17 February 2013

Birdly News Suggestions Used by Omaha Newspaper

A top of the front-page picture of massive numbers of flocking Snow Goose at Squaw Creek NWR, greeted readers of the Omaha World-Herald Saturday morning, February 16th.

It was a dramatic presentation by the paper, with the bird picture comprising more than half of the page, above-the-fold, and above the banner indicating the date, etc. of the sunrise edition. This was not a regular occurrence, so the bird photo had a special significance because of its timeliness.

In a posting on Friday, superlative was the indicative word in the title of my posting on the same subject. That same theme was indicated in the newspaper headline by paper editors. They used the title: "Migration's majesty." The story was at the top of the page, and given more attention than sport and taxes stories.

Authors were Nancy Gaarder and Marjie Ducey. They reported that more than one million of these geese were present at Missouri refuge, along with more than 400 Trumpeter Swan. There were a few other bits about differences of birdlife in comparison to Squaw Creek and Desoto NWR, according to details provided by refuge personnel.

My call to the sports department of the Omaha paper on Thursday afternoon was a suggestion that the massive number of fowl present at the refuge near Mound City, Missouri, might be an interesting story. A particular focus of the call was a mention of the record number of swans present.

The result was obvious. And the story had legs, and so was continued elsewhere.

On the KETV morning news on Sunday (the 17th), they had a reporter live on the scene, with video of Mallards and a bunch of Bald Eagles sitting in a tree.

Last Sunday, outdoor writer Mark Davis did a story about the Great Backyard Bird Count. He called me, and based upon a my suggestion he visited the bird feeders cared for by Neal Ratzlaff in west Omaha, on Friday. A phone call on the day indicated the paper photographer was on the way to this place. Birds at Ratzlaff's residence, along with a picture of him, were subsequently presented in the Sunday sports section of the newspaper. There were some great photographs shown.

An ancillary topic given to Davis during our phone conversation was a report issued on the abundance of cormorants, pelicans and grebes in the Sand Hills region, by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. That was the second topic of his Sunday article.

In latter January, another exciting occurrence, as personally observed, were Trumpeter Swan at Carter Lake. These magnificent birds had also been seen by other birders, and upon considering the situation, obviously it was bird news.

So a call was made to the local newspaper, and photojournalist Davis was soon on the scene, after calling back to get specific directions to where the birds were gathered. He made more than one visit during the weekend, being stealthy, he said, in order to get close to the birds, being intent on getting some great pictures, and they did appear in the paper with a spread across a full-page of the paper, which included a close-up picture of local birder Justin Rink.

There is also a remembrance as to the attention given to an errant Snowy Owl in downtown Omaha last November. It was the subject of wide-spread media focus. People involved with Raptor Rehabilitation Nebraska did not know why there where so many media calls. Perhaps, some of the inquiry was the result of local prompting by specific phone calls.

Any suggestions made regarding possible news stories have been provided because they might convey something important or distinct that could be shared about the wonder of birds present in the region. The news media obviously appreciates tips, and they can't write anything if they aren't aware of a potential story.