30 April 2014

Public Meeting Held for Spring Lake CSO! Project

A large turnout occurred at the pre-construction meeting for the pending phase one the CSO! project at Spring Lake Park, in eastern Omaha.

"It is historic to have so many people" present, said Janet Bonet, president of the Spring Lake Neighborhood Association, and community coordinator for the project. The crowd meant a lively discussion.

The Spring Lake Project is a "signature project" for the Omaha CSO! effort, said Marty Grate, environmental services manager for the city. It will "improve water quality and provide amenities for the public." He also indicated that the "piping" of the creek south of F Street could not be discussed at the meeting.

Several other public officials and consultants then discussed various aspects of the project, including mitigation for removed trees, construction scheduling, road closures (a common concern), etc.

Tree mitigation will occur within Spring Lake Park, as well as nearby Lynch Park, the Campos soccer complex (at 33rd and Q streets) and Novacek Memorial park.

There were numerous comments made about tree removal during the time when questions could be asked; especially upsetting to some was the removal of "valuable" large oak trees that been so unique to the park.

Another notable topic was the pond to be created just north of F Street by removing the ground to a particular depth below the current surface-level. It will apparently be about 2 acres in size, with a maximum depth of 15 feet, with greater depths during water runoff events.

When asked when project plans and other associated documents would be available online, no date was given but the reply indicated this item will be a topic for further discussion between Public Works officials and their community involvement consultant.

Pre-construction meeting at Spring Lake Park golf course clubhouse.

Construction is expected to start May 6th.

This phase of the project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016. Once finished, there will be no sewer lines through the park space, they will either be removed or filled with grout, according to officials.

Map graphic indicating the two phases associated with the CSO! project at Spring Lake Park. The green area is the current project, and the pink area indicates phase two.

About 75 people — including public officials — were present at the meeting at the golf course clubhouse on the evening of April 29th.

While waiting for the meeting to start, to people of the community were overheard discussing how the two electronic signs placed along Spring Lake Drive had originally indicated the meeting started at 6 p.m. The time was eventually changed to indicate the correct 6:30 p.m. start time.

Neighborhood Comments on Spring Lake CSO! Project

Comments from the Spring Lake Neighborhood Association

By Janet Bonet, president of the Spring Lake Neighborhood Association. This was a handout provided at the April 29 pre-construction meeting at the Spring Lake golf course clubhouse. Used with permission.




First, we feel there are far more trees and shrubs being removed that should have been counted as part of the replacement equation. It is the current thick canopy that is so important for the birds and we hope that the plantings done in the pond construction area will be finished in such a way that the birds will have as thick a canopy again so they return and thrive. We had nesting pairs of hawks and owls in the pond area for decades and it would be a shame if we never see them again. The Neotropical migration of grosbeaks, crossbills, orioles, and others is a wonderful part of living on the edge of a thickly forested park.

The Spring Lake Neighborhood Association has been trying to get some beautification done on the southwest and northwest corners of the intersection of 13th and Missouri Avenue including the strip along the north side of Missouri Avenue from 13th to 15th Street.

We are requesting that some of the trees/shrubs that have to be removed for the pond project be replaced in this Missouri Avenue segment. The neighborhood association had worked with a landscape architect a couple years ago but we did not like or approve the design she came up with and she was unable to meet with us and change it before she moved to another city. The association would like to work with the Omaha Parks Department to come up with a simple planting plan that allows for some shade trees and tall shrubs (for hiding the cement wall on the southwest corner) to be placed in the mentioned areas.

The hill between 14th and 15th Street along the access road is butchered every year by the mowing team and it looks horrible from spring to fall. The wildflowers that were planted in the space between the access road and Missouri Avenue are mowed each time they are just starting to bloom so we never have been able to see them be anything but chopped off. Though they do survive drought better than turf even if we never see them in bloom.

Beautifying this area will help to put a really nice finishing touch to the replacement plantings to be done in the rest of the park.

We support the plantings for Lynch, Deer Hollow and the area south along 13th by Mount Vernon Gardens but believe that the area around the 13th and Missouri intersection should take priority given the proximity to the park and the importance of the intersection as a gateway to Omaha. A number of trees were lost in that area when the bridge was redone and the pond project replacement trees offer an opportunity for regaining some shade there. Doing so will relieve the neighborhood association of the difficult task of scraping together funding to beautify these corners. We hope that the City and CSO contractors will work with the neighbors on improving the corners.

The area in the park where three trees were lost to severe winds several years ago along the “J” Street right-of-way from 15th to 14th Street should be replaced as well, using the pond replacement trees. There are several trees in the far south section of the park now marked with numbers and we do not know what that means. If any are to be removed, those should be replaced in that same area.

As part of the park overhaul, it will be important to get a qualified arborist into the park to schedule and carryout proper trimming of the trees throughout the park – with minimal removal.


There have been several questions about what the planting plan is for the replacement of trees removed along Spring Lake Drive from “I” Street to 13th Street. And can more replacement trees be used to create shade along the west side of 13th Street. It was a real shame that the sidewalk was not moved farther away from 13 street to create the space for snow mounds without blocking pedestrian access to the sidewalk. If that sidewalk along 13th is to be torn up for CSO work, can it please be moved west to make pedestrian access to the sidewalk safer year-round? And can there please be a sidewalk added to complete the walking/biking trail between “I” Street and 13th Street.


It is essential that these illegal dump sites be cleared before the park pond project is completed. It only makes fiscal and logistical sense for these areas to be cleaned out while the heavy equipment can be used before plantings, parking and trails are installed. Douglas County is supposed to be in charge of illegal dump sites and hopefully they have been included as a partner in the effort to clear the decades of trash left by careless people.


In the past, the neighborhood association in conjunction with Keep Omaha Beautiful and OPPD did some tree planting in the park. Most of the trees died due to lack of watering. Given the tough weather – wind storms and drought, it will be essential that the replacement trees and shrubs be put on a watering plan that is respected and fulfilled. There are fire hydrants all around the park that could supply the water but the contractors will need to be very careful how they open and shut off the water flow so as to avoid burst pipes such as the incident that happened on 14th and “J” Street two years ago.

You can walk around the trees in the south end of the park now and see the consequences of careless mowing. Trees planted now must be respected by the mowing crews. Those huge mowers may make quick work of mowing a park but the bigger the mower, the more likely the damage to trees. A wider and thicker mulch band around the trees should be possible with all the trees being cut there is a huge amount of mulch that will be available. Can it be used in the park as well?


The messy clear-cut done along “F” Street caused quite a knee-jerk reaction among neighbors and those who use that route. We had been told there would be no work done south of “F” Street until a later phase of the project. We were expecting three water feature “eco-zones” from this pond project. The wetland, the pond and the stream environments which would offer excellent and unique opportunities for public enjoyment and environmental education. It is the very real desire of the park neighbors and visitors that this original concept be followed through as the project moves forward. If there is any engineering magic that can be worked where the stream south of “F” Street can be kept intact, that is the preferred option. IF there is really no other option – after real study has been done and creativity tapped – then please pipe-up only as small a portion of the stream as possible and be sure the ends of the pipe are made to seem to be “natural” and not sewer-like.

In a meeting with John Royster and Ned Tramp, I mentioned that the sidewalk along F street is substandard and that if there are no trees and shrubs to demarcate the edge, then pedestrian safety has to be considered and a fence of some kind should be placed along both sides of F Street. There needs to be some kind preventative measure as well that will ensure the buttress is not used as a trailbike route or as a sledding slope. Any treeless slope is open game for sledding.

Thank you to the design team for protecting the little Eden in the ravine just north and west of F Street. It is a really charming spot and many small birds do use the area for water, food, shelter and nesting material.


