07 June 2013

Habitat Area to be Designated at Levi Carter Park

The Omaha Parks and Recreation Board and acting director of the department were receptive to a proposal to indicate a wildlife habitat area at Levi Carter Park.

A simple sign limited to a few words such as "Wildlife Habitat Area" and perhaps with a silhouette of a bird would be added to other signage prohibiting motor vehicles at the place designated as the "Northwest Pond," which is city of Omaha property at the northwest corner of the park. It is currently a limited maintenance area, with mowing done only adjacent to the streets. The interior portion is a wonderful mix of vegetative growth, and to address any concerns from neighborhood residents regarding its seemingly unkempt appearance, a sign would indicate that the condition is intentional, and not the result of neglect.

A newly distinct part of the park, this habitat area has been visited more than 65 times in the past two years, with its natural value increased once City of Omaha staff placed tree trunk barriers and placed signs indicating that motor vehicles were illegal trespassing.

My first bird survey here was May 26, 2011. Since then, more than 500 records have been kept to indicate the birds present. Each visit has been distinctly unique. Though the place is small in the extent in an acreage aspect, its extent is magnificent from a point-of-view associated with the variety of birdlife.

Some sort of a grand synergy is obvious, early in June, 2013. There have been 65 species observed. Overall, and as individually denoted in a database of details for this place within the larger extent of the park, the known tally is: Wood Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green Heron, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (in the aerosphere), Killdeer (along the railroad route), Eurasian Collared-Dove (mostly just to the west), Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift (coursing after bugs above), Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Bell's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (usually present), Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush, American Robin (most prevalent species), Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Mourning Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Eastern Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal (vibrant songs and diminutive flashes of red seen during many of the visits), Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, and American Goldfinch.

This summary indicates the particular avifauna. The list which does not, however, convey distinctive indications associated with this habitat. None of the species indicated have been seen on every visit. Some days, numbers of more than a dozen species might get seen. Though there is mostly an ephemeral extent of water, it is sufficient for some waterfowl.

In addition to birding, time has been taken, during nearly every visit, to do a volunteer's effort to help improve the tract by picking up trash, removing sprouting cedar trees which are an invasive species, and to also — to a limited extent — cut down thistles which are classified as a noxious weed by some Nebraskian law, even though these plants would be an attraction to goldfinches later in the summer.

There is a problematic area, with vexing also an appropriate indication, at this parcel's northwest corner, which cannot be removed by a guy riding a bicycle and without more equipment. The tree-shrouded glen seems to have been a bum's camp. The remnants are too heavy and too extensive for one man to remove, but it could be done within two hours if there was a greater force focused in its eradication.

With a natural transition in the local flora, the value of the Northwest Pond now and into the future will be another distinctly unique setting among the park's space.

A simple sign which expresses that the place is a habitat area will certainly help recognize the natural value of the area, and allow others with an interest in nature and wildlife to discover something new at an Omaha park. The place will continue to be accessible to people walking around. Be sure to visit Levi Carter Pond, just to the south, because it provides its own special perspective.

Levi Carter Park is expected to be reopened in its entirety within the next couple of weeks, said Brook Bench, acting director of Omaha Parks and Recreation.

The sign proposal was presented at the June 6th meeting of the board. It will be an exciting day when the sign indicates a protected haven for wildbirds in a City of Omaha park. During the board meeting, the members discussed having a field trip to visit significant park features, with Brook Bench the tour leader. Perhaps this event, which may potentially occur in early July, could be when the habitat sign is put in an appropriate place. I'd certainly attend and report on such a significant event.