11 October 2012

Looking Closely at Birds of Carter Lake Environs

On a particular Wednesday afternoon near the Missouri River and atop the bluffs of east Omaha, the weather was fine. Gusts of wind were sparse, with temperate temperatures making it comfortable to be outside rather than in some building. Rather than think about the scene from the usual afternoon perspective below-ground with an open window, there was a superb situation to venture forth and with appropriate intent and gear to establish another point for the ongoing bird survey for Carter Lake, Levi Carter Park and associated settings.

For some synergistic reason it seemed appropriate to do the 100th survey on October 10th, i.e., 10/10/2012. It would be personal bird survey number 100, since late March, 2011. The rationale was obvious, yet somewhat sublime regarding the requisite particulars to get things done, again.

The survey place was reaching by glide and pedal, and thence followed the typical routine of arrival, listen, watch, denote and move along among the pertinent places on a path to the north, to the west, take a jaunt maybe, then go south, or perhaps go south and then take a jaunt to the northwest. However the route occurred, records are kept in detail for these specific sites:

  • Kiwanis Park; which seems to nearly always be the first place where observations occur;
  • Levi Carter Park, with notations to particular places as appropriate;
  • Carter Lake, which is mostly in Nebraska, but is also an Iowa place;
  • Levi Carter Pond;
  • Northwest Pond, Levi Carter Park; and
  • Browne Street Woods.

The intent, once a decision was made to undertake the task, has been to denote occurrence on a particular date, while indicating distribution details for particular sites within the survey area.

At the current time, most of the park is closed, which confounds the situation for getting birdly details. While working around the restrictions, birds surveys have continued in recent weeks.

And it was a fine afternoon. Early on the route, nearby was Mr. Kaufmann from the Omaha homeless shelter, obviously doing a routine as he has for so many days, going back to the time when my personal surveys were starting. He was munching on some chips, while sitting on a place conducive to having a good view of the lake. The binoculars were not being used when a momentary glimpse was focused in his direction.

Bird were the particular focus as they nearly always are while bicycling around the lake. Surveys are usually done in the early morning, which was the original intent today, though it was actually delayed for some hours, until blue skies and slight winds beckoned.

After a longer than necessary, though none-the-less quite right and nice, bicycle ride, the route continued east and north among the urban traffic, and its obvious perils. Once among the park lands, it was time — again and again — to watch birds, giving attention to each of them.

A single sighting might result in a notation of another new species. An attention to detail is a primary endeavor for any bird watcher. During the many months since March 2011, at least 136 species of exquisite and colorful variety have been seen and personally documented. Especially prominent is the tally of waterbirds, an onerous task for sure, which convey the change in lake habitat as Carter Lake has undergone a definitive transformation. Numbers of the waterfowl are definitive because there is nothing similar for any similar project at a lake along the Missouri River.

There are certainly a bunch of appropriate details, to consider individually based upon specifics, but the purpose of the outing this day was to determine what was about this Wednesday afternoon, while riding through the place on a bicycle which has been kept going for so long that its origins are vague, and changed to provide a continuance.

The route of the day was similar to most of the previous visits, with the particular birds seen counted and determined to a particular identification.

A whole bunch of fine-looking birds were present about the lake on this mid-October afternoon.

Numbers of the American Coot are increasing as these goofy birds are congregating at a place they find suitable for their daily routine. Wood Ducks are diminishing, with a dramatic decline in the number appreciating the snag places at the park pond, where they like to sit for their own particular reasons, which might perhaps be considered as a place to snooze in the warm afternoon sun.

During the visit, an Eastern Phoebe flitting for bugs about the northwest pond, and an Eastern Meadowlark were new additions to the autumn season tally. It was quite appropriate to have these eastern species at lake habitats in eastern Omaha. Every bird is part of the BEO flock.

Recent arrivals on the lake were Gadwall and American Wigeon not seen on Sunday at this scene.

Considering the overall tally, more than 4200 distinct records have been collected at the various places associated with Carter Lake. Most of them are a result of an effort done one bicycle pedal at a time, not only lakeside, but also to and fro along urban streets fraught with motor vehicle dangers.

A significant goal during the effort has been recognition of a few acres of habitat associated with the pond at the northwest corner of the park. A Purple Martin apartment was put in place in the spring because of emphasis conveyed to the Audubon Society of Omaha. The fine construct was an immediate attraction for these grand birds, once and beyond its Earth Day situating.

This significant change would not have happened without some interest and intent, and the inherent focus for change. Now at the northwest pond, the signs are in place nearby the massive tree trunks, so the illegal motor-vehicle traffic is prohibited and should be done. The extent of trash is also steadily declining. There is one particular, errant tire soon to go elsewhere!

As they have for times unknown, upon every day, more birds will occur or arrive. A variety of species can be determined for this significant lake — both in the historic and current aspect — which is a former oxbow of the Missouri, still present in its altered state, at the edge of east Omaha and western Iowa.

Lake changes seem to be finished with the lake-bottom dredge no longer operating. What may be seen might be obvious in the coming months ... though a closed space confounds the effort.