21 August 2015

Medical Center Installs Window Screen to Reduce Martin Deaths

On Friday, June 21st, Nebraska Medicine had window screens installed on the glass of a skywalk at the Midtown Martin Mecca.

The unique screening was placed on the west side of the skywalk between Kiewit Hall and the Doctor's Building south.

"It is a unique privilege to have these beautiful birds stop here on their migratory journey," said Taylor Wilson, senior media relations coordinator for Nebraska Medicine. "Although we have no role in them choosing to pay us a yearly visit, we want to be as respectful of their presence as possible and to do everything we can to protect them from harm while they are here. If this covering is effective in reducing the number of strikes, we will obviously look closely at doing the same thing" at the skywalk between Kiewit Hall and Clarkson Hospital.

"Obviously, caring for our patients is our number one priority, but we really do want to make things as safe as possible for these birds," Wilson said.

Staff of Nebraska Medicine regularly monitor the skywalk. Wilson and others, "pass through the area quite frequently during the day to make sure we don¹t have any disabled birds," he said.

The window screening was installed by Mike and Nick of Renze Display. They mentioned that it is probably their first installation done in order to protect migratory birds.

The screen put in place was a custom design, digitally printed on a clear window film. "We can print "any design using the digital print process," they said.

While at the work-site, several people walking past made positive comments about the screening, with some saying it looks much better than the banners, which had been in place. One comment overheard was "that's nice" by a woman as she walked past. There was some ancillary words heard that conveyed an appreciation for doing something to help bring an end to birds striking the glass.

If properly cared for, this type of screening should last more than five years, the screen installers said.

Pictures taken during a mid-day visit to the skywalk on Friday.

Evening Visitors to the Roost

On Friday evening there were about 90 people present to watch the approximate 35,000 martins at the roost. On Thursday, there were about 75 people looking to the sky as they appreciated the spectacle of the Purple Martins.

16 August 2015

Saturday Evening Appreciation of Roosting Martins

Any evening that a tasty cookie can be enjoyed while watching a bird spectacle, it is a good time. That was the case on Saturday evening, August 15th at the midtown martin roost.

There was a congregation of about 25,000 Purple Martins and a wonderful human crowd as well. It was a mix of bird watching amidst a community, with wonderful conversation.

People present included Loren and Babs, Justin, Bob and Tad, Nancy with her notebook and of course, Tisha with the cookies. There were members and leaders of the Omaha Youth Birding Group also present.

Also about was an animal that snagged the dead grackle and then moved along to eat the dead bird, which is the basics of the cycle of life. It moved so fast into the bushes to the east that no picture could be taken. Perhaps it was hungry.

There was also a pair of Peregrine Falcons seen on the scene. These are some sort of pictures, as taken during the time at the Nebraska Medical Center campus. It was certainly a grand evening, in many ways!

Not sure what the birds thought. So many Purple Martins which are the star attraction. Multitudes as well of starlings and grackles that also know this important bird place.

Yet there was death at the scene. These two images convey the reality which the Nebraska Medical Center is ignoring.

A smashed grackle beneath the walkway at the Nebraska Medical Center, midtown. August 15, 2015.

Smashed Purple Martin beneath the walkway at the Nebraska Medical Center, midtown. August 15, 2015.

The Nebraska Medical Center needs to take responsibility for the deaths of birds at their facilities. There is one word which is appropriate ... mitigation. If birds die, do something positive in response. They should purchase a martin house and have it placed at a place where adults can successfully raise young.

08 August 2015

Urban Skunk Eats Dead Martins at Midtown Roost

It was a complete surprise to see a vividly marked Striped Skunk hurry across 44th Street just south of Farnam Street as dusk was happening on Friday evening, July 7th. It was obviously in a hurry because to do otherwise, it would nothing more than a splotch on the street, after getting run over by some vehicle, perhaps some Omaha emergency responder rig with all of their lights and colorful paint.

The critter knew that beneath the trees of the roost, there might be something edible. Anything edible is a meal as the species is an "opportunistic omnivore and eats both plant and animal foods."

On Friday, there were at least three tasty carcasses to gnaw on.

This is the progression as experienced on a saucy Friday evening. While watching the gathering starlings, grackles and martins, the skunk was drastically apparent in black-and-white as it ran west to east across 44th Street. Its route could be easily seen as it moved about looking for an evening meal beneath the trees of the birds roosts. Birds always die and gravity dictates that there might be a carcass for a meal on the grounds beneath the limbs.

The skulking skunk in its distinct manner, needed to be given some special attention. Not only for its beautiful coloration but for its unique occurrence. Wandering in my own way to its space among the landscaping or habitat if that word is more preferential, at least one picture was suitable for presentation.