  1. Can the piers being placed on the pond for fishing include a rounded end and rails with a couple of benches or stools for sitting on and enjoying the pond?
  2. Will there be wildlife signage for letting people know what birds, critters and water fowl they might see?
  3. How many cars will be able to park near the pond?
  4. What ADA access will there be?
  5. What considerations have been taken for protecting the bat habitat?
  6. Will there be a boardwalk across the wetland area?
  7. Is the swimming pool going be open during the pond construction?
  8. Will there be a sidewalk on both sides of F Street? If not, why not?
  9. Can there be a wildflower area?
  10. What kind of picnic areas will there be insight of the pond?
  11. Will there be a playground area near the pond?
  12. Will there be an aerator fountain in the pond?
  13. If the current seeps and streams are buried or under the pond, where will that water go?
  14. Will there be any lighting around the pond?
  15. What kind of fish are going to be in the pond?
  16. How many will a fisherman be able to catch and can he keep the fish to eat?
  17. Will we need a license to fish in the pond?

29 April 2014

An Analysis of Proposed R-Project Corridor

An analysis of the proposed corridor for the r-project, the Nebraska Public Power District indicates the places and land features which will be altered by construction of the industrial powerline.

The proposed route shown raises many questions as to the rational for the chosen corridor. Why does the corridor follow a route of "greater impact" to grasslands and wetlands, for example? Why isn't every opportunity possible taken to follow current roadways rather than traversing undeveloped grasslands? Why are seemingly erratic changes made in the route.

NPPD has not made available any details on why the particular route was chosen and the factors considered in their decision. It is not possible to understand their reasoning for their preferred corridor. If the company is going to impose this industrial powerline on the region, they should provide details that justify their route selection to land-owners and others concerned about conserving unique sand hill resources.

Although this powerline is not welcomed by land-owners along the route and others, it is still valuable to undertake a detailed analysis. The following comments are based upon a review of available maps associated with the route (especially those available at www.nationalmap.gov) , starting at its western terminus at the Gerald Gentleman power plant near Sutherland.

Route Analysis

As the route heads northward from the east side of Sutherland Reservoir, it does follow a roadway until it reaches the north side of the North Platte River. A couple of mile northward, the roadway veers westward while the corridor continues northward along the west side of Birdwood creek for eight miles through an area of sandhills with only scattered ranch trails and no land development features.

An alternative evaluated but not selected could have routed the corridor 3.5 miles to the east.  Although this route does not follow the roadway present, towards the north land is agland with center-pivot irrigation systems.

An eastern route could follow along a roadway from three miles east of the reservoir to about four miles north of the North Platte River. At this point, the line could go directly east, crossing Highway 97 until it reaches Highway 83. This option is shown on the NPPD map, but was not selected.

This alternative would completely avoid any impacts to the grassland habitats west of Birdwood Creek and completely avoid placing a powerline over the west branch of this creek.

At Highway 83, the corridor could start 2.5 miles further to the south than the preferred route indicated.

The powerline should continue along Highway 83 to avoid impacts to outlying areas, though it will destroy any scenic views.

South of Thedford about 3.5 miles, the corridor suddenly shifts a mile eastward of the highway for two miles, then jogs eastward another one-half mile, apparently to avoid a hill.

This is no apparent reason that the corridor could not continue along Highway 83 to Highway 2, and then eastward to the present power-substation. Or even adjacent to the present powerline along the T21-22N R27W boundary.

Instead, there would be two distinct powerline corridors in this immediate vicinity.

The corridor of this other powerline, which is already present, goes diagonally to the northeast as it leaves Thedford, and continues for about ten miles until it goes into Cherry county.

For the r-project line, the route goes straight north for six miles and then straight east along a route through the sandhills where there are no roadways for numerous miles.

The proposed corridor would be be placed just south of Carson Lake (PEMF and PEMC wetlands) and other wetlands to its immediate south; which is one mile north of the county road visible at the bottom of the map graphic. (Information from www.nationalmap.gov)

Once again, the rational for not following the current corridor is not indicated.

There is the possibility that the proposed corridor was selected to so that the proposed Thedford wind facility would have to construct a lesser extent of powerline to connect to the new powerline. It would require about 4-5 miles with the preferred route, versus about twice this length if the alternative indicated here was utilized.

It seems enigmatic that the proposed Thedford wind-turbine facility and the proposed r-project line would have such a close conjunction.

The route continues along a county road one-half mile north of Purdum for 1.5 miles, and then continues eastward across the North Loup River and onward across sandhills ranchland.

Eventually in northern Blaine county, the corridor goes past an unnamed wetland, and then Goldman lake, and between this lake and others wetland a mile to the southward.

At 2.5 miles into Loup county, the route is moved a mile northward and follows this alignment throughout the county. This entire length is thorough sandhills grassland, and is immediately north of the Switzer, Morgan and Price ranches, which are the eastern core of the Greater Gracie Creek Important Bird Area. There are numerous wetland features in the vicinity of Gracie creek.

Upon reaching Garfield county, after a mile, the route is moved to one mile south of the county line. Within four miles the line would be built on the south side of Carson lake and between it and other wetlands to its immediate south.

The proposed corridor would be placed between the PEMF wetland at the bottom and the unnamed wetland along in the center of this combined aerial photograph and designated wetlands graphic.

There is a north-south county road 1.25 miles eastward of the Loup-Garfield counties boundary.

The corridor could follow this right-of-way to two miles south of the north Garfield county line and avoid the Carson lake wetland complex entirely; as well as other wetlands eastward near Highway 7. This would also provide easier access and avoid impact to sandhills grasslands.

By continuing the route along this alignment, the powerline would not split through the Rush lakebed — which still has wetlands — and the unnamed lake to its north. Both of these wetland locales are associated with nearby Chain Lake in Holt county.

The corridor continues straight when suddenly four miles west of the Garfield-Wheeler counties boundary, it is moved a mile northward.

There are no land features obvious on the maps to provide the reason for this shift.

The route should instead continue in a straight line until one mile east of the Wheeler county line. Starting two miles west of the county line, there is a county road which goes northward one mile, then eastward one mile to the county line. The route could then go northward another miles to the county road, and follow this route eastward, as proposed by NPPD.

Again, for some unknown reason, instead of following the roadway along the county boundary, at five miles west of the eastern boundary of Wheeler county, the corridor is shifted one-half mile to the north, so it goes into Holt county and continues through the middle of five land sections until the eastern terminus is reached at the current western transmission line along the Holt-Antelope counties boundary.

Where this shift occurs, the line would go through an undeveloped grassland area as shown on current aerial photographs. It would then go through the middle of several ag fields watered by center-pivot systems, and place the powerline just south of the Sehi reservoir, rather than one-half mile to the south. There are also several areas of timber along this corridor. There is much less woodland along the county road.

Once again, there is no apparent rational for this change in alignment.


The preferred route as designated by NPPD is not acceptable for many reasons, and especially due to some of the reasons indicated in this analysis. The route selection seems to be erratic at times and not done with sufficient attention to important environmental resources. The designated route should be withdrawn.

If NPPD insists on constructing the r-project, they need to have more people involved in the route selection, especially residents and others concerned with the fate of the sandhills and its resources.

26 April 2014

First Bird-Window Collisions at Omaha in 2014

The first instances of bird-window collisions for 2014 were recorded on April 25th and 26th in eastern Omaha.

A Savannah Sparrow was the first fatality, and occurred at the CenturyLink Center on its west side. The carcass was beneath a bench, about 20 feet north of the second from north entryway, and found early in the morning.

On the 26th, the first instance was observed on the campus of Creighton University. A bird was seen flying westward across 17th street, from trees along the sidewalk on the west side of the Wareham Building. It struck the glass on the east side of the Rasmussen Fitness and Sports Center. Upon arriving there within moments, it was seen to be a Brown Thrasher. It was still lively and flew away in a few seconds. It was shortly before 6:30 a.m.

A short time later, the carcass of a Lincoln's Sparrow was found on the south side of the courtyard of the Holland Performing Arts Center in downtown.

The CenturyLink Center and Holland Performing Arts Center are well known known as prominent places for bird-window strikes in eastern Omaha.

There had been at least three previous visits during April, but no dead or disabled birds were observed.

