18 July 2013

Wildbird Survey at Saddle Creek Project Site

Prepared for the Public Works Department, City of Omaha
July 9, 2013
This City of Omaha document is presented here for informational and archival purposes.

Tree removal pending at the east Westlawn Cemetery site in association with the Saddle Creek CSO! project required that a survey be done in regards to any nesting birds, according to provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The following details are provided to the Public Works Department in accordance with an agreement to evaluate the indicated project site and determine if there were any bird nests present, or if there were other associated breeding bird concerns.

Bird Surveys

During each survey of three surveys, all birds heard and seen were noted, with details kept on the numbers seen. Particular attention was given to the songbirds present at this time of the breeding season which might be nesting (i.e., chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers, etc.) or which may have dependent young with site fidelity.

The first survey on July 5th was a preliminary visit to Westlawn-Hillcrest cemetery, the creek on the eastern extent of this location, as well as the Bohemian Cemetery in order to evaluate overall species occurrence and to review site features. A subsequent visit occurred on July 7th, with particular attention given to birdly activity at the area where clearing would occur, and to further evaluate the species within the project site.

Early on the morning of July 9th, before the oppressive heat of a summer's day, a final survey was done to more closely evaluate the specific area where tree clearing would occur. During the visit, territorial behavior, presence of pairs, any carrying of food to a nest or dependent young was given a closer scrutiny. The area marked for tree clearing was the primary survey site.

It can also be noted that several previous bird surveys have been done at this site, which have been helpful in understanding the conditions relative to survey efforts. That information is not, however, included in this report since it is beyond the scope of the agreement.

Survey Results

There were no occupied nests or newly fledged young observed during any of the survey's within the indicated site where trees are to be removed.

There were fledged/juvenile birds present which were old enough for regular and sustained flight and with no confined fidelity to the tree area.

The following notes are derived from the 9 July survey, and are presented to indicate details regarding bird status and an absence of bird nests, eggs, or young at the project site.

  • American Robin: prevalent, but mostly adults and juveniles which gathered on the snags of suitable trees along the creek or to a much lesser extent, foraged among the woods
  • Baltimore Oriole: a sub-adult bird visited the tree-tops of the project site; there was no territorial activity noted in association with a female, any carrying of food to a nest, or caring for fledglings observed
  • Barn Swallow: foraging over the open field adjacent to the project site
  • Black-capped Chickadee: a group of four, which would, at this time suggest a family group of adults and juveniles were foraging among the snags of a cottonwood tree at the project site
  • Blue Jay: heard among the trees; based upon visits to other nearby green spaces, adults birds are currently feeding dependent juveniles, based on numerous site visits in recent days within the region, so their nesting is finished
  • Brown-headed Cowbird: transients
  • Chimney Swift: foraging above the place in the aerosphere
  • Downy Woodpecker: a transitory forager
  • Eastern Kingbird: a transitory visitor
  • European Starling: present but not pertinent according to list of species considered by the MBTA, as this bird is not a native species
  • House Wren: a male was territorial along the creek northward of the area demarked for clearing
  • Indigo Bunting: a male was noted singing on the north side of the site of interest on each of the three visits; the perch for this edge-specific species was not within the woods, and there were other similar perches to the west and northwest along the creek; during a prolonged period of observation, there was no female bird noted, the male did not show any behavior associated with feeding young and there was no nesting activity seen
  • Killdeer: not associated with the woods
  • Mourning Dove: transitory
  • Northern Cardinal: there was a territorial male just to the south of the project area; a pair was transitional through the project site on the morning of the 9th, but they did not convey any activity that would indicate there was a nest present, or that they were feeding dependent young
  • Northern Flicker: two obvious on the snags of trees along the creek; particular attention was given to determine if they was using any of the several tree cavities on the stately old cottonwoods within the area to be cleared; there was no such activity noted
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker: obvious on the snags of trees along the creek; particular attention was given to determine if they were using any of the available tree cavities; there was no such activity noted
  • Red-tailed Hawk: utilizing a tree snag to watch for huntable prey, as seen also on the 7th
  • Western Kingbird: two atop the snaggy cottonwood, and transitory as they had not been observed on either the 5th or 7th.

Based upon the three visits, comprising more than three hours of detailed observations, there were no nests or dependent young noted within the indicated project area. Details indicate that the clearing of trees will not destroy nests or eggs, and will therefore conform to the tenets of the MBTA.

The primary changes associated with this project, in regards to the variety of wildbirds present at the site, will be:

1) snag trees will be removed which are used as temporary roosts or foraging sites;
2) snag trees will be removed which currently have cavities which have more than likely have been used as nesting sites in the past;
3) trees will be removed which will constrict the currently contiguous corridor of vegetation along the creek, and degrade the natural value associated with any creek in an urban setting.

These are the findings as determined in accordance with the MBTA bird survey agreement. The indication is that pending tree clearing activities would conform with regulatory requirements by not destroying any nests, eggs or young birds.

The following are some additional perspectives regarding this project. During clearing activities, the trees could be taken down and removed in a sequential manner, where noise, etc., would move any birdlife present away from any hazards resulting from the tree clearing. Also, any trees removed should be hauled away, and not placed within, or left within the creek channel, as they would inhibit water flows which may result in obstructions that could lead to a degradation of water quality, potential bank erosion, etc. Wherever possible the older trees present, especially those with snag branches, should be retained, as they are regularly used as foraging and roost sites by a great many wildbirds.


These two graphics, not included in the submitted report, indicate the area where trees would be cleared.

Some of the trees to be removed from the project site. JEDucey photograph.