northward from its current placement near the Platte River, would require Corp approval, and a NEPA review, according to a Corps official through a "408 approval."

Two items which would be considered in this review would be soil and groundwater contamination, as well as how the reconfiguration could influence the navigation channel of the Missouri, which the Corps is required to maintain by legal mandate.

It was apparent during the morning's discussion, that the Corps staff recognize the historic and cultural significance associated with the confluence. During the meeting, details were given to convey the bird history of the locale, to emphasize this topic. Also mentioned was the potential threat for industrial development that would destroy the bottoms, based upon perspectives presented in the Omaha and Bellevue media.

The Corps of Engineers has an ongoing responsibility to restore historic habitats and ensure the conservation of many Missouri River spaces. They would welcome the opportunity to be involved with other interested groups or agencies focused upon retaining a green-space situation at the Platte River confluence, according to comments from Corps staff.

The meeting was October 26th, downtown on the upper floors of the headquarters of the Omaha District office for the federal agency. Eight Corps staff were present. The meeting occurred because of a personal request for a meeting rather than a conference call.

Towards the end of the mid-morning meeting, it became obvious that there was a further need for discussions about the Platte confluence area, its status and future potential. One or another comment was that interested parties need to get together to share pertinent details, discuss particular issues, and — if this locale is to get the conservation is most assuredly deserves based upon many important facets — determine how to move this goal forward.

Conservation of the Platte Confluence involves many interested groups, yet some of the primary interests might learn more. There can be additional details presented.

The situation revolves about a property-owner, and the situation which now occurs.

A phone call to a Papio-Missouri NRD official was made in this regard Friday afternoon. It was another noteworthy conversation, with an emphasis that the NRD strive to have a meeting that would result in common interests being upon the same page.

Any meeting should include the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and several other entities with an expressed interest in this significant place along two rivers.

Lands at the Platte River confluence and the adjacent La Platte Bottoms are one of the most important sites along the Missouri River. In considering its future, this could be an essential aspect for its consideration.

The current perspectives are not consistent, though there are opportunities to alter the situation where-upon there could be a workable effort to conserve what is so obviously important at the Platte River confluence.

29 October 2012

Sordid Tally for Window-strikes at Omaha

The number of window-strikes by birds known to occur in the east Omaha area now surpasses 1400.

Friday morning was also an usual find at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, which is owned by the City of Omaha, and managed by the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority. There was a dead American Coot on the west side, being instance number 1399.

No dead or disabled birds were found Saturday morning, during a cold ride about the scene.

Strike number 1400 was a dead Dark-eyed Junco at the north side of DJs Dogout Bar and Grill at 1003 Capitol Avenue.

Further within the urbane setting, there was a dead American Robin at 1200 Landmark Center. This is record number 1401, based upon 410 dates when strike instances have been documented.

Rare Flock Gathers at Fontenelle Forest

A rare flock gathered in the environs of Fontenelle Forest during the weekend of October 26-28th. They were first noted in a group Friday evening, and then again Saturday morning, when soon after gathering they dispersed elsewhere. Numbers were especially significant Saturday afternoon and evening near the nature center.

It was hard to determine specific identification, but the individuals had apparently arrived from their usual haunts elsewhere in Nebraska, as well as other inland states. Behavior was fairly similar among the group, and a number of them had a second set of eyes, or in some instances a huge single viewing lens more than a foot-long.

The variety seen was splendid and conditions were superb, because of the planning effort of Betty Grenon, the coordinator for a combined meeting of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union and the Inland Bird Banding Association.

More than 100 people registered for the unique, weekend event, Grenon said. The focal point was the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center in Bellevue.

Events started Friday evening. Phil Swanson presented a "reception video" on Omaha history and birds through the season in this area of the Missouri River valley, Grenon said.

Loren and Babs Padelford brought homemade brownies — made Thursday evening with apparent care — as a tasty treat for the guests.

Later in the evening, a field trip was made to experience the banding of Saw-whet Owls at the Hitchcock Nature Center, in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

Saturday morning, the bird enthusiasts gathered before going on field trips to the local places at Fontenelle Forest, across the river to Lake Manawa, also to Neale Woods — another site maintained by the Fontenelle Forest Association — and then onward to Hitchcock Nature Center in Iowa, to visit a raptor banding site, and the prominent hawk-watch.

Several presentations were given at the nature center Saturday afternoon.

"I wanted to highlight local talents involved in research," Grenon said.

Breeding Bird Atlas

The first speaker was Wayne Molhoff, responsible for managing the Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas project, during both of the multi-year periods as it was undertaken throughout the state.

There were 557 atlas blocks surveyed for this atlas investigation compared to 443 during 1984-1989, Molhoff said during his presentation to the group of bird enthusiasts. Included in the sites surveyed where all public lands larger than 640 acres in extent.

Twice as many sightings occurred in the second atlas effort, 54,000+ compared to 26,000 earlier. There were 203 species documented during the most recent effort, with field work from 2006 through 2011.

Data results were given for some particular species, including an obvious indication of range overlap between Black-headed Grosbeaks and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. These two species were shown to comingle in central Nebraska, and do inter-breed where their occurrence is among a common space.

Another similar sort of situation, is conveyed by towhees. Mixed pairs of the Spotted Towhee and Rufous-sided Towhee were noted by atlas surveys, Molhoff said. Hybridization does occur.

A new addition to the species denoted by the atlas surveys was the Osprey. It is now recognized as breeding in the state, with records from the atlas survey among the first indicators.

Distribution maps and other project documentation are currently being prepared by Molhoff.

Sponsors for this effort included the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission through a state wildlife grant, and the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union.

Raptor Banding on the Loess Hills

Raptors of several sorts have been lured for research purposes, into a trap atop the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

Since 2007 this effort has attracted many species close enough for capture associated with an effort to denote species presence, investigate particulars of migrant raptors, while providing educational opportunities, said Jerry Toll. The effort also broadens the mission associated with the nearby Hitchcock Nature Center hawk watch.

The primary raptor captured has been the Red-tailed Hawk, Toll indicated during his presentation, and for this species, records indicate the occurrence of three sub-species.

Results were presented for 2007-2012. During the period, eleven raptor species have been documented, Toll said. The top three species represented were the Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk..

For the other species, there were only 1-3 or no records each year.

Every bird captured is banded, Toll said. There have been band recoveries from Louisiana, the Alberta province in Canada, and for Red-tailed Hawks, especially along a confined corridor through the central United States.

Also discussed were how banded birds were found elsewhere. They might have been found deceased, or being removed from airport runways, Toll conveyed during his presentation.

The current autumn season has been exceptional for banding efforts.

Three Merlins occurred, which is a new record. Two Red-shouldered Hawks were also banded, Toll indicated. On October 12th, a juvenile Northern Harrier was at the banding station, was captured, banded and released and was another new species of occurrence. A few days later, there was the first instance of a Prairie Falcon, Toll said.

In addition to the capture and banding, a student of a local university had been evaluating the breeding origin for transient Red-tailed Hawks. Feathers from hatch-year birds have been evaluated, Toll said, which can be used to determine the "latitude of origin" for the juvenile hawks. Birds occurring at the Hitchcock site have been determined to have origins near Anchorage, Alaska, in northwest Canada, and elsewhere hundreds of miles distant.