April 28th

Additions to the first-of-the-season tally include five records located on April 28th. They are:

  1. a disabled Lincoln's Sparrow at the CenturyLink Center;
  2. a dead sparrow — id pending — also at the CenturyLink Center, but further to the south;
  3. a dead Lincoln's Sparrow on the south side of the courtyard and at its west end, at the Holland Performing Arts Center; the drenched condition of the carcass indicates that the bird was killed on Sunday;
  4. another dead Lincoln's Sparrow on the sidewalk of the Regis Building, along south 16th street; and
  5. a dead Virginia Rail on the west side of the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center; a half-inch of its lower bill was broken and hanging, indicating the force of the impact

The bird-window strike tally is quickly rising with migration actively underway in the Missouri River valley.

21 April 2014

Preferred Route for Industrial Powerline Across Sandhills

A preferred alignment for the massive "r-project" power transmission line through the sandhills was recently made available on the website of the Nebraska Public Power District.

The map document shows the alignment of the 220 mile line from south of Sutherland to the eastern edge of Wheeler county. Excluded from consideration is the option to run the massive power line westward from Thedford.

Basically the routh will go from Sutherland to Thedford and then eastward to its terminus.

“At this time, NPPD is pursuing the use of single pole structures with concrete foundations in easily accessible areas, such as along existing roads,” said senior project manager Craig Holthe of NPPD. “Lattice steel structures appear to be the best structure type in areas of challenging accessibility, where screw-in anchor type foundations can be used rather than concrete, resulting in less traffic impact to the property. Lattice structures may also reduce the need for heavy trucks during future maintenance activities.”

These are particular details determined by comparing the indicated route to land features shown on topographic maps.

The powerline would have a terminus at the coal-fired Gerald Gentleman Station on the south side of Sutherland Reservoir. The route then goes east and then northward, past the east side of the reservoir, crossing Interstate-80 and then the South and North Platte rivers. It then jogs a short distance west to avoid Birdwood Creek, and continues northward, until it turns east just south of West Birdwood Creek and parallels this creek, a short distance to the south.

As the corridor goes eastward about five miles south of the northern boundary of Lincoln county, it crosses Highway 97 and continues through the sandhills to Highway 83.

From this point northward, the lowerline cables and towers will be adjacent to Highway 83, on the east side of Stapleton, over the South Loup River and eventually across the Dismal River.

About three miles south of Thedford, it will shift eastward, cross the Middle Loup River, then shortly connect with the existing power substation along Highway 2. This facility will be upgraded as part of the project.

The line then continues northward, the corridor about two miles east of Highway 83 to within a mile of the north boundary of Thomas county.

Here, the line starts eastward. At this point, the line will be within about four miles of the proposed Thedford wind facility which would have 147 turbines on public and private property along the southern boundary of Cherry county.

The North Loup River will be crossed and the line will be on the north side of Purdum. Across Blaine county, the preferred route will be one mile south of the north county boundary. It will be strung across Goose Creek. West of Highway 7, it will continue eastward, a short distance south of Goldman Lake.

Upon reaching 2-3 miles within Loup county, the line will shift a mile northward, and run along the boundary of Loup and Rock counties.

In quick succession, the Calamus River, Skull Creek and Bloody Creek will be crossed. After going over Highway 183, Gracie Creek will be crossed,

Just to the south of the corridor is the primary, eastern extent Greater Gracie Creek Important Bird Area, as recognized years ago by the Audubon Society. There is also the Price Ranch conservation easement area which was recently designated.

Upon reaching Garfield county, the route will be moved a mile south of the county boundary. The shift will not be enough for the transmission line features to miss Carson Lake, as the towers and lines will go on the south side of the lake.

Carson Lake is known to have a great variety of waterfowl, and is one of the few natural lakes in the county.

Big Cedar Creek will be crossed near its channel by Highway 11, and in the immediate vicinity of the Rowse Rake manufacturing facility.

Further east, the line will split two lakes visible on aerial photographs, with the southern extent identified as Rush Lakebed on the topographic maps. The northern lake appears to have a greater extent of water. A short distance north, is Chain Lake, the third water body in this string of lakes.

After crossing Highway 281, the line will pass within one mile to the south of Goose Lake WMA. Clearwater Creek will also be crossed.

Four miles west of the east boundary of Garfield county, the line will again shift a mile north and continue along the county boundary (also 846th road), until moved about one-half mile north and into Holt county for the last five miles.

The other transmission line terminus will be at a to-be-constructed substation on the eastern boundary of Wheeler county, and in association with the existing Western Area Power Administration line.

Many of the land features mentioned in this review — as well as many smaller, and unnamed intermittent wetlands — are not shown on the "basic" map currently being provided by NPPD.

Six open-house meetings are planned, including:

  • Thursday, May 1- Thomas County Fairgrounds, 83861 Highway 83, Thedford, Neb.
  • Tuesday, May 6- Sandhills Public School (gymnasium), 107 Gandy Avenue, Dunning, Neb.

Further information is available at the NPPD website. Once a final route is selected, "formal public meetings" will occur in each county which the line would traverse.

19 April 2014

Omaha Parks Ignores Nebraska Weed Law

Officials of the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Works department continue to ignore the growth and spreading of phragmites at Levi Carter Park. There are three primary growths in the park along the shore of Carter Lake. The worst growth is on the west side of the lake, and has been there for at least several years. The other two are of lesser size, and those on the east side seem to be a more recent occurrence.

There has been no known effort to eradicate these noxious weeds as required by a state of Nebraska law.

"Pursuant to the Noxious Weed Control Act, section 2-955, subsection 1(a), to every person who owns or controls land in Nebraska, that noxious weeds being grown, or growing on, such land shall be controlled at such frequency as to prevent establishment, provide eradication, or reduce further propagation or dissemination of such weeds."

In the autumn of 2012, this was discussed with a parks worker responsible for this, and although there seemed to be an indication something would be done, nothing was since the phragmites continue to thrive. During the past couple of years, it was also learned that these plants are the invasive species, not the native type.

A picture of each clump taken on April 18th, 2014.
There are additional places with a scattered growth of this species.

On the east side of Carter Lake, northeast of Bird Isle.

On the north side of Carter Lake, east of the buildings. Note the Western Osprey atop the tree snag.

On the north side of Carter Lake, along the drive.

Any effort to remove the phragmites should include consultation with a licensed spray applicator (to safeguard the lake waters) and a review of potential nesting activity since the nesting season is well underway at the Levi Carter Park environs.

The list of Nebraska noxious weeds is provided on a Nebraska Weed Association website, along with pictures.

Spring Lake Park Meeting‏ Poorly Planned

This is a copy of an email sent to the CSO! project coordinator, Public Works officials, the Omaha mayor, the local member of the city council, a project planner and reporters of the local press. The email announcement of the meeting was not received until April 19th, though I did know about it earlier in the week.

It is quite absurd that an official notice of this important meeting was received only ten days prior to the planned meeting.

There should be a minimum of three weeks notice so if there is a scheduling conflict, people have time to rearrange things to be able to attend

Also, there is nothing indicated as to what the meeting will entail. While it be a rehash of the project purpose (the same speil talked about at every meeting), a glowing presentation of what the park will "supposedly" look like in ten years, and then 15 minutes for public comments, with no public discussion. It is this item which is an essential part of the process.

But of course, when I asked for clarification on this item, no response was received to my email.

This is a copy of the email sent on April 15th: "I hope that when this meeting on the evening of April 29th is announced that it will indicate no limits on the number of people that can comment, that the time for an individual to speak will be indicated, and that a public record of the meeting be taken and be available afterwards. Any parameters need to be defined before the meeting to make certain that it is a suitable public meeting, not something else.

"The limitation on speaking should also apply to Public Works officials, though they could bring their entire staff and take over the meeting!"

Are the finalized and already approved plans posted online for people to review and consider. Considering their complexity and length it would take more than a few days to properly review and evaluate! But there is no opportunity being given for this either.

This smacks of nothing more than Public Works wanting to shove a meeting down our throat and simply get it out of the way. It represents an authoritarian perspective by a public agency. Is this what this has resorted to ... forcing things onto the public? It sure appears this way because of this too-brief notice and the way the proposal to fill the creek has been handled.

