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.