Funding for this effort has been provided by the Pottawattamie County Board and Foundation, Audubon Society of Omaha, Iowa Ornithologists' Union, and others.

Saw-whet Owl Banding

There is a focus upon raptor occurrence, whether night or day, among the hills about the Hitchcock Nature Center.

Another particular focus is the diminutive Northern Saw-whet Owl. A field trip during the meeting weekend visited the place for this research, with the focal point a barn in western Iowa.

The focus on the "saw-whet" started in 2007. Only six owls were captured, according to the results given by Sandy Reiken[?sic.]. Subsequent research results given were an interesting, personal perspective about discovering more about these little owls. At their research site, the owls in by using an "audio lure of a male saw-whet owl." Once captured, following several measurements of physical characteristics, beak coloration and a determination of sex by measuring the length of the wing chord, each owl is released.

Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship

A long-term effort initiated and continued by people associated with Fontenelle Forest has evaluated avian productivity and survivorship.

The effort was started in 1989 under the leadership of Betty Grenon, at a place on the floodplain of Fontenelle Forest, east of Bellevue. The effort involves a station of ca. 50 acres, nets, multiple days when birds are captured, and an expression of multiple data details for each morning, said Rick Schmid, during this presentation.

Grenon was instrumental in maintaining the effort essential to gathering the many details required for the MAPS project. Craig Hensley was recognized for his important help, by Schmid.

The study site moved to Boyer Chute NWR, and the intensive banding and documentation was done by Hensley, Grenon and Shmidt. Most recently in the past couple of years, a MAPS site efforts was moved to Neale Woods, Schmid said. This site is also along the Missouri River Valley.

A comparison of results for the floodplain at Fontenelle Forest and Boyer Chute N.W.R. was given. At the Fontenelle Forest site, there were 1008 bird captures during 4056 net hours, using the parlance of the MAPS statistics, representing 46 different species. Especially prominent among the captures were the House Wren and American Robin, with the Yellow-throated Warbler an unusual occurrence.

At Boyer Chute refuge, 1928 birds were captured during 3563 net hours, Schmid said. There were 47 species represented. Prominent among this number were the House Wren, Orchard Oriole and American Robin.

In addition to birds denoted during banding, details are kept about each bird seen and heard, along with notes about breeding activity.

More than twenty volunteers have been helpful during this banding effort, Schmid said. Occasional visitors are welcome to visit the survey site.

Live Birds in the Room

Raptor Recovery Nebraska is known for bringing birds to their presentations, so it was another special norm on Saturday afternoon. Following an introduction of the groups efforts, which started in 1976, Denise Lewis, the outreach coordinator, presented four different raptors.

Shown first was a dead, adult, Bald Eagle that was a victim of some tragedy, and missing an entire wing, when found near York, Nebraska. It was subsequently euthanized as it had no chance for survival, Lewis said. The bird arrived to the Omaha area soon enough to be shown to the people at the presentation, as seen dead on a table in long-gone, but still significant glory.

Three live raptors shown were an excitement for the crow. The obviously appreciated guests were:

1) Orion (named after the stellar constellation) but better recognized as a Great Horned Owl; it had been shot and its wings were so damaged it could not be released back into the wilds; Ms. Lewis was interested in getting it to be more expressive with a taller stance;
2) Grasshopper, a distinct, dark-colored morph Swainson's Hawk that had been shot, illegally; the bird had only a partial wing, and according to rule-making by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this malady would currently mean its demise;
3) Arrow, an expressive female Peregrine Falcon, that came from Colorado; it did not have enough wing strength for flight needed for survival in the wild, Lewis said.

Many cameras were focused on these magnificent birds, each one lively in a wonderful and distinctive manner in the conference room. Each of these birds are cared for by Lewis, and shown in other educational presentations. In recent years, raptors cared for by the group have been presented to at least 8,850 people, as represented by Lewis visits among the community.

Raptor Recovery has about 30-34 educational birds within Nebraska, Lewis said.

Linda Brown, a board member of the group was also present and contributed to the presentation.

A Black-capped Chickadee banded at the NOU/IBBA meeting.

Orion, the Great Horned Owl.

Grasshopper, the Swainson's Hawk.

Arrow, the Peregrine Falcon.

These pictures are courtesy of Anne and Ron Kruse.

Tom Labedz, museum curator at the University of Nebraska Museum commented on the condition of Snowy Owls they had received during the irruption of this species last winter. They were emaciated and plagued by parasites.

Raptor Recovery had 16 Snowy Owls arrive at their facility during the past winter season, Lewis said. Of the four that survived, two had broken wings and were placed at an educational nature facility elsewhere. The other two were shipped northward, received additional care, and were released back to the wild up north, Lewis indicated.

For birds which do not survive, carcasses are sent to a federal agency, so the feathers can become available for tribal purposes. Several of the Snowy Owls from Nebraska went to Sia, a tribal feather repository in Oklahoma.

Raptor Recovery can handle 90 birds at a time, Lewis said, and they are typically full. There were 472 raptors cared for in 2011. Through the years, "a little over 50% of the birds handled," have been released, Lewis noted.

This group relies upon contributions and money from members to help birds recover from a traumatic event. Significant expenses include payments to veterinarians and purchase of the food essential to the survival of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons receiving care. Contributions are welcomed to help the debilitated raptorial birds.

Further Events

After the presentations, birders walked about, peering into the foliage while using their ever-ready binoculars, with those big-lens cameras at the ready, the events of the continued. There was an IBBA group meeting. Then an evening banquet.

The post-banquet presentation started upon the arrival of "Spencer Baird" to discuss a few particular birds and the origin of their names. A focus of his presentation was about warblers, and specifically a few whose name had a female derivation when the newly known species was "officially" described in the ornithological literature.

The presentation by Dr. Neil Ratzlaff, suitably dressed in garb of the period, had a topical focus on the name origin details for the Lucy's, Grace's, Virginia and Blackburnian warblers, which were thus named for women. For the latter species, additional details were to be presented about the "Lady Anna Blackburn" who maintained a natural history collection in Britain, at the family estate, near Liverpool, England, Ratzlaff said.

Dr. Baird was the first assistant in natural history at the Smithsonian Institution, and instrumental in developing the collection of bird material at the national museum.

Dr. Ratzlaff, a retired radiologist, has been interested in this topic as a result of a personal investigation of birds that were first described by physicians.

The bird enthusiasts continued their events Sunday, with additional field trips and certainly, more conversations about birds.

It has been more than ten years since the autumn meeting Nebraska Ornithologists' Union was held in conjunction with another bird group, Grenon said. Banding, which is part of the educational program at Fontenelle Forest, "is a good chance to get close to birds." Many visitors, including young children, or volunteers appreciate being able to touch the live birds.

Members of the IBBA came from several states, including Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.

Grenon expressed her appreciation for the help of Rick Schmid for meeting planning and operation, to the boards of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union and IBBA for a willingness to meet at Omaha at the same time.