The meeting needs to be delayed until May. There will not even be a notice in the local newspaper until just a few days prior to the 29th.

It's quite appalling the way this is being handled! Shame on Public Works and the people making these decisions.

17 April 2014

Rare Sparrow Occurrence at Levi Carter Park

It was a chilly but vibrant morning of April 15th for bicycling through Levi Carter Park, and along the edge of Carter Lake. The usual route was followed, from east to north then west and south.

A first prominent feature was the number of Double-crested Cormorants perched in the trees of Bird Isle. There were many dozens sitting around on tree limbs early in the morning during a bird outing being done via bicycle.

There was a wonderful variety of fowl on the lake waters. The usual expressions by robins, grackles and starlings were prevalent along the route. Numerous stops were necessary to scan the lake to review the species thereon. Doing a survey on a bicycle makes it easy to go around the shoreline, stop when necessary and observe details which anyone in a motor vehicle would not observe. Pedaling is however, also a bit faster than walking!

Particular places for which bird records were recorded into my database of records for this area were:

  • Kiwanis Park;
  • Levi Carter Park;
  • Carter Lake;
  • Horseshoe Pool, Levi Carter Park;
  • Levi Carter Pond;
  • Northwest Pond Natural Wildlife Area; and
  • Browne Street Woods (which is the abandoned railway on the north side).

Other sites which might have been included were Iowa West Ranch, the Stateline Greens which is City of Omaha property immediately adjacent to the lake on the City of Carter Lake side and Shoreline Greens, the golf course adjacent to the western portion of the lake.

Indicating bird presence to these different places, makes it easier to record the species presence, and to also indicate specific details of distribution.

Many Birds Appreciate Habitats

A fine multitude of birds were observed, but the most significant bird of the morning was a sparrow sort of thing, near the central parking area on the north side of the lake. After a first glimpse, its identity was not immediately obvious, so another stop was made. The spotting scope was brought out, and the flitterings were watched closely so it could be observed in a stationary manner. It worked, and then the call was heard. It was a Lark Sparrow -- with its obviously distinctive markings -- which is more typically a bird of land spaces further west. This is the first modern-era of this species, as the last time it was denoted for this vicinity was on a list from 1931 the Nepenthe Cottage, a historic place by the southeast portion of the lake.

A few swallows foraged above the slightly tempest laketop. One the west side, several Purple Martins were vivid in their presence, and just a slight indication for future antics to claim a preferable apartment for the coming breeding season. There was no need to inquire about the cleanliness of the two places, since Randy, the park caretaker, has a personal interest in these homes, and we've talked about this multiple times. He probably had them fresh and ready weeks ago! Thanks Randy.

Warming temperatures during the morning contributed to joy of this watching and listening to birds about Carter Lake. It was an outdoor time, with complete immersion among the trees, slight winds, flying birds, chorus of flocks on the lake, observing particular features necessary for bird identification and the entire personal perspective of a pleasant spring day.

The tally of 53 species for the morning outing was quite nice. A survey done five days ago indicated the presence of 39 species, with some especially significant numbers of some fowl on the lake.

Wildbirds of Mid-April at Carter Lake Environs

» Snow Goose (one near the northside beach)
» Canada Goose
» Wood Duck
» Gadwall
» American Wigeon
» Mallard
» Blue-winged Teal (a surprising number present due to lesser water levels)
» Northern Shoveler (one of the most numerous species)
» Green-winged Teal
» Redhead
» Ring-necked Duck
» Lesser Scaup
» Bufflehead
» Common Goldeneye
» Hooded Merganser
» Ruddy Duck
» Wild Turkey (the turkey crossed the road to get to the southwest meadow area)
» Pied-billed Grebe
» Double-crested Cormorant
» Great Blue Heron (foraging along the shore)
» Turkey Vulture (soaring above once temps warmed a bit)
» Bald Eagle (an adult that got the waterfowl moving about)
» American Kestrel (readily heard at the north side)
» American Coot

» Killdeer
» Spotted Sandpiper (at Levi Carter Pond)
» Greater Yellowlegs (along the shoreline; there is no accurate measurement for the water level, but it continues to be well below 968)
» Franklin's Gull
» Bonaparte's Gull
» Ring-billed Gull
» Mourning Dove
» Belted Kingfisher (a pair)
» Red-bellied Woodpecker
» Downy Woodpecker
» Northern Flicker (one busy at the Northwest Pond preparing its chosen cavity for the nesting season)
» Blue Jay
» American Crow
» Purple Martin (gathered about their apartment houses)
» Northern Rough-winged Swallow (foraging over the lake)
» Barn Swallow
» Black-capped Chickadee
» White-breasted Nuthatch
» Ruby-crowned Kinglet (along the Browne Street railway)
» American Robin (adults carrying nest material)
» European Starling
» Lark Sparrow
» Dark-eyed Junco
» Northern Cardinal
» Red-winged Blackbird
» Common Grackle
» Brown-headed Cowbird
» American Goldfinch
» House Sparrow

This is a typical number of species for the places visited. Overall, based upon multiple years of regular surveys, the tally is 69 species that have been present during April. More bird types will be arriving as weather warms.

Strewn debris was not a welcoming site during the latter time of being afield. Pictures had to be taken for documentary purposes because of how some people deal with the public, based on previous experiences with officials that have tepid responses to issues conveyed by concerned citizens.

On the ride back to the neighborhood, a brief visit was made to Fontenelle Park, which had an especially nice diversity of waterfowl on the lagoon, including a bunch of Northern Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck.

16 April 2014

Findings on Bird-Building Collisions Issued

Information from my personal database of bird-building collisions in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, were used in the evaluation, published in Condor in February, 2014. This is the article abstract.
Building collisions, and particularly collisions with windows, are a major anthropogenic threat to birds, with rough estimates of between 100 million and 1 billion birds killed annually in the United States. However, no current U.S. estimates are based on systematic analysis of multiple data sources. We reviewed the published literature and acquired unpublished datasets to systematically quantify bird–building collision mortality and species-specific vulnerability. Based on 23 studies, we estimate that between 365 and 988 million birds (median = 599 million) are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S., with roughly 56% of mortality at low-rises, 44% at residences, and [less-than] 1% at high-rises. Based on [more-than] 92,000 fatality records, and after controlling for population abundance and range overlap with study sites, we identified several species that are disproportionately vulnerable to collisions at all building types. In addition, several species listed as national Birds of Conservation Concern due to their declining populations were identified to be highly vulnerable to building collisions, including Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa), and Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum). The identification of these five migratory species with geographic ranges limited to eastern and central North America reflects seasonal and regional biases in the currently available building-collision data. Most sampling has occurred during migration and in the eastern U.S. Further research across seasons and in underrepresented regions is needed to reduce this bias. Nonetheless, we provide quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that building collisions are second only to feral and free-ranging pet cats, which are estimated to kill roughly four times as many birds each year, as the largest source of direct human-caused mortality for U.S. birds.

Public Works Drums Strewn in Omaha Park

About a month ago a managerial official of Omaha Public Works agreed to making certain there would be no increase in the footprint of their facility south of the western extent of Levi Carter Park.

Despite this statement, a different situation was present on the morning of April 15th at the very site of the original concern. There were several 55-gallon drums strewn about. They are obviously the property of Public Works, as they are painted in their manner. One of the barrels was several yards from the edge of the area recently filled by Public Works. Others were closer to the embankment.

It is not apparent how the drums got to where they were located, but they are certainly not situated where they belong. There were no other drums of this type in the vicinity, and including atop the fill site.

Pictures of the drums that are trash in Levi Carter Park. Note also the unnecessary and unwelcome trash.

If barrels are to be stored at this site, it should be done in a manner to make certain they stay were placed, despite miscreants or weather.

Update: on the morning of April 18th, there were no barrels at this site ... they had been removed.

Site Wetlands

During the visit, it was also noted the presence of wetlands on the west side of the area filled by Public Works. Any jurisdictional wetlands are protected by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. It is not known whether the wetlands became established after the filling, or were there prior to any past action to increase the size of the facility.

