23 May 2016

Celebrate Bird Month at Valentine

The occurrence of a large variety of birds during the first ten days of May in the Valentine vicinity are indicative why it is bird month in Nebraska.

With a nice variety of habitats within Valentine and especially north at the mill pond and city park vicinity, as well as the fish hatchery and government canyon, there is always lively bird activity to observe. It's certainly a fine time to do some listening and watching in the outdoors.

There have been 61 species observed at these various places through May 10th.

Waterfowl prevail at the mill pond, with a few broods of the Canada Goose that are getting bigger since their hatching several days ago. Also present are the resident Wood Duck and visitors such as the Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler. Also present include the numerous Red-winged Blackbird claiming a bit of cattail habitat, with just a few Yellow-headed Blackbird heard. At various times, the Turkey Vulture (at least 12 now residing) and Northern Rough-winged Swallow can be seen floating or foraging in the airspace. A Western Osprey was an inerrant visitor. Among the trees and shrubs are the House Wren and Northern Cardinal, with the Brown Thrasher and Grey Catbird arriving a few days into the month. Killdeer continue their presence.

Eastern Phoebe occur along Minnechaduza creek, as does the Belted Kingfisher that eats fish. The Spotted Towhee can be heard at the pond and along the north ridge where there is shrubby habitat.

Ubiquitous within the city and northward, are numerous Eurasian Collared Dove. Mourning Dove occur to a much lesser extent. House Finch have a wide-spread occurrence and are quite vociferous.

A pair of the Red-tailed Hawk and another of the American Crow are nesting in the north hills. Also present here is a flock of about 15 Wild Turkey, though only 1-3 are usually seen.

Chimney Swift were first seen on the 4th, and daily flit above Main Street and near other places with chimneys.

The types of woodpeckers that generally occur are the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. Common Grackle are certainly very common and prefer coniferous trees for nesting.

Both sorts of kingbirds were first seen on the 7th. A nice flock of Cedar Waxwing was seen feeding on tree buds along Cherry street, the same day.

Three species that are permanent residents include the Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch. Robins have been common for weeks, and are certainly nesting. American Goldfinch are a bright bit of color each day at the right place.

Eastern Bluebird have been seen and heard, and seem to have a preference for the Water Tower Ridge.

Notably present at Valentine City Park on tree planting day was a Swainson’s Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-throated Sparrow.

Swallows present have been the Northern Rough-winged Swallow, American Cliff Swallow and Tree Swallow. Probably present somewhere is the Barn Swallow.

By the end of the first week of the month, colorful warblers that had arrived were the resident American Yellow Warbler and migratory Audubon's Warbler. The Baltimore Oriole arrived on the 7th.

The parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird is seen to be common as it forages at places that other blackbirds prefer.

Meadowlarks sing away the day where there is suitable grassland, especially to the south.

Resident species present include the Song Sparrow, wide-spread Chipping Sparrow at coniferous trees (several migrant flocks occurred on the 9th that meant more than 100 of these birds being present), the Field Sparrow at the Water Tower Ridge, and Lark Sparrow.

Remaining migrants include the uncommon Lincoln’s Sparrow, a single late-season Harris’s on the 9th, regular numbers of the White-crowned Sparrow daily and a few Clay-colored Sparrow. There is a lot of behavioral antics to appreciate as these species forage for seeds, or appreciatively bath in a rain-water puddle.

A couple of species that are always about are the House Sparrow and Rock Dove.

Different sorts of shorebirds and notable waterbirds have been seen at Merritt Reservoir.

A typical number of species for any previous month this year, would be just a few more than forty.

     (This article first appeared in the Valentine Midland News.)