Jolly Party on Lively Prairie Chicken Hunt

A very jolly hunting party, consisting of Dr. Coffman, E.B. Chandler, E.G. Dixon, J.C. Thomas, W.L. Adams, B.B. Wood, Frank Murphy and a number of ladies, had a lively prairie chicken hunt on Saturday. They left the city about three o'clock in the morning, and got caught in the terrific thunder, lightning and rain storm that took place shortly after day-break. Although their clothes were drenched, their spirits were not dampened, judging from the day's hunt, which resulted in the death of thirty chickens. It is said that as each chicken rose, all the gentlemen fired at it simultaneously, and if it was brought down, each claimed the honor of having killed it, and the ladies were called upon to decide the matter, which they did with as much partiality as was possible under the exciting and humorous circumstances.

From the local news section. August 25, 1874. Omaha Daily Bee 4(57): 4.

Lower Brule Tribe Proposes Unique Project

A delegation of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe received unanimous support for consideration of a unique plan for habitat restoration at Lake Sharpe.

A tribal delegation including Michael B. Jandreau, tribal chairman, Scott Jones, Joel Bich and Brian Molyneaux presented their plan and asked for support from the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, during their group's quarterly meeting being held at Omaha, from October 22-25th.

The tribe was asking for support from the group and financial assistance from the U.S. government to correct some of the impacts created when their homelands were destroyed by dam construction and inundation of the river by a reservoir, Jandreau said. The project "can work and become a real extension in an effort to try and heal those things created by mankind," and an "opportunity for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe to complete a project that will work for the benefit of everyone," interested in the Missouri river.

The "Little Bend" project would have several features:

1) an elongated island 200 feet wide, and 6200 feet to provide nesting habitat for the interior Least Tern and Piping Plover;
2) removal of vegetation from a former island — which is now a peninsula — and create a channel to separate it from the adjacent upland, resulting in a 12-acre island;
3) create a one-acre island;
4) create 60 acres of backwater habitat; and,
5) establish some upland habitat for flora and fauna, including the planting of some cottonwood trees.

The off-shore island habitat would not be inundated by any high-flow events, as the Lake Sharpe reservoir has a "stable water pool elevation," said Bich, during his portion of the presentation. The island would also have long-term permanence and require a lesser extent of maintenance, in comparison to mid-channel emergent sandbar habitat created below Gavins Point Dam, for example.

Additional items explained to the committee members and others present at the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, included:

  • how the habitat could contribute to the conservation of both bird species, if they were to use the new islands;
  • the projects could expand restoration efforts associated with the Missouri River to the northern, reservoir sections;
  • many other benefits could result, including stopping shoreline erosion, which is an ongoing problem along the reservoir shore, protect a cultural resources, create ancillary habitats for various flora and fauna; and
  • how the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has "the desire, capability and commitment to successfully complete projects."
  • risks and uncertainties were also presented, including whether or not the two bird species would utilize the habitat, will the project further species' recovery, if there might be predation dangers at a permanent site and long-term management issues.

Scott Jones indicated there have been many social, cultural, economic and psychological impacts on tribal members due to dam construction and loss of the natural river. The Little Island project has an interdisciplinary approach with many obvious benefits, he indicated.

Committee members expressed several comments in response, and they were all supportive. One comment indicated that the tribal presentation was unique to the efforts associated with committee activities.

The project design was completed in 2008, with development assistance provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is ready to be constructed, once funding of approximately $4.5 to 5 million dollars is available. Representatives of the Corps, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also visited the project area, earlier in October.

The LBST asked that the MRRIC that this off-channel habitat project be considered as a high priority for Missouri River restoration projects and that the project be given priority consideration in a current reservoir study. No decision was made at the time on establishing the project as a high priority for the Missouri River Recovery Program.

The MRRIC members, through a unanimous consensus vote, agreed to have the Science and Adaptive Management work group, specifically the tern and plover focus group, consider the project further and then report back all members.

Additional potential projects have also been developed for future consideration on tribal lands at the lake, the reservoir behind Big Bend Dam, which was completed in 1966.

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has already carried out a project to protect their land and culture. An island was constructed that stopped erosion threatening a 1000-year-old earth mound site — designated as a national cultural site — and which was planted to cottonwood trees.

This project has provided multiple benefits to tribal members, said Jones, including scientific and educational values.

"Animals were waiting for this habitat to appear," said Brian Molyneaux, expressing how turtles were using the project site, the spring after its completion. "We need to enable habitat possibilities, and allow animals to exhibit behavior people cannot predict."

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has an active conservation program, and elsewhere on their lands in central South Dakota, the tribe has reestablished the Black-footed Ferret, with young being raised at prairie-dog colonies of only about twenty acres in extent.

26 October 2012

Agreements Promote Tern and Plover Conservation

Another agreement was reached this spring to promote common efforts that conserve habitat used by the interior Least Tern and Piping Plover in Nebraska.

The memorandum of understanding was enacted to "recognize the importance of taking cooperative, proactive actions to manage" both bird species at sand and gravel operations along the lower Platte River near Ashland, Fremont, and Louisville.

Parties which signed the memorandum in April include Western Sand and Gravel Company, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership (TPCP) and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The company, which removes sand from the floodplain that creates open flat areas of sand used for nesting by both birds, agreed to two items: 1) "discourage nesting in work areas" by creating mounds rather than flat open areas preferred by the birds for breeding activities, in order to discourage any nests being located in work or travel areas; 2) "improve nesting habitat" based upon recommendations provided by TPCP project site representatives. Any work of this type would be done at company expense.

The "partnership" had two items of responsibility: 1) monitor nesting activity, by notifying the company when they would visit a minimum of 48 hours prior to arrival, and checking in with site supervisor's upon arrival. The company would allow the TPCP workers to "install warning signs and predator exclusion cages as deemed necessary."

A second item of this section of the memorandum, is that the TPCP would respond to any company "requests for information" within 24 hours.

Responsibilities of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission would be to:
1) "Provide technical support and counsel" ... "in accordance with state and federal regulations" including the Endangered Species Act as well as state statues pertaining to threatened and endangered species.
2) "Regularly monitor tern and plover activity" as "one or more representatives from TPCP, NGPC, or USFWS may be directly engaged in monitoring birds" at a site; "The TPCP shall keep all of the parties informed about Interior Least Tern and Piping Plover locations and activities"; and
3) "Coordinate with the TPCP" with the coordination ensuring that an annual report is prepared by the TPCP and distributed to all parties, "summarizing results of the annual monitoring and any recommended modifications to sand and gravel operations. Any modifications must be prepared in writing ..."

The memorandums of understanding are "a success in establishing a shared concern for the Least Tern and Piping Plover based upon particular perspectives," said Robert Harms, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Through collaboration we worked together with mutual respect and an understanding of common goals," to conform to legal requirements and promote conservation of these birds.

The latest agreement took affect upon "signature of all parties" which occurred in April, and early May, 2012.

This is the third "memorandum of understanding" for sand and gravel operations along the lower Platte River from near Fremont to Louisville. Previous agreements were reached with Lyman Richey Company and Mallard Sand and Gravel (a.k.a. Oldcastle Materials Group), said Harms. Each MOU was agreement to promote breeding habitat for both species that will help ensure their conservation.