During my foray, moving along, beneath the skywalk between the Clarkson Tower and Kiewit Tower (or hall, whatever it is as the vicinity signs do not convey the same thing), there were three Purple Martin carcasses. The fine for dead Purple Martins is $500 each, payable to a conservation group working to conserve the species. Within 15 days, the Nebraska Medical Center will be late in their payment, so a late fee of 10% every 15 days also may need to be assessed so they realize that they are responsible to what they have wrought.

The carcasses were forlorn, lying in the grass as dead bits of what was once lovely featheration. The fatalities were not known until my arrival, but henceforth are will not be forgotten. Pictures were taken for documentary purposes.

Who makes the decisions on creating structures where birds die, again and again? Most architects are oblivious and only interested in facades for their glory, rather than creating an environmentally safe building. What is the responsibility for those whose task is to conserve wild birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act? Apparently some government officials think it is just easier to do nothing. Consider especially the the Federal Worthless Service and the state agency responsible for nongame bird management. These are ponderings of the day.

More importantly, the skunk was walking about in the shadows of the evening, near the building of an uncertain name.

At bit further in the short distances associate with urban place, nothing was done where these birds died. There were a couple on the skywalk a a few steps to the north.

Rather than have the carcasses be dealt with as trash by medical center employees, they were each carefully picked up, by their feet, considered as a fatality due to thoughtless building design, and taken away to a nearby place. That skunk was still looking for food and it received something to eat, very easily, rather than having to search. Within a minute or two after sharing the dead purple martins by tossing them near the place where the skunk sulked as it made its own way trying to be safe, the result was obvious.

In the cycle of nature, the skunk grabbed a carcass and had a days' hearty meal perhaps, something to help it carry on. It would hopefully find the other two birds to feed on, just afterwards, as they were closely nearby.

It might be an utter travesty to post this account, because once the "rulers of landscape" at the Nebraska Medical Center they have resident skunks, they will descend with all of their might with a purpose to eradicate. The animals just wants to survive. Many other people want to destroy, and they will certainly convey that anything done is in the interest of safety.

It is simply sad! Skunks and other urban critters struggles to live. Officials with big houses, large cars and hefty paychecks work to lessen the values of urban nature in Omaha through their intent to eradicate.

There were two skunks individually seen on Saturday night on the 8th, searching for suitable food. As noticed, a rabbit dead on the lawn on the west side of 44th Street, was moved to the east side and amidst some bushes, so the two black-and-white skunks could have something to eat as they strive to survive. Tom and Tammy enjoyed see the animals, too, as we discussed the situation.

The probable prognosis: any animals of black-and-white will likely be eradicated!

Hospital workers saw the mammals, pointing and gesticulating as they were smoking on a campus where smoking is not allowed.

My time was spent enjoying the company of Tom and Tammy, two dedicated martin watchers and the only ones to ever bring a tasty, fresh pie to share in the first years of the roost.

The two skunks were given a dead rabbit for their evening's feast. It was across the street in an exposed place, so moved elsewhere so they could get something to eat without any obvious disturbance. The rabbit was dead anyway, so it was just another example of continuing the cycle of life through sharing.

Hopefully the skunks were satisfied with the meal and felt some comfort for at least this night of theirs.

Security Sentinels at UNMC

There were two sentinels on the watch atop an eastern parking garage at the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday evening. Certainly one was more permanent and attentive than the other. It did result in a nice image during a time going around look for moments to capture. Of course, the European Starling was just roosting for a time.

05 August 2015

Occurrence of Kingbirds in Urban Omaha

Kingbirds have been especially vocal these days among the urbanscape of eastern-central Omaha. Hearing them at several distinct places it became obvious to convey with details their geographic presence. During the past few days of a languishing summer, records have been kept for places where the call of the kingbird can be heard.

The Western Kingbird can be very obvious to those that listen.

They have been seen in years past notably at Kiwanis Park and Levi Carter Park in northern Omaha. Here are a couple of pictures from those past times.

This summer-time, these expressive flycatchers are present amidst the urban reality of Omaha. Their presence is a soothing sound in comparison to early morning dumpster action or the minions on motorcycles that prefer mechanical noise which is actually a nuisance.

These are some of the places where there are kingbirds, typically the western, unless otherwise noted.

