07 March 2013

Carter Lake Continues as a Mecca for Waterbirds

During the past few days, because of the gathered variety of birds, some watchers have been focused on avifauna at Carter Lake.

The initial excitement was a female Barrow's Goldeneye, present on the eastward extent of the lake on March 2nd. It was then seen again on subsequent days as others visited. Details were indicated on the NEBirds forum.

This is the first record of this species for this lake. There are some other records for the region, but they occurred many years ago, notably in 1989 at the MidAmerican Energy Settling Ponds over in western Iowa, and earlier in the year at Desoto NWR.

A Snow Goose continues to linger about the west side of the lake. On the 6th, also in the afternoon, it was on the west bank of the lake south of the pavilion, along with a few of the many Canada geese present hither and yon.

Most recently, and newly observed at the lake is a Tundra Swan, which is certainly significant. It was present on the 6th, and had also been reported for the 5th. There is a January 2000 record at this same lake.

The occurrence of eight Trumpeter Swans is also of particular importance. Two or three had been intermittently about in past weeks, so having eight present on the 6th provides the largest count of this species at this locality, ever, based upon more than a century of known records for birds at this lake space.

Diversity of water birds present has been a dynamic situation. Currently, something like twenty different species might be easily observed. On the afternoon of March 6th, there were nineteen waterfowl species observed, spread around the ample open-water, or sitting beneath a warming sun, upon the remaining ice:

Errant goose at Levi Carter Park, Carter Lake, Nebraska. March 6, 2013.

  • Snow Goose
  • Cackling Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Tundra Swan
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Canvasback
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Barrow's Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • American Coot

Not seen, but present in recent days have been Greater White-fronted Goose with more than a hundred present last weekend on Saturday, the usual 2-3 Pied-billed Grebe (closely looked for but not seen on the 6th), and perhaps a Bufflehead or two. There may have also been a Greater Scaup or two.

Overall, there could easily be a tally of about 23 species. Others will soon be present, such as the Blue-winged Teal and Wood Duck. There might also be some Green-winged Teal floating delicately upon the waters.

The pond in Levi Carter Park is no longer covered by ice, so it is another space to look for birds. To the north, there is the other pond across the street, which is also green-space habitat, and worth a visit to look for songbirds.

Harris's Sparrows are about, along with the typical Dark-eyed Juncos. In the arboreal realm on the 6th were the Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and the cheery Black-capped Chickadees.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks soared above.

Spring is ready to burst forth, and there is no better place in the area than the Carter Lake environs to enjoy a fine day, while on the prowl for birds of the season.