The agreements can be terminated at any time, once a signatory to the memorandum indicates their intent to withdraw by sending letters to the others that were part of the agreement, according to the memorandum with Western Sand and Gravel Company.

The interior Least Tern is classified as an endangered species, with the belted Piping Plover classified as endangered under criteria of the federal Endangered Species Act.

25 October 2012

Grasshopper Sparrow Deaths Prevalent on Monday

After an early rain event during dark hours of Monday morning in latter October, weather conditions continued to be subdued as dawn descended. There was an irregardless drizzle from heavy skies, beneath low gray, clouds. Temperatures were comfortable for a bicycle ride, especially because locally reported weather radar indicated significant precipitation had moved eastward, so there would be no rainy inundation.

The morning started with some sort of unknown event in the area to the northward, where emergency sirens were prevalent along with the bright flashing lights of an emergency situation. Traffic seemed to be blocked on the thoroughfare, which was certainly appreciated since it made it so very much easier go cross Radial Highway, in comparison to so many other days of seemingly ceaseless rush-hour traffic.

At the first of the regular route downtown, upon arrival at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, dead or disabled birds were prevalent and strewn about the west side of the structure. The first obvious carcass was a Lincoln's Sparrow. Further south were other window-strike occurrences, with a common theme obvious to identify them as Grasshopper Sparrows, dead or alive. There was also a dead Savannah Sparrow along the west wall where too many birds have died.

Another Grasshopper Sparrow had been found at this building the previous morning.

Around the route of the Monday morning outing, other window strike occurrences were discovered, obvious by finding other birds at glass walls of buildings.

An Orange-crowned Warbler was noted at the southwest corner of the Holland Performing Arts Center. Once seen, its obvious intent was to escape the setting of a notable hazard of glass and light. The bird was, thankfully, still lively, and provided many exquisite closeup views as it tried to find a proper direction. It landed on the bicycle handle-bars, and then upon the cloth of the arm of a jacket. The moments were a singular, iconic experience ever with any bird during the past three decades. Eventually the bit of a bird flew away under its own wing-driven effort, hopefully to a better space.

There are so many words to express about this building of doom for birds, but that will have to occur at another time.

Grasshopper Sparrow carcasses were found elsewhere among the urbanity. There were two at the Union Pacific Center, at the south and east side of the building. Within the place's lobby, static signs promote an effort for employees to decrease window strikes, but to no avail this day for the migrants.

On the south side of downtown, a street slick with wet meant sliding further than intended upon trying to stop the bicycle and it nearly meant intruding into an intersection where there was a stop sign, and where several vehicles where crisply moving northward, and had the right-of-way. Whew, was the resultant attitude because only by quick moves of avoidance, was collision avoided, and the route moved onto the sidewalk.

Further along and just minutes later, another Grasshopper Sparrow was found at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, on the north side of the atrium where a glass wall is obviously problematic for wild birds trying to make a way through the river city.

At the end of the survey route of the morning, the route along sidewalks and street continued, in the progress to go elsewhere. There was the disjunct situation where school students — as they seem to regularly do, smoke marijuana in blunts and joints — which seem be appropriate terms for an unknown drug culture, there at the Dodge Street bus stop, a short jaunt just east from Central High School. From a birdly perspective, it is much more exciting to watch how the pigeons on a church roof respond to the swoop of a Peregrine Falcon on a morning hunt.

Results of this Monday outing were more of the same, yet distinct in the chronicles because of weather and the unknown calendar for birds migrating southward in the autumn. A deadly scenario occurred for several Grasshopper Sparrows. It was a condition of weather, temperatures, seasonal timing as well as the occurrence of precipitation that were known influences.

Many other sparrows were undoubtedly making their way along the Missouri River valley in a less traumatic manner. Local birders noted their occurrence on a local bird forum, but of course, they denoted birds alive in the environment.

For just one morning, this Monday was a tragedy for Grasshopper Sparrows. They were flying southward to a winter's haven, but some ended up as carcasses among the city of Omaha.

22 October 2012

Six-hour Bicycle Birding Exploration

A current Sunday morning started a bit after 6:30 a.m. with the first pedal-push predawn down the driveway and towards downtown. It doesn't take much to coast downhill toward Radial Highway, where there is sparse traffic on the second morning of a weekend. But then, the route was up a hill, followed by a bit of a coast and then up to a prominent urban peak at Walnut Hill. Its a well-traveled routine for this bicyclist this season, with slight expectations for surprising traffic antics since there was just a bit of traffic.

Along the street route, it seems appropriate that the Metropolitan Utilities District — working their underground lines — would have a "clean" work-site near 24th Street, where for a bicyclist, there is now strewn gravel and rocks, a hole, and other street-surface features which are not conducive to any cyclist, and perhaps to a motorist. The street is a recognized bicycle route, but obviously this situation is not a part of their reality.

Down east near the riverfront, a single window-strike was found during the usual route. There was a morbid Grasshopper Sparrow at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. This is obviously nothing unusual for mornings there these autumn days.

The route was onward around the urbanity, and eventually northward on 16th Street, then eastward through the City of Carter Lake to where it was possible to observe live birds at the lake setting. Seen first was an American Kestrel at Kiwanis Park.

Upon Carter Lake, it was the unexciting routine of denoting the myriads of goofy coots. They were spread all about Bird Isle. A Pied-billed Grebe here caught a fish perhaps a mite big, as it took several observed attempts to get the piscatorial meal down its gullet, which was eventually achieved with multiple throat actions? Did it mean an end to its day's fishing...

It was a splendid morning of comfortable temperatures without any apparent chilling influences. Winds were light, with sunlight expressive against the eastern clouds. Colorful hues were prevalent along the way where waterfowl were the primary spots denoted for counts.

Muddy ground meant gobs of dirt and leaves and pebbles got stuck on both bicycle tires. Because of the recent construction, there are simply too many places where dirt prevails and then adheres to where the rubber meets whatever. A handy bit of a wooden stick was helpful for a time to remove the unwanted load.

Many expressive sights were seen, but something of significance did not occur until continuing along the north side of the lake, near a closed place where three Brewer's Blackbirds were taking advantage of some itty bitty spot of water, until flushed away by the arrival of an American Kestrel. This is the first known record for this species at this locality, based upon records extending back at least a century.

Further along, among the conifers eastward of the park pavilion, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was pecking the wood on a tree, and indifferent to anything else. It was watched for a fine time from just a few feets' distance. As determined later, this was also a new addition to the avifauna denoted within the environs of Carter Lake. Of course, the significance was not apparent at the time, but the bird certainly was as it was obvious on the tree trunk, pecking away early in the day.

Further along, on the west side of the lake, there were more coots and another item, unwanted. Once more American Coot and other waterfowl were seen and denoted by a pencil on paper, there was a dramatic diversion of a secondary sort.

What was a broken, wooden seat doing on the west side of the meadowlands near the railroad tracks? Its time was finished. It was picked up and carried, to the parking place, and then transported via bicycle northward, for disposal in an available green trash can. It was item number one. Northward along the street, other items moved elsewhere for proper removal as trash were two pallets, a drawer, carpet and its lining and a few other sundry items.