It is illegal to fill jurisdictional wetlands without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On the afternoon of April 16th, the Omaha Regulatory office of the Corps of Engineers was called and asked to investigate this situation. They said they "would take care of it."

Snow Hurricane - Thrilling Account of Storm in Nebraska

[From Our Own Correspondent.]

Omaha, Neb., April 21. — Those who judge of the climate in this section of the country by its position on the map would be surprised to feel the keen dry wind which rises on these high plains in a moment and furnishes a taste of the pole with tropical surroundings. But this wind of the plains is a matter of course, and people are prepared for it. Not so such a visitation as that of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the 13th, 14th, and 15th. A storm of snow which is unparalleled in well-authenticated local history, coming after a particularly well-developed spring and almost on the threshold of speedy summer, is an event for which no preparation can be made and no satisfactory reason provided. For forty odd hours a wind blew strongly and steadily, frequently with a velocity of seventy miles an hour. It sufficed to carry houses bodily from their foundations, to overturn walls of solid stone, to blow cars from the track and land them beyond the ditches which drain the embankments on either side. The snow fell in sheets and masses, actually bridging over considerable rivers, and maxing at noonday an Egyptian darkness — a darkness which could be felt. The railroad cuttings were blocked up with masses of snow and ice, and so penetrating was the wind and so fine the drift at times that passengers within the cars, the doors and windows being locked, were covered with a snowy powder that forced its way in through the woodwork and round the window-casings so rapidly that the panels inside seemed to be smoking in a smouldering conflagration.

Of the windows with which the snow fell, some idea may be formed when it is said that on the Republican fork of the Kansas River, at Scandinavia, the ferry-boat sunk under the weight of the closely-packed drifts. At Wood River, 178 miles west of the city, the stream, which is some seventy yards in width, was choked and covered with snows that rose to the level of its banks, probably sixteen feet, and rendered the river bed indistinguishable from the country on either side. This incumbent heap of snow was not a mere wreath or trail arch, but so closely packed that a farmer is said to have driven a loaded wagon across the natural bridge. Many persons certainly crossed it on foot.

The snow fall did not present a less remarkable aspect in the matter of intensity. It not only swallowed up and destroyed all landmarks, but drew before the places where they had been so thick a veil that the keenest eye could not have distinguished them at a rod's distance. At Scandinavia the night was no darker than the day. For the two days that the storm raged the stormbound residents could not see the hitching-posts or garden fences which were only twelve feet from the windows. Strong men who were visiting who were visiting or who had gone to the post-office failed to distinguish the way home and were forced to remain where the storm found them till its fury was assuaged, thus adding intolerably to the anguish of their families, who feared them buried under the mountainous drifts. Residents round the public square could not, between the blinding drifts and the violent wind, reach the cistern in its midst, though the distance was less than twenty rods, and so were forced to melt snow for water. At Hastings people were forced to take refuge in their cellars and burrow there like rats, for the snow drifted in through the walls of the houses and formed piles round every article of furniture. At Grand Island, when the chimneys became choked with snow so that fires were impossible, whole families went to bed in their clothing and remained there for two or three days, without fuel, food or water. At Gibbon twenty-five men, most of whom had gone thither to open a lodge of Odd Fellows, were cooped up in a small house from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday noon, unable to even open the door. At Lone Tree, a man named Burton, who had gone to the woodshed to bring in some fuel for his family, found it impossible to return, and had to remain there from Monday morning till Tuesday night. At Kearney another man passed forty hours in a wooden privy in a backyard, to which he had wandered, thinking all the while that he was on the roadway. At Belleville a German named Koch is said to have groped his way from his house to the yard for wood, but to have been overpowered by the snow and wind and never to have returned. His wife, rendered desperate by his absence, at last ventured out to seek him, but lost her way, and, fortunately, brought up at the stable, where she remained from Tuesday morning till the same night, her two children, one three and the other nine, being left in the house all alone.

The brute creation suffered terribly. those that were corralled or out on the plains were suffocated by the snow; those that were in stables went mad with famine and thirst. Even the wild birds, to whom the storm is a parent and a playmate, were overpowered. At Wood River prairie hens were found under the snow so benumbed that they could neither fly nor run, and giving no tokens of life when men took them up and handled them save by the pulsation of their scared hearts and the upward glance of their inquiring eyes. At Grand Island they were picked up by dozens, dead, little lumps of ice and tousled feathers. At Stevenson the residents found birds that had broken their necks and wings against the houses and barns in the blind terror of their aimless flight, flung by the hurricane like stones from a sling. At Lone Tree almost every hog in a blockaded cattle train were lost. The weakest were trodden under foot and rent by the stronger. Many more were suffocated.

The loss of stock on the plains must be immense; probably a half of the unsheltered cattle have been suffocated or drowned. Some herds stampeded in the panic caused by the first gale; their members were scattered over the plains; some tumbled into ravines and broke their necks or legs, being killed outright or disabled to linger till they died of hunger or suffocation; others blundered into rivers and were drowned; others roamed about till they were exhausted and panting and sobbing, to be covered ten feet deep by snow before they died for lack of air. "At Gibbon, one man lost twenty head of fat cattle by drowning; another lost 200 head, of which only two were recovered." "At Lone Tree several hundred head are missing." "At Grand Island hardly a head is saved." "At Lincoln one man has lost seventy-five horses." So the reports come in from all points, indicating a loss of stock that will go up into scores if not hundreds of thousands of animals. "By George, sir," affirmed one dealer, "when this snow melts away, next August or thereabouts, Nebraska and Kansas will look like the vacant lot covered with broken chairs — the stiff legs of the dead steers 'll be so thick."

Many domestic animals were crushed to death by falling barns, which gave way under the weight of snow, or before the fury of the wind; some were suffocated in the snow; some died of hunger and thirst. But this loss and suffering of the brute creation become as nothing beside the sacrifice of life which this hurricane has been attended. Even now we can, make no accurate estimate of the number of lives lost. Along the railroad lines it has been considerable. It will be another month ere full reports can reach us.

Among the fatal accidents reported, the most terrible was one which occurred at Belleville, in Republic county, 100 miles west of Atchison. a prairie fire swept over the country on Saturday, the day preceding the storm, destroying many buildings, and a great deal of grain. Among the dwellings burned was that of a Mr. Crane. He was absent at Atchison, but his wife and four children were in the house. They escaped with their lives and the clothes they wore and took refuge with a neighbor named Burnett. Next day, from a sea of fire the land was a dessert of snow. The two families sought refuge in the cellar, fearing lest the house should be carried away. the storm drove in the solid stone gable as a man might drive in the side of a pasteboard box with his fist. the structure stumbled into the cellar, Mrs. Burnett being very badly crushed. On Monday morning his husband ventured out for assistance. Ere he returned the floors, bending beneath the incumbent weight of tons of snow, fell in as a dead fall-trap tumbles on the prey. Mrs. Burnett and her three children were killed instantly; so were Mrs. Crane and two of her little ones. Two others of the four survived, though terribly mangled, but one died a few minutes after he had been extricated. Of the ten inmates only one little girl survived. The child said, amid her sobs, "We were ally crying together, and then the house tumbled so (clapping her little hands); and that was all."

At Belleville several other buildings were wrecked by the storm, though no other lives were lost. At Gibbon a snowdrift forty feet high is the cenotaph which marks were a house once was inhabited by a newly-married couple, till the wind in a moment made a ruin of the house and corpses of the bride and groom. At Scandinavia a flour-mill, 60 by 40 was moved bodily about four feet from its foundations and tilted all askew. It looks like a stiff hat knocked all aslant by violent contact with a beam. Near by a stone stable was blown down, the roof being carried across the yard and flung upon a carriage-house. At Grand Island the wind blew the windows in one gable of a frame house, and lifted off the roof as if by the explosion of a barrel of gunpowder, though not a pane of glass in the sides of the house was cracked.

