25 February 2013

Winter Wrens Missing at Former Park Haunts

Where are the Winter Wrens? Park spaces in Omaha where readily seen in past years, this bit of a feathered mite have not been seen recently.

This difference is most prominent at Memorial Park and Elmwood Park amidst midtown Omaha.

Shadow Lake and along Wood Creek in Elmwood Park were places where this wren has been regularly observed. At Memorial Park, last year, they were recorded at both Happy Hollow Creek and Wood Creek during January or February.

There have been no sightings at either park this year.

Instead, there is a single report of a Winter Wren occurring within Omaha, the actual site being mapped to an industrial zone in midtown. One was indicated by a survey associated with the Great Backyard Bird Count, during mid-February. It would have been more indicative if there was some greater accuracy of the place where the count occurred.

At Happy Hollow Creek on the east side of Memorial Park, this bit of a bird had been recorded every January for the past three years. And one also occurred at Wood Creek on the west side of this midtown park in January 2012.

Yet there were none in 2013.

At the Elmwood Park Ravine, they were readily seen in April, October and November 2012, but not more recently. There are previous records during January.

Yet there were none in 2013.

All of these places have been visited intermittently to survey the birds present, along with other regular attention and interest in species occurrence, especially along the Happy Hollow. During two recent avian surveys of both parks, no Winter Wrens were heard or seen.

The situation has changed for the Winter Wrens, which were formerly a regular winter resident associated with places that had flowing water at east Omaha parks. This would include Spring Lake Park and Mandan Park.

They do not appear to be wintering further north, as, once again, results of the GBBC did not indicate any records for this species at any places northward of Omaha, on the great plains.

The winter status of this bird has apparently changed. Details to indicate its winter range are lacking, especially in comparison to more wide-spread indications from previous years.

This situation is worthy of further focus and effort beyond a count effort done during a few days of late winter.

Changes in the occurrence of this species are indicative, but the details need to be better understood. Why are Winter Wrens gone from Shadow Lake and other urban Omaha haunts? The habitat has not significantly changed, so perhaps it is climate change?