  • Young Park just south of the UNOmaha campus: the first bird heard in the morning on July 25
  • UNOmaha Campus: heard on July 29 and then again on August 2nd as they linger about the area just east of the Criss Library
  • Blackstone District: on July 29 they were heard near 40th and Farnam Streets and also about 36th and Dewey Street; obvious as well on August 4th at the parking lot at the northeast corner of 38th and Farnam Streets
  • at least two on July 29 just east of Walnut Hill school at 45th and Hamilton Street; two days later, an eastern Kingbird was heard then seen in the same locale, among the trees on the south side of the parking lot on the south side of Hamilton Street
  • Izard Industrial Zone, a place of little greenery and devoted to industrial business: three at 44th and Nicholas Street, perched on the wires on July 30th; then two again at 45th and Izard Street on August 2nd. On August 3rd there were two Western Kingbirds and an Eastern Kingbird, westward at the corner of 46th and Nicholas Street. The Eastern Kingbird was atop a snag of the tree, and the Western Kingbird had to move to a lower limb due to the insistence of the domineering Eastern Kingbird.
  • Midtown District: an adult feeding a juvenile at 33rd and Dodge Street, a place which may seem to not be a habitat place conducive to birds breeding, yet there they were being so active as kingbirds tend to be.
  • Aksarben Village: it was a hot Sunday, but worth it to first hear and then see a Red-tailed Hawk family, the fledglings being vocal and appreciated by some local folks near Pacific Street. Further along the sound of the kingbirds were heard. A nice family portrait was taken of them about the parking lot behind the Marriott Residence Inn. Elsewhere, there were two sightings of single birds, one at the south side of the First Data parking lot near Pine Street.

    Three young looking to a parent for probably something to eat!

  • the most recent sighting to consider was on the morning on August 5th at the Walnut Hill Reservoir. While bicycling past, they were heard so an interlude happened to see where the birds were. There were three Western Kingbirds about among the treetops on the west side, along 40th Street. They may have been a family group that moved to this territory from just to the north as noted on July 29th at 40th and Hamilton Streets, as no kingbirds were heard or seen on very recent visits to this specific locality.

These records indicate how the Western Kingbird can be pervasive within urban Omaha. Their places of residence as determined can be harsh and stark, yet they are obviously successful in raising young. Their presence adds to the avian assets of the urban Omaha community.

This partial survey is interesting, and with further consideration and contributions there could be a greater realization of another special feature of urban birds of Omaha. Specifics are important to allow temporal comparisons.


Sam Manning reported on NEBirds of seeing at least 44 Western Kingbirds during a drive on August 5th along the street around the east side of Eppley Airport.


There have been two more recent and surprising sightings of the Eastern Kingbird.

Saddle Creek Environs
One seen early on the afternoon of 12 August in the treeline along the slight bluff behind the Ace Hardware Store and Walmart Neighborhood Market. This sighting was just west of Wakely Street. Another report from NEBirds, also on 12 August, confirms the presence of this species among this urbanity. With the arrival of the WalMart neighborhood market, the landscape was signifianly changed. Enough so that that a pair of kingbirds made it their home for this season.
Blackstone District
Two, including one with a "fuzzy look" to some feathers and possibly a younger juvenile. Noted on the utility line behind the Colonial Hotel and Apartments at 38th and Farnam Streets. It was across 38th Street to the east, where Western Kingbirds were previously noted.

A single Western Kingbird was easily seen on the afternoon of 20 August at 29th and Grant Streets, perched on the wires. Just to the south, heavy equipment was destroying trees, so habitat was vividly being destroyed in the neighborhood.

Medical Center Places Banners on Roost Skywalk

With the number of Purple Martins increasing at their midtown roost, a visit was made to the facilities management office of the Nebraska Medical Center to ask about placing the banners on the skywalk.

A request was left with the staff in the office on Monday morning. The banners were not there Monday evening but were in place on Tuesday morning. The attention to this matter is personally appreciated and will hopefully help birds avoid any collisions with the glass of the skywalk.

Number are increasing at the roost, and any evening now is a good time to visit and enjoy the free spectacle of the birds as they gather and swarm and swoop into the roost trees.

Martin sky at the roost on August 3rd. All of the little black specks are Purple Martins.

Few people have been seen appreciating these birds this year.

Donation Finances Improvements at Memorial Park

New plants now adorn the south entrance to the rose garden at Memorial Park in Omaha.

Omaha Parks and Recreation Department "removed some huge, overgrown Juniper shrubs last year that were declining," said Patrice Slaven, a parks planner. "There was a desire to create a formal entry planting to the rose garden."

"Dr. John Sage, an avid supporter and volunteer at the rose garden over the years, donated over $40,000 to do the plantings and other landscape improvements" on the south side of the main Monument, Slaven said.

The species planted were the Taylor Juniper, Little Devil Ninebark, Everlow Yew, Pink Princess Crabapple and White Pine, Slaven said.

"The project provides an attractive entrance to the garden, which is the location of many weddings," Slaven said. "The regularly spaced junipers, when fully grown, will provide a dramatic entrance to reinforce the formality of the rose garden layout."

The park improvement project occurred in the last week of May, Slaven said.

A portion of the new plants at Memorial Park. Photo taken July 31, 2015.