The park-space was somewhat cleaner as the ride continued.

A special place, as usual in the recent weeks, has been the northwest park of the park-space. Two magnificent Great Blue Heron enjoyed the tree snags in the Levi Carter Pond, which to them, provided a great place to try to find another meal. Wood Ducks continued to enjoy the same setting as they have all this year.

Bird activity at the Northwest Woods was expressive and confounding and exciting. American Robins enjoyed the water where they could refresh. Dark-eyed Junco seemed to have a similar intent. A nice time was spent observing the scene, and it resulted in the addition of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which was later determined to be the first for the area. This bit of woods has the conifers utilized by the red- and white-breasted nuthatches.

Also about was an Eastern Towhee, sublime in the understory, and particularly seen, especially upclose only because of particularly walking to where it was present, which flushed the bird onward to feet away, and then to one more space where its features were readily seen in the glory of the morning sun.

This spot is sanctuary for birds. Perhaps it should be designated as such a place. Just to the east, there were more birdly activities, especially as a Downy Woodpecker was insistent in its endeavor to protect a special tree cavity from pesky European Starlings, of which were too many.

Ongoing Pedaling

After an unknown number of pedals, there was an arrival at the next locality where birds occurred.

It was a mixed condition.

At the east grove, which is a bit of a wild place and unkempt in all its glory two modern records were added to the bird history of the space.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was seen on a conifer, at a place where it has not been seen since 1929. There was also an observation of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, with only one other report from 1930.

A needy bunch of Wood Ducks, as well as may Canada Goose were at the lagoon.

On the north side of the water, in the tree-tops there were several Cedar Waxwings, a new addition to the park avifauna.

Elsewhere there was arboreal carnage, obviously and sadly to the detriment of woodpeckers and birds which appreciate underbrush or shrubbery.

A Magnificent Morning

It was — as projected by weather forecasters who indicated conditions suitable for a lengthy outing — a magnificent morning for watching the antics and activities of resident birds. There were 41 species recorded during the six hours pedaling around. Any morning of this sort is always a ride of discovery. For this particular Sunday, there were exciting discoveries as every round of the bicycle wheels meant progress in a day's discovery of birds present in the Missouri River valley. It was a great time, though the time needed to count the plethora of coots isn't really especially enjoyed.

Maximilian Tagebuch Conveys Distinctive Bird History

When Prince Maximilian of Wied Germany came to explore America in 1832, among his varied interests was flora and fauna. Given particular attention were birds, as he traveled from the eastern coast into the wild territory of the northern Great Plains. The importance is so readily obvious in his tagebuch (a.k.a. journal), now available in their entirety following the issue of volume three in recent months by the Durham Center for Western Studies at Joslyn Art Museum, located in Omaha, Nebraska.

Each hefty volume conveys in particular detail and finesse so many unforgetable tidbits for the history of people and places decades ago. The original verbage, though sometimes marred by editorial nuance and syntactical excess, has copious footnotes suited for a scholarly work that is now and will ever-be an essential source for this period in American history.

There are so many details, with vital, distinctive details for any investigation of historic birds, that include these specifics: 1) Maximilian wrote daily entries, so the specific date of an occurrence is blatantly indicated and certainly appreciated in comparison to other historic narratives where a monthly account might not include any date details; 2) the Prince had an entourage, so there were other men out and about to gather natural history material, and they included hunter David Dreidoppel, and Karl Bodmer, the expedition artist whose exquisite artistics presentations are visually dramatic in an unsurpassed and wonderful manner; 3) both Maximilian and Bodmer prepared small color sketches which in addition to the verbage of the journal and associated large graphic works, also contribute to the sense of what was observed during their voyage; 4) Maximilian was a scholar, and visited with important local authorities of natural history knowledge where they resided (especially at New Harmony, Indiana) and had the monetary means to purchase and have available any available, and current at the time, reference publications; 5) notes in the journal often include specific details of size, color and other features and lore sufficient for denoting an accurate identification, as considered in detail for the published volumes, and denoted by footnotes.

A detailed analysis of the bird records for the expedition has been a long-term personal interest. They were first considered upon reading a 1983 article presenting an extract of the journey for the Nebraska region. The accounts and words of different birds piqued an interest in bird history which has continued unabated. It wasn't until more than two decades later that the first authoritative volume of the princely journal was issued and could reviewed in an accurate detail. The same situation occurred with the second volume a few years later, and finally the final volume this year, so a nearly complete consideration could be accomplished. The natural history prepared by Prince Maximilian does however, remain untranslated and thus not available for review and proper, additional consideration as to its significance.

In regards for details about the bird sightings, extracting appropriate records was a process of reading each page closely and noting bird and bird-related observations for a particular date. A geographic location was then determined, and particulars were then entered into a database for further review. Maps were essential in the effort. Essentially important were maps of the Missouri River prepared by Martin Plamondon II, which depict the historic character of the river channel as conveyed by maps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as used by the Prince, and which so importantly include details sufficient for determining a geographic locality appropriate in the modern context of places and counties. These particulars are obviously essential to indicate geographic occurrence as well as distribution. Rather than presenting a vague place, it was possible to denote localities to a refined extent, with several places often mentioned by Maximilian within one modern-day county of a state. Along the Missouri River, there was regularly enough detail to determine a site of occurrence, so a decision could be made as to the particular state, since the river was the boundary, especially in the Nebraska region. Elsewhere, especially in the final weeks of his expedition, their were hamlets and towns noted, which made the process much simpler.

Distinctive Bird History

Always writing about details of particular interest, the first pertinent bird records indicated in the journal were in June 1832, while on the Outer Banks of the Atlantic Coast. The transocean route of the ship was approaching the eastern coast of the U.S.A. As the expedition moved to the west, the bird records continued unabated for many places, including several which were territories in a country moving westward across an expansive continent.

Based upon the commentary by Maximilian, it's obvious that bird records during his sojourn during three years, were widespread. Notations of pertinent activity occurred in numerous states as well as associated with provinces in Canada. A geographic summary indicates these particulars:

  • Indiana: 623 records, especially because of the winter sojourn at New Harmony
  • North Dakota: 452, especially because of the winter sojourn at Fort Clark
  • Montana: 264
  • South Dakota: 246
  • Nebraska: 163
  • Missouri: 152
  • Pennsylvania: 67
  • Iowa: 39
  • Ohio: 38
  • Illinois: 24
  • New York: 15
  • Newfoundland, Canada: 9
  • Nova Scotia, Canada: 5
  • Kentucky: 5
  • Massachusetts: 4
  • Kansas: 4
  • Maine: 2
  • Labrador coast, Canada: 2
  • Rhode Island: 1

About 287 different localities were needed to adequately indicate the many various spaces and places for which Prince Maximilian scribbled notes in accord to what would be modern-day bird-watching. Atop the locality list, based upon the extent of mentions on the tagebuch, are:

  • New Harmony on the Wabash: 489 records because of a months long residence from late autumn through to the next spring-time when it was time to continue moving westward;
  • Fort Clark Environs: 167 because of a lengthy presence, once gain during a winters-time sojourn
  • Fort Union, Yellowstone River: 71, also because repeated journal entries for the locality;
  • Troublesome Island Area: 53 for a vicinity which is now inundated by a reservoir, in Dakota
  • Fort McKenzie: 29, also on the northern plains.

