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.