Among the many cases of death reported some are of a peculiarly harrowing or extraordinary character. At Cawker four bodies were found, one in front of a house, and so near the fence that the gate, when opened, smote against his corpse. At Lone Tree a servant in a tavern that went into the yard for wood, groped his way into the road, and died. Those who went out to seek him in a lull of the storm stumbled over a body within forty yards of the house. It was not that of the boy they sought but of a trapper, whose woodcraft had not availed to guide him a few steps further to safety. At Hastings a farmer named Marshall went to feed his cattle. The barn was about 200 feet from the home, directly in the rear, but the snow was over the fences, and he wandered to one side and was suffocated. At Grand Island two men were lost in a drift, about thirty feet apart. At Red Cloud Mrs. Bent and her child tried to grope their was to the next house, the wind and snow having rendered their own untenable. Five days after the two bodies were found in the road less than fifty yards from the refuge they sought. The child had given way first, and the mother died beside it. Near Tehama they found an unknown man with a dog keeping watch over the dead body. At Grafton Mr. Keeler, his wife and child tried to reach a neighbor's house. They struggled on — it was only half a mile — the feebler ones tired and sat down to rest, "it felt so warm." Only a minute, they said. A childless widower strove desperately through the drifts and reached the house, leaving all who bore his name buried in the highway. At Chapman's a woman is said to have left her two children in the house while she went for wood, and never to have returned. The children only know that she "went out there," and they "waited and cried so long and so hard."

So by every mail, from every quarter comes the death roll. It is natural that in the first excitement and confusion that there should be exaggerations and duplications, and that some of the alleged dead should prove to be still alive. Hopes are entertained that many of those known to be out when the storm set in will yet turn up, and that many of the missing are safe. It is cruel to dissipate such hopes, but they rest on only a slight warranty. The snow fall was so heavy, and the storm lasted so long, that there is no probability that any [two words not legible] the tempest descended escaped. When the list of dead is completed within the circuit of the storm, it will be found that several hundreds of lives have been lost. Ere that list, however, is made up all interest in the matter will have been lost. Life is cheap on the frontier, and existence busy. All are new comers, whom few have known long enough to miss much and mourn deeply. In the rush of immigration and settlement, the few dead will be forgotten. In the rapid development of the country the "great storm of 1873" will soon become a thing of the past — as remote and vague as the "great storm of 1856" of which we all hear so much and remember so little. Still many a babe that is unborn shall rue the dawning of that April day of snow.

April 29, 1873. The snow hurricane. Thrilling account of the storm in Nebraska. New York World 13(1319): 1.

Blackbirds as an Article of Food at Philadelphia

From the Philadelphia News.

There is a large trade in this city in blackbirds. Some years ago, when it first began, very few birds were sold; but the restaurants and private families found out that the birds could be made tender and palatable by par-boiling them and then baking them in a pie, and now dozens of bunches of blackbirds, twelve in a bunch, are sold at the very best game depots. The trade continues from April, when the birds come back from the south, until early October, when they leave this latitude; and all the season through there is one unvarying price demanded for this sort of game — viz.: Twenty-five cents per "bunch" of twelve birds.

The birds are shot by farmers' boys and other sportsmen within a radius of twenty miles from Philadelphia. As the birds fly to their feeding grounds in the morning and back to their "roosts" in the woods at sundown, and their line is straight, the gunners can fire volleys into their fluttering flocks whenever they come within range while crossing the country. At early morning and an hour or two before the sun sets the swamp and crow-blackbirds, two very different species, seem less wary and feed in the plow-furrows in the field or along the banks of creeks and rivers, where worms and fresh-water shellfish abound, and then the volleys of No. 6 shot decimate their sable ranks.

Theoretically, there is no reason why the flesh of blackbirds should not be used for food. They feed on cherries, currants, fruit, grain and worms, just as reed-birds, doves, wild pigeons, and plenty of other palatable game birds do. Blackbirds don't eat carrion, and, although they are polygamous, don't mate, and lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. They are not otherwise different from other species. They are noisy, cheeky and great pests of farmers who have cherry orchards or graperies, and those who know blackbirds best will set it down as an invariable rule that if they can steal ripe cherries they will not touch any other kind of food.

No country people eat blackbirds any more than they eat crows. They look upon both warblers with about the same sort of feelings. There is a tradition in the neighboring counties that blackbirds eat carrion, but it is not true, though their flesh is rank enough before being parboiled. A blackbird roost, that is, a place where hundreds or thousands of the stable-feathered pests flock and scream at night, is regarded by the tillers of the soil as a local misfortune, and it often happens that a dozen farmers, with their sons and hired hands, all armed with guns, will lie in ambush evening after evening, for several days, in order to shoot the birds as they fly in, in small black clouds at night, to a harboring place of this sort.

May 15, 1886. Blackbirds as an article of food. Washington D.C. Evening Star 68(10307): 2.

14 April 2014

Ranch Map Graphics Win Nebraska Award

Graphic ranch maps prepared for stories issued by the Grant County News, Hyannis, have won the first place award presented by the Nebraska Press Association. The category was "Use of Computer Graphics - Produced in House" by a "Class A Weekly." This award was based upon recognition in a statewide contest, involving numerous state newspapers."

These are some examples of the ranch maps prepared for the article, based upon at atlas of the indicated year. They were originally issued in black-and-white. The land indicated was all in Cherry county.

Davis OLO Ranch.

Dumbell Land and Cattle Company.

Fawn Lake Ranch Company.

Historic Hanna Lake and Cattle Company.

Historic Metzger Ranch.

All map graphics Copyright 2012 James E. Ducey. All rights reserved. Maps may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission.

An additional award was shared with Norma Lee Hooper, for a combined "lifestyle" feature in the "beef paper" issue of the same newspaper.

10 April 2014

Omaha Public Works and Carter Lake Pumping

The following email was received April 8th.

I checked with our staff and the ideal lake level, as agreed to by Omaha and Carter Lake is at elevation 970.3'. As you know, the staff gauge for the Lake is currently above water, indicating an elevation below 968', and we estimate that it is probably around 966'.

By contrast, the river elevation is currently even lower, at about 962'. This low river elevation is likely the main driver behind the low lake level, and is expected to remain low for at least the next week or so. Absent a very heavy localized rainfall, it is unlikely that we will see any significant change in lake level until navigation season on the river starts.

With regard to the lake pumping system, I was reminded by our staff that the pumping system was actually designed to provided only about as much water as is necessary to replace summertime evaporative losses. In other words, it's not like turning on the faucet to fill a bathtub, it more like trying to fill an olympic swimming pool with a garden hose. Baiscaly the pumping is likely to only keep the lake at its present level.

However, please help us keep an eye on the lake level between now and April 15. If we can document any significant increase, I will reconsider suspending pumping.

Marty Grate, Environmental Services Manager
Omaha Public Works Department

This was the reply sent to Mr. Grate.

Thanks for the response. I missed one essential word among the text. You did not mention birds at all, and they are the sole reason for birders to prefer a lesser water level.

I realize public works pays attention to birds associated with tree clearing and the CSO! project, but when will birds be given equal value in regards to management of water levels at Carter lake.

Myself and others would prefer that lake levels be kept below 968 every year until April 15th. Though to get that to happen would seem to be an onerous task.

Also, the optimum lake level of 970.3 was agreed upon by officials of the City of Omaha and City of Carter Lake. There has been no public agreement on this that I am aware of?

09 April 2014

April Nesting Survey - Saddle Creek CSO! Project‏

This report, completed for the Omaha Public Works Department, is presented here for informational and archival purposes.
April 8, 2014

Pending tree removal by a contractor along the Saddle Creek corridor site near the end of South 62nd street, north of Bancroft Street, as well as at the intersection of Westbrook Ave and Dupont Street required that a survey be done to determine the presence of any nesting birds, according to provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and as required by a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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

Survey Methods

Surveys for active bird nests were conducted on the mornings of April 7th and 8th at the area indicated on an aerial photograph received via email from Public Works. During the survey these methods were used to evaluate bird activity while the area was slowly traversed during the two visits:

1) looking closely at both tree and understory vegetation within the immediate area of the wooded channel swale and hillside;
2) evaluating leaf or twig constructs and tree trunks to determine if there were any occupied nests or cavities;
3) recording all birds present and evaluating their behavior; and
4) listening for any bird vocalizations within the area and general vicinity.