Most of the other places for which bird records can be determined have ten or fewer observations, obviously understandable since the expedition was transitory, with only a limited number of stops/delays where time could be taken to look around the particular place, and get where the Prince could listen and the hunters might take a specimen. As well, birding from a moving boat would obviously result in a recognition of a lesser number of species, though because of the Prince's attention, his notes do convey a broader perspective, along the rivers and canals of what was then, the frontier of America.

Birds were a regular and typical item mentioned in the tagebuch. On April 10, 1833 and aboard the steamboat Yellow Stone, a boat of the American Fur Company, the party of explorers set forth from St. Louis. One of the first species seen nearby on the Mississippi river was a Pied-billed Grebe. And there were hundreds of subsequent notes in the many subsequent months.

There were 159 different species denoted during the expedition, in addition to other items noted which were various objects using bird material. The following list utilizes bird taxonomy as indicated by the summer 2012 list by the International Ornithological Congress, for birds of the world. Additional records can be given based on authentic sightings, but where there was not an indentifaction to a specific species possible, and these are not included in this list of valid species.

¶ Northern Bobwhite, Colinus virginianus: 19 notations, from places in Indiana to Missouri
¶ Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo: 54 notations, mostly from New Harmony, with many from Missouri and other from the Nebraska and Iowa area of the Missouri River
¶ Ruffed Grouse, Bonasa umbellus: 5, only from Pennsylvania and Indiana
¶ Sage Grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus: 2 from North Dakota which at the time was a territory
¶ Sharp-tailed Grouse, Tympanuchus phasianellus: 52
¶ Greater Prairie Chicken, Tympanuchus cupido: 19
¶ Greater White-fronted Goose, Anser albifrons: 2
¶ Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens: 5
¶ Canada Goose, Branta canadensis: 86
¶ Brant Goose, Branta bernicla: 1
¶ Trumpeter Swan, Cygnus buccinator: 21 records primarily for the Missouri River area in North Dakota and westward in Montana, also an observation here and there in Indiana, Missouri and Iowa
¶ Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus: 1
¶ Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata: 1
¶ Wood Duck, Aix sponsa: 35
¶ Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos: 32
¶ Blue-winged Teal, Anas discors: 5
¶ Northern Pintail, Anas acuta: 3
¶ Green-winged Teal, Anas carolinensis: 5
¶ Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris: 18
¶ Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula: 11
¶ Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus: 11
¶ Common Merganser, Mergus merganser: 8
¶ Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator: 1
¶ Wilson's Storm Petrel, Oceanites oceanicus: 10
¶ Leach's Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa: 1
¶ Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps: 5
¶ Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis: 1
¶ Green Heron, Butorides virescens: 3
¶ Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias: 12
¶ American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos: 11
¶ Northern Gannet, Morus bassanus: 1
¶ Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus: 3
¶ Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo: 1
¶ Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura: 53
¶ Western Osprey, Pandion haliaetus: 6
¶ Swallow-tailed Kite, Elanoides forficatus: 3
¶ Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus: 44
¶ Northern Harrier, Circus hudsonius: 7
¶ Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus: 3
¶ Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus: 3
¶ Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis: 8
¶ American Kestrel, Falco sparverius: 26
¶ Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus: 1
¶ American Coot, Fulica americana: 14
¶ Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis: 14
¶ Whooping Crane, Grus americana: 5 from the prairie-land of Illinois, and along the Missouri River in North Dakota and Montana
¶ American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana: 3
¶ American Woodcock, Scolopax minor: 2
¶ Long-billed Curlew, Numenius americanus: 7
¶ Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius: 1
¶ Sanderling, Calidris alba: 1
¶ Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla: 1
¶ Wilson's Phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor: 1
¶ Ivory Gull, Pagophila eburnea: 1 in the northern Atlantic, off the American coast
¶ Franklin's Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan: 3
¶ Common Tern, Sterna hirundo: 1
¶ Forster's Tern, Sterna forsteri: 1
¶ Black Tern, Chlidonias niger: 2
¶ Common Murre, Uria aalge: 1
¶ Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius: 15
¶ Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura: 30
¶ Carolina Parakeet, Conuropsis carolinensis: 23 notations primarily while at New Harmony, but other sightings were recorded for Indiana, Missouri and what is now Nebraska
¶ Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Coccyzus americanus: 1
¶ Eastern Screech Owl, Megascops asio: 5
¶ Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus: 2 notations represented by one for North Dakota and the other in New York
¶ Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus: 12
¶ Northern Barred Owl, Strix varia: 6
¶ Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia: 1
¶ Long-eared Owl, Asio otus: 1
¶ Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor: 15
¶ Eastern Whip-poor-will, Antrostomus vociferus: 8
¶ Chimney Swift, Chaetura pelagica: 3
¶ Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris: 4
¶ Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon: 29
¶ Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus: 27
¶ Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus: 11
¶ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius: 5
¶ Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens: 18
¶ Hairy Woodpecker, Picoides villosus: 8
¶ Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus: 29
¶ Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus: 10 with all but two records from New Harmony, and the other two from Missouri
¶ Say's Phoebe, Sayornis saya: 1
¶ Eastern Wood Pewee, Contopus virens: 1
¶ Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis: 6
¶ Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus: 9
¶ Great Crested Flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus: 4
¶ Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus: 8
¶ Great Grey Shrike, Lanius excubitor: 3
¶ Blue-headed Vireo, Vireo solitarius: 1
¶ Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus: 5
¶ Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata: 11
¶ Pinyon Jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus: 1
¶ Black-billed Magpie, Pica hudsonia: 52
¶ American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos: 64
¶ Northern Raven, Corvus corax: 39
¶ Bohemian Waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus: 3
¶ Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum: 4
¶ Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus: 23
¶ Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor: 11
¶ Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris: 5
¶ Sand Martin, Riparia riparia: 2
¶ Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor: 3
¶ Purple Martin, Progne subis: 4
¶ Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica: 3
¶ American Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota: 12
¶ Golden-crowned Kinglet, Regulus satrapa: 2
¶ Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus: 4
¶ Winter Wren, Troglodytes hiemalis: 8, with all but one record from New Harmony
¶ House Wren, Troglodytes aedon: 7
¶ White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis: 17
¶ Brown Creeper, Certhia americana: 8
¶ Grey Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis: 12
¶ Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum: 14
¶ Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis: 25
¶ Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus: 1
¶ Wood Thrush, Hylocichla mustelina: 3
¶ American Robin, Turdus migratorius: 10
¶ American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis: 8
¶ Common Redpoll, Carduelis flammea: 18
¶ Purple Finch, Carpodacus purpureus: 1
¶ Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla: 5
¶ Kentucky Warbler, Geothlypis formosa: 1
¶ Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas: 5
¶ American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla: 11
¶ American Yellow Warbler, Setophaga aestiva: 17
¶ Blackpoll Warbler, Setophaga striata: 4
¶ Myrtle Warbler, Setophaga coronata: 6
¶ Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla: 1
¶ Yellow-breasted Chat, Icteria virens: 18
¶ Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius: 2
¶ Baltimore Oriole, Icterus galbula: 17
¶ Bullock's Oriole, Icterus bullockii: 1
¶ Brown-headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater: 2
¶ Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus: 19
¶ Rusty Blackbird, Euphagus carolinus: 6
¶ Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula: 21
¶ Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna: 5
¶ Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta: 19
¶ Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus: 10
¶ Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus: 3
¶ Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocorys: 2
¶ Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia: 10
¶ White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys: 2
¶ White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis: 6
¶ Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis: 21
¶ American Tree Sparrow, Spizella arborea: 13
¶ Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus: 2
¶ Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus: 20
¶ Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus: 6
¶ Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus: 18
¶ Smith's Longspur, Calcarius pictus: 1
¶ Snow Bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis: 17
¶ Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra: 3
¶ Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea: 5
¶ Dickcissel, Spiza americana: 2
¶ Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus: 3
¶ Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis: 24
¶ Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea: 2
¶ Lazuli Bunting, Passerina amoena: 6
¶ Bird effigy: 7
¶ Calumet: 2
¶ Bird feather object: 25
¶ Bird feather fan: 8
¶ Bird bonnet: 9
¶ Bird bone whistle: 2
¶ Bird-motif garment: 2
¶ War lance: 3

