25 February 2013

Comparing February Bird Occurrence at Carter Lake

A bird survey done at Carter Lake in the past few days matches a similar survey done within the same period on the calendar a year ago. There was a whole bunch of fowl about during the most recent visit to the places about Carter Lake. The view from the west side was wonderful. The birds were active and readily observed.

The most recent visit was during a weekend afternoon, to take advantage of western light, and after the recent snowfall of at least eight inches among metro Omaha. The parking lot near the west pavilion at Levi Carter Park had not been plowed, which meant a hesitant thought regarding whether or not to drive into the place because of a hesitation to avoid getting stuck or becoming immobile among the snow. There was an obvious tire route to follow, so that was the route, without any deviation from the path to get to a place to park where the primary congregation of birds could be easily observed.

Near the eastern dock, the same though applied, but the place was traversed in a suitable manner, and provided a perspective to observe more birds elsewhere about the lake, other than its western extent.

There was one species more seen this year; comparing a tally of 24 for 2012 and 25 in 2013. This year, some usual birds were not seen nor heard during the visit period, especially the typical Downy Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal, so there might have been a greater variety if they had been expressive.

Two Trumpeter Swans were the day's highlight. They were both obvious from a distance and appreciated even more once seen upclose through a spotting scope once parked. In past weeks' there had been three. During the weekend visit this year, they both walked eastward across the ice to a bit of open water, away from most of the other waterfowl. For a time, they, along with one Pied-billed Grebe, were the only birds at the spot. Within a few minutes, however, a bunch of Canada Goose replicated the steps, and there were lines of geese moving towards the place. Soon there was a big bunch of geese present with the swans. They were establishing a new place to float and forage.

The two swans are in the background. Note how the geese are making their way to the swan waters.

Two other species of geese were prevalent in 2013 versus 2012. There were 26 Greater White-fronted Goose present compared to none a year ago. A larger number of Cackling Goose were also lingering. The count of Canada Goose was also higher this year.

Perhaps because of the snow and cold, there were many fewer Gadwall, with numbers of 133 vs. 1. More Mallard were denoted this year, while the number of Northern Shoveler continued to be consistent.

As for diving ducks, lesser numbers of Canvasback and Redhead were present, in a comparative sense. The occurrence of both species has been exceptional during the winter, with the numbers of the "lord of the ducks" especially appreciated.

A record of the Bufflehead and a couple of Hooded Merganser did not happen in 2012. Some Ruddy Duck continue to be present.

There are fewer American Coot at the lake in comparison. Last year the count was 310, with the tally this year only about 20. This continues the obvious trend of fewer numbers of this species in recent months compared to previous surveys following the lake renovation project.

This year, there was too much snow for Killdeer to be about. The same perspective might be significant as an indication for the lack of any American robin.

Carter Lake continues to be a birding hotspot, a moniker indicated by some detached perspective as presented online. The place is best known and appreciated by spending time lake side watching the birds. It is just a great place to bird watch.