Particular attention was given to the few trees to be removed. There was no construction activity underway in the immediate vicinity to hamper the ability to hear any bird vocalizations.

Survey Results

There were no active nests, nest building activity or occupied tree cavities noted for birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. House Sparrows and European Starlings were using tree cavities at the Westbrook Avenue and Dupont Street location, but did not appear to be utilizing the trees to be removed. Also observed here was an American Robin.

In the woods at the 62nd Street locale, the species noted were a hunting Red-tailed Hawk, and seasonal migrants, some Dark-eyed Junco. The Common Grackles were foraging, as they would have nesting sites elsewhere. No nesting activity was seen in association with the robins and blue jays also present. Some Northern Cardinals were territorial in the area, but not associated with the trees to be removed.

During the survey on the morning of the 8th, an owner of property adjacent to the City of Omaha CSO! site arrived and had some questions in regards to the nesting survey. He was cleaning up his property, and would also be removing a few trees. We reviewed his plans, and there were nests in those trees either.

06 April 2014

Area Birders Appreciate Fowl at Carter Lake

This is an email sent to Mayor Jean Stothert, Robert Stubbe, director of Public Works and Pete Festerson, Omaha city council.

A dozen birders gathered on the east side of Carter Lake to observe the variety of birds present during the latter morning of April 5th. The group included bird-watchers from Omaha, Bellevue, Fremont and other places of eastern Nebraska. The group was associated with the WINGS bird tour group.

There was particular attention given to the "gull flats" north of Bird Isle. There were only Ring-billed Gulls present that appreciated this place to roost and rest. Many other birds were seen. The call of a Bairds Sandpiper was significant. Wigeons were present, as well as a bunch of coots.

The variety of birds was significantly different in comparison to one day previous, on Friday.

No water was being pumped on Friday morning, but then was being pumped on mid-day Saturday. Public officials that have made the decisions regarding the operation of the pump will not provide any details regarding the basis for why this pumping activity is done.

Birders Prefer Cessation of Pumping Water into Carter Lake

This is an email sent to Mayor Jean Stothert, Robert Stubbe, director of Public Works and Pete Festerson, Omaha city council.

On Friday morning, April 4th, there was a wonderful variety of birds present at Carter Lake, as the lake environs were most suitable for many birds. The variety of waterfowl was completely unique with, especially, a significant number of dabbling ducks present ... undoubtedly due to the lesser water levels, which make the edible aquatic vegetation available as forage.

These are the species observed during an early morning visit, with birds counted from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. from several vantage points around the lake. There were other birders present in the morning, including two guys associated with a SUV with a Michigan license plate. Obviously the birds at Carter Lake are an attraction to more than just Omaha bird-watchers!

  • Canada Goose: 38
  • Wood Duck: 19
  • Gadwall: 175
  • A count of 225 on 29 March is the greatest count for this species, and the 175 Gadwall observed on April 4th is the third largest count, based upon a review of 127 records.

  • American Wigeon: 20
  • Mallard: 35
  • Blue-winged Teal: 2
  • Northern Shoveler: 875
  • This is the second highest count for this species at the lake.

  • Green-winged Teal: 3
  • Canvasback: 77
  • Redhead: 12
  • Ring-necked Duck: 185
  • Lesser Scaup: 115
  • Bufflehead: 15
  • Common Goldeneye: 5
  • Hooded Merganser: 25
  • Common Merganser: 12
  • Ruddy Duck: 15
  • Pied-billed Grebe: 3
  • American White Pelican: 3
  • Double-crested Cormorant: 11
  • American Coot: 450
  • Ring-billed Gull: 65
  • California Gull: 1
  • Herring Gull: 3
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull: 1

Some gull records courtesy of Justin Rink.

The number of birds present was more than 2200. And since the value to the birds is worth at least $1 per day, the economic valuation is $2200 for this single date.

Upon visiting the north lake pump station, it was obvious that no water was being pumped into the lake. The lake-level gauge was below 968.

Because of the cessation of pumping, several bird enthusiasts were called, in order to get their perspective on pumping activities at Carter Lake. The following birders, as well as myself, agreed that no pumping of water should occur at the lake until after April 15th:

  • Clem Klaphake
  • Jim and Sandy Kovanda
  • Loren and Babs Padelford
  • Justin Rink
  • Jerry Toll

These people appreciate the many fowl at the lake and would prefer that the lake be managed in a manner suitable for the ongoing occurrence of migratory wildbirds.

Incoming water and the water elevation gauge at Carter Lake on April 5, 2014.

05 April 2014

Considering Wildbirds Sold in Historic Game Markets

A unique aspect of historic ornithology is the pervasive extent of accounts about wildbirds — game — available for purchase in city markets. When different species were numerous and could be readily harvested, they soon became a commodity for purchase. Larger metropolis' such as New York City and Chicago were especially prominent for the extent of this sort of market activity.

A preliminary evaluation of thousands of market records has recently been completed which conveys some interesting details. It was a process of searching or browsing through available periodicals to find articles that listed market commodities and the most recent cost. Most of the 18,045 records considered are from a variety of newspapers. Not every entry was extracted, since in many instances the list of birds being sold and the prices were similar week to week, so details were extracted only for alternate weeks. There was a greater interest in keeping noting weekly details as this multi-year effort to extract information was done.

Recording the price information was done in a standard manner. The text of the published entry was entered into one database field, other db fields included the minimum price, date of record, a thorough citation, number of birds sold (only a limited extent of this information is given, as available), the decade and city of occurrence. A particular species or common name was then designated. Meta-data includes a conversion of the date to a Julian date to allow yearly comparisons.

Additional articles about local game markets are are included in the historic ornithology bibliography. They have many interesting anecdotes and bits of history. When available, advertisements or other graphic images were electronically captured for illustrative purposes.

This is a summary for the records thus far obtained. The first records are from 1520 from Tenochtitlan, Mexico and the last are from 1889 at Omaha, Nebr. and St. Paul, Minn.; the majority are from 1885 (an arbitrary end to the period evaluated) and prior years.

These are the 45 towns, cities and other locales for which records are available:

» New York City: 7705 records for 52 species, starting in 1759 with continuous records from 1853 to 1885
» Chicago, Ill.: 5592 records for 21 species, with a continuous record from 1857 to 1885
» Washington, D.C.: 1831 records for 30 species from 1856 to 1885
» St. Louis, Mo.: 601 records, 17 species from 1858 to 1884
» Omaha, Nebr.: 562; eight spp. between 1875 and 1889
» Milwaukee, Wisc.: 512; 13 spp. between 1866 and 1880
» San Francisco, Cal.: 217; 30 spp. from 1851 to 1880 with latter records still to be considered
» Memphis, Tenn.: 199; ten spp. from 1867 to 1885
» Boston, Mass.: 211; 12 spp. from 1818 to 1870, though primarily after 1863; also 1883 with other records still be considered
» Cairo, Ill.: 123; seven spp. from 1868 to 1884
» St. Paul, Minn.: 123; ten spp. from 1884 to 1889
» New Orleans, La.: 63; 36 spp. from 1810 and 1821
» Louisville, Ky.: 59; 11 spp. from 1863 and 1866
» Kansas City, Mo.: 52; three spp. from 1876, 1884 and 1885
» Troy, N.Y.: 26; nine spp. from 1854, 1855 and 1866
» Kirksville, Mo.: 20; five spp. from 1881-1883
» Norfolk, Virg.: 18; three spp. from 1865 and 1866
» Brownville, Nebr.: 14 records for two species in 1875
» Tenochtitlan, Mexico: 14; only four recognizable species denoted, with the other records for generic sorts of birds that could not be further defined
» Richmond, Virg.: 13; four spp. from 1853 and 1865
» Leavenworth, Kan.: 12; two species from 1877 and 1878
» Albany, N.Y.: 8; six spp. from 1845 and 1874
» Hennepin, Ill.: 8; five spp. from 1845
» Philadelphia, Pa.: 8; 7 spp. from 1861
» Columbus, Ohio: 6; five spp. from 1861 and 1868
» Platte City, Neb.: 5; four spp. from 1866
» Sandusky, Ohio: 5; three spp. from 1854
» Virginia, Nev.: 5; two spp. from 1863
» Oswego, N.Y.: 4; two spp. from 1881
» Wichita, Kan.: 4; two spp. from 1872
» Bismarck, N.D.: 3; represents only the Greater Prairie Chicken from 1884
» Bloomsburg, Pa.: 3; record for the Passenger Pigeon in 1868
» Jefferson City, Mo.: 3; two spp. from 1871
» Alexandria, Virg.: 2; Bobolink records from 1870 and 1879
» Atchison, Kan.: 2; the Northern Bobwhite and Greater Prairie Chicken in 1867
» Ogdensburgh, N.Y.: 2; Ruffed Grouse and Mallard in 1876
» Springfield, Ill.: 2; Northern Bobwhite and Greater Prairie Chicken in 1860
» Buffalo, N.Y.: 1; the Passenger Pigeon in 1840
» Charleston, S.C.: 1; a Brown-headed Cowbird in 1809
» Dayton, Ohio: 1; Passenger Pigeon in 1852
» Essex County, N.Y.: 1; Passenger Pigeon in 1859
» Little Rock, Ark.: 1; Passenger Pigeon in 1867
» Minneapolis, Minn.: 1; Greater Prairie Chicken in 1881
» Orange County, N.Y.: 1; Passenger Pigeon in 1872
» Stroudsburg, Pa.: 1; Passenger Pigeon in 1859

This list indicates the species (81) and types of birds represented among the records. There are undoubtedly more records associated with domestic chickens or tame pigeons, but the focus was upon wildbirds.

  • Greater Prairie Chicken - 2033 records
  • Mallard - 1926
  • Northern Bobwhite - 1556
  • Passenger Pigeon (including wild squabs) - 1333

    Wild pigeons (a.k.a. Passenger Pigeon) are known to have been sold at the local market in these places: Albany, N.Y.; Bloomsburg, Pa.; Boston, Mass.; Cairo, Ill.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Essex County, N.Y.; Little Rock, Ark.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; New York City; Orange County, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Francisco, Cal.; St. Louis, Mo.;
    Stroudsburg, Pa.; Troy, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.

  • Duck - 1139
  • Teal - 1050
  • Ruffed Grouse - 1000
  • Canvasback - 811
  • Redhead - 736
  • Wilson's Snipe - 687
  • American Woodcock - 671
  • Rock Dove - 526
  • Plover - 493
  • Wild Turkey - 410
  • Snipe - 375
  • Wood Duck - 299
  • Sandpiper - 269
  • American Black Duck - 236
  • Canada Goose - 232
  • American Wigeon - 229
  • Bobolink - 150
  • Scaup - 143
  • Dowitcher - 111
  • Snow Goose - 103
  • Yellowlegs - 102
  • American Robin - 94
  • Brant Goose - 92
  • Goose - 78
  • Red-winged Blackbird - 73
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse - 73
  • Sora - 70
  • Grouse - 69
  • Gadwall - 65
  • Northern Shoveler - 47
  • Curlew - 45
  • Greater Yellowlegs - 43
  • American Golden Plover - 38
  • Lesser Yellowlegs - 38
  • American Coot - 36
  • Red Knot - 35
  • Northern Pintail - 34
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper - 33
  • Ruddy Duck - 32
  • Blackbird - 28
  • Blue-winged Teal - 27
  • Upland Sandpiper - 27
  • Lesser Scaup - 26
  • Unidentified birds - 26
  • Quail - 19
  • Bufflehead - 17
  • Godwit - 17
  • Lark - 16
  • Pigeon - 16
  • Dove - 15
  • Grey Plover/Dunlin - 14

  • Green-winged Teal - 13
  • Shorebird - 12
  • Charadrius plover - 11
  • Tundra Swan - 11
  • Cedar Waxwing - 10
  • Common Pheasant - 10
  • Grey Plover - 10
  • Clapper Rail - 5
  • Meadowlark - 5
  • Ruddy Turnstone - 5
  • Great Egret - 4
  • Pectoral Sandpiper - 4
  • Sandhill Crane - 4
  • Willet - 4
  • Great Blue Heron - 3
  • King Rail - 3
  • Merganser - 3
  • Mourning Dove - 3
  • Stilt Sandpiper - 3
  • Virginia Rail - 3
  • Willow Ptarmigan - 3
  • Cormorant - 2
  • Killdeer - 2
  • Northern Barred Owl - 2
  • Northern Flicker - 2
  • Northern Mockingbird - 2
  • Tree Swallow - 2
  • Unidentified species - 2
  • Whooping Crane - 2

    A white crane in the market on 17 Mar 1821 at New Orleans; white crane sold for $4 on 21 Oct 1872 at Milwaukee

  • American Avocet - 1

    Blue plover at $1.00 per dozen in the San Francisco market in December 1860.

  • American Kestrel - 1
  • American White Ibis - 1
  • Black-crowned Night Heron - 1
  • Blue Jay - 1
  • Brown-headed Cowbird - 1
  • California Quail - 1
  • Cinnamon Teal - 1
  • Crow - 1
  • Dark-eyed Junco - 1
  • Domestic Chicken - 1
  • Eagle - 1
  • Eastern Bluebird - 1
  • Eastern Meadowlark - 1
  • Emperor Goose - 1
  • Flycatcher - 1
  • Gambel's Quail - 1
  • Goldeneye - 1
  • Greater White-fronted Goose - 1
  • Guillemot - 1
  • Long-tailed Duck - 1
  • Loon - 1
  • Mountain Quail - 1
  • Northern Cardinal - 1
  • Owl - 1
  • Parrot - 1
  • Passeriformes species - 1
  • Pied-billed Grebe - 1
  • Purple Gallinule - 1
  • Sage Grouse - 1
  • Shearwater - 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper - 1
  • Steller's Jay - 1
  • Swan - 1
  • Vulture - 1
  • Warbler - 1
  • Woodpecker - 1

Summary details provide an overall perspective, while there are specifics which indicate so many more details. The following particulars are derived from published records for the Bobolink ˜ a.k.a. reed bird or rice bird — in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. during the autumn season, as indicated by the market price. The value given is the cost per dozen, which is a tepid indication of the overall extent of local activity associated with the taking of these birds, and others in the marshes of the lower Potomac River and tributaries.

Julian Date 1859 1860 1862 1863 1865 1868 1869 1872 1873 1874 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885
235 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
242 - - - - - - - - - - 0.40 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - -
245 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.00 - - - - - -
246 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
247 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.40 - - - - - - - - - -
248 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - -
249 - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - 0.50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
251 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - -
252 - - - - - - - - 1.00 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60
253 0.50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
255 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.50 - - - - - - - - - - - -
256 - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - -
258 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - -
259 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1.00 - - - - - -
260 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
261 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.40 - - - - - - - - - -
262 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
263 0.00 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - 0.75 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
264 - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.37 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
265 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1.00 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
266 - - - - - - - - 1.50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
269 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - - - - - -
270 - - - - 0.75 - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - -
272 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - -
273 - - - - - - - - 2.00 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - -
274 0.50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
276 - - - - - - 1.25 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - - - - - -
277 - - - - - - - - - - 0.50 - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
279 - - 0.62 - - - - - - - - - - 2.00 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
282 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - -
284 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
288 0.50 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
290 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - - 0.75 - -
293 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1.00 - - - - - -
294 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - -
296 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - -
304 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1.00 - -
308 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.60 - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - -
312 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
318 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1.00 - -
326 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0.75 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Additional details from other source material can undoubtedly be considered, so this is a March 2014 summary. This is a work in progress, with pending additions and potential revisions.