Every indicative record expressed in the words scribbled with intent by Prince Maximilian is important to bird history. None of them are more significant than any one other. Interesting among the mix are, based upon an expeditionary perspective.

The details from the journal could obviously be further considered, and based upon a composite scenario, provide many valuable comparisons.

An Enduring Legacy

Even whilst returning to Europe, in his final days abroad by the North American continent, his effort continued and indicated some sea birds, once again at the Grand Banks, and they were petrels in July 1834.

Only by knowing the specific essential details can the actual significance can the effort by the Prince be appreciated. These findings are also essential to any effort of comparison between the results of the earlier Lewis and Clark Expedition, and then the travels by John James Audubon in 1843.

Each effort provides the particulars to compare temporal and spatial distribution of birds, especially along the Missouri River, which can be readily compared to subsequent times. It would be invaluable to have maps that would visually depict the details, and indicate an understanding completely new for any investigation associated with historic ornithology and its profound, and still mostly ingnored, presentations.

Woodpecker Tree Carnage at Fontenelle Park

City of Omaha officials continue to decimate woodpecker habitat at Fontenelle Park. The latest "so-called improvement" was the complete removal of the towering tree grove at the northwest corner of the park.

This was one view of the scene on Monday, October 15th. There were four types of woodpeckers present during on these trees on the previous visit, a few days earlier.

On the 15th, the forestry crew from the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property department, were removing entire tree carcasses as well as "limbing up" other trees.

The following is a view on mid-day, Sunday, October 21st. The trees had been felled and left haphazardly strewn about during the weekend, creating a threat to park visitors.

In this picture, a tree had cut to land on the recreational trail, blocking the trail for anyone wanting to walk, run or cycle through the area during a wonderful weekend, weatherwise. This shows an obvious lack of consideration by the city workers.

This grove of trees was one place where the entire shrubby undergrowth was completely removed. It had been a nice place for sparrows, and was where the first time a towhee was seen in the park. This is a dubious improvement, as it ruined one bit of a "wild spot" where birds could find a haven. There are so few sorts of this habitat in the park, that any loss is significant.

Equipment used in the tree removal, struck the "anchor" for this recently planted tree, and tore away a swath of bark, obviously creating a detrimental condition for the long-term survival of the tree.

Needless to say, there were no woodpeckers present on the 21st among this scene. Any cavities that might have been used as shelter for the winter were destroyed when the trees were cut down.

Prospects for a diversity of birds in this park are certainly dismal, considering that city officials could not explain what will happen to the shrubby growth on the eastern hilltop when a disc-golf course is imposed next spring. Also, how will the east tree grove be considered? Will it also be cleared?

On November 1, 2012, the tree debris on the recreational trail had not been removed, and remained as it was originally pictured.

20 October 2012

Ghouls Discussing Window-Strike Junco

These ghouls were seen noting the dead Dark-eyed Junco outside their window.

This is the first known instance of a window-strike at this building. The picture was taken October 20th on the west side of downtown Omaha. It is an appropriate image for the Halloween season.

18 October 2012

Bugeater Chronicles of Autumn at River City

After getting many wonderful views of the well-known congregation of the Purple Martins at their midtown roost, the bird-watching focus changed direction this autumn. Starting on the first day of September, evening birding efforts were to determine where Chimney Swifts gather.

This was not the first sort of effort among the urban setting of eastern Omaha. Previous findings were very important in arriving at a locale where swifts could be expected, because the intent was getting survey results, so there was a particular focus on going to where swifts could be readily found. On some occasions when a prognostication was errant, so quick moves were needed to get positive results elsewhere.

It is an arduous task to document the occurrence of swifts at roosts, because only one site can be checked on an evening, in a large area where there are many known or potential suitable chimneys. Even during a month's period, many sites were determined, but there was no opportunity to revisit places or look elsewhere to derive a comprehensive perspective.

During this multiple weeks period, there was only one other report of a swift gathering, and that was at Mercer Woods in the Cathedral area. Another report from late August was provided for the Dundee area, at an apartment building. There were no other contributions that could add specifics to the knowledge of Omaha swifts during this autumn.

These findings available do indicate that the swifts roost at a wide variety of buildings throughout eastern Omaha, as indicated by their occurrence in various geographic districts. Very specific details are not given for the actual site because it there is a realization of the birds' presence, the result may be placing a cap on the chimney. Some of the primary sites surveyed were visited because of previous efforts that determined places where swifts occur in Omaha during the autumn.

Each of the counts are a result of individual counts, done with attention given to determining a particular number of birds entering a chimney, in a regular manner. No count is expressed based on a previous survey, since every survey was a distinct effort to provide a valid indication of the number of birds. Count methods were obviously similar.

Church Chimneys of East Omaha

Church of Jesus Christ Whole Truth

Our Lady of Lourdes Church

Harvest Community Church

  • Creighton University Campus; 09/01/2012; 136 swifts into the chimney
  • Gifford Park Neighborhood; 09/02/2012; 381 in a morning departure from the chimney of an unused apartment house
  • Old Market; 09/02/2012; 120
  • Florence; 09/03/2012; 240 at a chimney which where the plan is for its demolition
  • Izard Industrial Zone; 09/04/2012; 75
  • Hanscom Park Neighborhood; 09/05/2012; 197 at a church
  • Drake Area; 09/06/2012; 222
  • Downtown South; 09/07/2012; 68
  • North Downtown; 09/08/2012; 11
  • Blackstone District; 09/09/2012; 525 at a church which is recognized for having the largest count known in the Omaha area, based upon a visit in 2011
  • Dundee at Dodge Street; 09/10/2012; 316 at an apartment house, easily recognized for its ongling importance
  • Benson; 09/11/2012; 23 in the vicinity at several sites
  • Drake Area; 09/13/2012; 325 about 24th and Leavenworth Streets
  • Park East Neighborhood; 09/15/2012; 130 at an apartment house on a first visit to the place
  • North 24th Street Corridor; 09/16/2012; 450 at a church
  • Turner/Dewey Park; 09/17/2012; 75
  • Miller Park Neighborhood; 09/18/2012; 56
  • North 24th Street Corridor; 09/19/2012; 480 at a second church in the area north of Ames Street
  • Downtown Omaha; 09/20/2012; 145
  • Downtown South; 09/21/2012; 225
  • Izard Industrial Zone; 09/22/2012; 335
  • Midtown District; 09/26/2012; 365 at an apartment just south of Dodge Street, by the former Turner Park
  • South Omaha; 09/27/2012; 65 in an area of many buildings where there is certainly more than one suitable chimney; an entire autumnal season could be spent within this area to get an accurate depiction of swift habits
  • Downtown South; 09/28/2012; 260
  • Drake Area; 09/29/2012; 225
  • Blackstone District; 09/30/2012; 85
  • Gifford Park Neighborhood; 10/01/2012; 68 during an evening watch at an apartment where a previous count occurred early in the morning
  • Cathedral; 10/03/2012; 96, near 40th and Cuming Streets

Though many places were found to provide suitable roost habitat for the swifts, there are ongoing indications of an regular decline in chimneys suitable for swifts. Witnessed this year: two recently capped structures along the North 24th Street corridor, and the pending demolition of an important roost in the Florence neighborhood. These are just known instances, with other instances of this sort possible elsewhere.

In early October, the focus changed to giving attention to one chimney where swifts were congregating in large numbers on a nightly basis. Each of the following records are for an area designated as the Izard Industrial Zone in east-central Omaha, for record-keeping purposes.

  • 10/04/2012; 660 swifts into two chimneys within one block of each other
  • 10/05/2012; 630 into a single chimney, one of the two used the previous night
  • 10/06/2012; 59

The change in numbers would seem to indicate that local birds went southward, and different swifts then arrived from the north.

  • 10/07/2012; 1325
  • 10/08/2012; 1325
  • 10/09/2012; 1350
  • 10/10/2012; 625
  • 10/11/2012; 585
  • 10/12/2012; 625
  • 10/13/2012; 710
  • 10/14/2012; 6 into the chimney
  • 10/15/2012; 8, with only one entering the big chimney at a business building used so many nights by so many swifts. It was quite a dramatic change from previous times when many hundreds were prevalent.

On the evening of October 16th, the bird watching highlight was two Mourning Doves, appreciating some water recent rains. No Chimney Swifts were seen in the silent skies.

The extent of swift use of this single chimney is obvious, and indicates this structure as one of the most important habitats for swifts in the city, as indicated by repeated use, large number of swifts present, transitional use, etc.

There is a sad, long-term prospective for swifts in Omaha. Chimneys are being capped or razed. There is no community-based effort to document occurrence, determine important roost sites, educate buildings owners that the winged things using their chimneys are swifts not bats. Atop the list of detriments, there is no broad-based effort to indicate and protect the places so important to so many swifts during their season in Omaha, especially during the autumn migration.

Perhaps the efforts of the past weeks might raise some awareness, though there are no expectations in this regard.

Based upon a joy in seeing the swifts in the cerulean skies, and so many times appreciating their presence above, the bugeater chronicles are finished for the autumn season of 2012. There may have still been swifts about as there are records in earlier years for later dates; but it is a matter of searching a large expanse for few birds. So be it for these birds.

The skies are from one perspective of attention, apparently empty of an iconic species, until next spring, when the cycle starts once again. Activities of the bugeaters will then, once again be prominent and somewhat appreciated in the urban skies.

13 October 2012

Continual Deaths of Wildbirds Among Omaha Buildings

Misery and death for hundreds of birds continues unabated among the buildings in downtown Omaha, along the Missouri River in Nebraska.

On October 12, 2012 it was expressed once again on the 400th instance of personally documenting birds striking building windows. It was another chilly morning, when in the pre-dawn dark, a bicycle was ridden eastward up and down the hills, while avoiding incessant traffic to go around to sites where birds suffer or have met their untimely demise.

This particular Friday morning, four strike instances were found along the route of discovery:

1: a disabled Lincoln's Sparrow at the north-facing entry towards the south end of the west side of the Qwest/CenturyLink Center Omaha; it was during the time before 7 a.m., but it had already recovered enough to fly away before it could be photographed;
2: a disabled Hermit Thrush, sitting below an expanse of windows on the west of the Gottschalk Freedom Center, a building of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper; it was not bobbing its tail while recovering from being knocked senseless at the glass, and was stationary enough that pictures were easily taken;
3: a bit further along at the same buildings' wall of glass was a dead Grasshopper Sparrow at its southern end; this bit of bird-life was going south but its fate was as a carcass in the River City environs; and
4: a dead Orange-crowned Sparrow, mostly flattened by the entryway on the east side of the empty Law Building; someone had stepped upon the carcass, already dead upon the sidewalk.

Window strikes occur on a regular, recurring basis in Omaha. Since May 1, 2008, on a day of a slightly significant instance for another purpose, whence upon a bicycle ride about, there were dead birds on the downtown sidewalks. The result was and has been an exodus of investigation.

Following the results of the most recent outing of these times, there are 1376 records available which document window-strikes associated with 99 different species, for 178 different dates at 84 different buildings. And these are just the known instances.

The words of one sentence are quite insignificant in regards to the actuality of what has happened, again and again. Oh, and again.

The Common Yellowthroat and Lincoln's Sparrow are, sadly, represented in the tally more than any other species, since as of mid-October, for each species, there have been 150 known window-strike instances for the two species. Following in significance on the depictive list are the Purple Martin, Nashville Warbler and Common Grackle.

Every window-strike, especially when the result is a bird death, is a significant tragedy, mostly unknown. In the past five years, it has been an endeavor of discovery, which has been presented with a burden and has meant a focus of documenting the window strikes. So these instances have not been forgotten.

This commentary is based upon findings of 1456 particular records of window-strikes in Douglas County and Lancaster County (Lincoln) in Nebraska, where the initial realization of this sordid fate for unsuspecting wildbirds, started one morning at the latter place.

Every impact has been a tragedy of significance. Any sense of significance seems to depend upon an individual's perspective. Some building owners continue to resort to subterfuge and indifference to hid what is happening. At a couple of buildings, efforts have been taken to reduce any strike occurrence. Many others simply are not aware the features of their building are hazardous.

Mid-week, there had been an expectation for strike instances on the morning of the 10th day of October, but none were found. The situation was similar on the 11th, along the typical route. Thankfully there are days when no disabled or dead birds are found. These mornings of nothing convey that surveys have been done on many more than four hundred days.

Conditions in downtown Omaha cause an extensive and ongoing extent of window-strikes. And there are certainly other records, undocumented due to particular efforts to remove strike occurrences, especially now at the Holland Performing Arts Center, and formerly at the Qwest/CenturyLink Center Omaha.

It is an ongoing tragedy of the commons. It has been my privilege to recognize the misery, respond in favor of the birds, and to advocate for changes which might mean fewer tragedies at the glass.

There have been no other efforts to investigate the urban-scape to determine the extent of window strikes by birds.

The situation at Omaha is an ongoing tragedy of bird misery, and it being ignored is the second tragedy, as there are options, which need to be considered in a focused manner where there can be results for the birds, because though they have their own voice and expression, it seems to be mostly ignored by people that might make a difference.