29 July 2016

Fauna Conservation Strategy Issued for Kilgore Project

Details on a strategy to “conserve” birds and bats associated with habitats at the proposed Kilgore wind turbine project has become available following its issuance to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The document comprises more than 90 pages as prepared by a consultant for BSH Kilgore, L.L.C.

Regulatory provisions considered were the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act and the Nebraska Legacy Act.

Goals of the “strategy” are to:

* “Comply with all state and federal bird and bat conservation and protection laws and regulations during the project.
* “Ensure that impacts to bird and bat resources are identified and analyzed.
* “Implement various avoidance and minimization measures to address any impacts that result from the operation of the Project.”

This is the description of the project area: “Throughout the majority of the Project Area, the topography consists of choppy, rolling dunes. Very few trees exist within the Project Area, and those that do exist usually consist of deciduous or coniferous trees planted around farmsteads as wind breaks or in open areas. The most common tree species in the Project Area include cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Grasslands in the Project Area are maintained as pasture land primarily used for livestock grazing. Center pivot irrigation systems have been constructed in a few areas where soils are more suitable for crop production. Based on observations during Project surveys, predominant crops within the Project Area are corn and alfalfa,” (Olsson Associates 2016). Two percent of the area is woodland, wetlands and developed areas.

Biological assessments are based upon surveys primarily within the 11,049 acre site near Kilgore where 25 to 30 turbines would be placed. This included a raptor nest survey (March and April 2015, including an aerial observation), prairie grouse lek survey (two periods of dates during April 2015), avian use point-count surveys at eight locations (40 hours of observations in April 2015), breeding bird survey (June 15-19, 2015 for 125 “pair-count locations”), bat acoustic monitoring (May to September 2015) and a survey and habitat assessment for the American burying beetle (in June and August 2015).

These field studies gathered "data necessary to:

  • "Design a project to avoid or minimize predicted risk
  • "Evaluate predictions of impact and risk through post-construction comparisons of estimated impacts
  • "Identify compensatory mitigation measures, if appropriate, to offset significant adverse impacts that cannot be avoided or minimized"

Prominent in the findings are:

No occurrence of Whooping Crane within a ten-mile distance of the project site which is at the western extent of the migratory corridor of this species; migratory occurrence records evaluated were those kept by the Fish and Wildlife Service. There are low intensity use locales northeast of Kilgore, primarily in South Dakota.
Minimal occurrence of the American Burying Beetle in comparison to other “control” survey locales within eastern Cherry county; site habitat was rated from fair to poor. One beetle was captured on the project site, and another about a mile to the east
Eight species of bats are “believed” to occur at the project site

There were 35 breeding season bird species representing 974 individuals indicated. An estimated number of breeding birds was “1,065 birds per square kilometer.” The larger number of species occurred amidst the grasslands at the project site.

This is a list of the avifauna noted during surveys done mostly in April and June, 2015:

American Crow
American Robin
Bald Eagle (a nest within a few miles to the south, along the Niobrara River was not found and not recorded by raptor nest survey efforts; this active nest is photographically documented)
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Grosbeak
Brown Thrasher
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Eastern Kingbird
Ferruginous Hawk *
Field Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Great Horned Owl
Greater Prairie-Chicken * (seven leks denoted to have 32 males and ten females, occurring predominantly in grassland habitat)
Horned Lark
Lark Bunting
Lark Sparrow
Loggerhead Shrike *
Long-billed Curlew *
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Northern Harrier
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk (a single occupied nest was the only indication of a breeding raptor)
Red-winged Blackbird
Sharp-tailed Grouse (three grassland leks comprised of mostly male birds)
Song Sparrow
Tree Swallow
Turkey Vulture
Wilson's Snipe
* Indicates a Tier I at risk species

There are at least 300 species of birds whose occurrence has been documented within Cherry county. The list for the "project site" is minimalistic. Notably missing in this list is an ubiquitous species within the region, the Killdeer. No species of meadowlark is listed though the Western Meadowlark is mentioned elsewhere in the document, as being associated with its extent of occurrence. Was there a wren present, notably the House Wren amidst the woodlands? There was also no noted occurrence of the Common Nighthawk, which is a regular resident within the county. Completely missing is any mention of any species of warbler.

Three species denoted by a greater number of observations were the Grasshopper Sparrow (186 birds observed), Horned Lark and Western Meadowlark (with the largest number of birds observed – 340 - during the breeding bird survey). Two other numerous species were the Upland Sandpiper and Brown-headed Cowbird.

Considering the potential for bird-turbine fatalities, the document states: “collision risk is expected to be low for this Project is based on the above mentioned avian summaries and records of fatalities at other wind energy facilities.” The document then presents a list of a dozen wind facilities and the known extent of migratory bird facilities. The average is 3.87 birds per turbine per year.

The report then considers the many potential or known impacts on birds, including disturbance/displacement, electrocution, habitat loss and fragmentation and other factors that occur when wind turbines are built within the project area.

There was no information in the report to indicate how bird-turbine collisions will be evaluated, any active measures to be taken to lessen the extent of any turbine collisions on migratory wild birds, nor how such impacts would be mitigated. The fact of bird mortality due to the wind turbines is an accepted fact as indicated by surveys associated with other places with multiple wind turbines.

It is an accepted norm that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regularly ignores the “taking” of many species of wildbirds, whether their demise is due to the spinning blades of a wind turbine or striking a pane of glass. It is the lack of action by this federal agency that so many deaths of birds occur, without any compensatory measures that are known to occur where there are wind turbines in Nebraska.

Several pages of the document considered the “pre-construction avoidance and minimization measures” associated with eagles, the Whooping Crane, the riverine Least Tern and Piping Plover, a subspecies of the migratory Red Knot, the northern Long-eared Bat and American Burying Beetle. There was then findings associated with “Construction Avoidance and Minimization Measures” for each of these species. Also conveyed was a section on “Operational Avoidance and Minimization Measures” starting on page 69 of the document.

Initial consultation for this assessment occurred with state and federal agencies occurred in September, 2012, the document indicates. There were also additional consultations, notably with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, with the most recent meeting in January, 2016.

This document has an indicated release date of July, 2016. It is prominently marked with a "Business Confidential Information" statement on the title page and within the footnote section of each page. It was submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service and then made available - as a public document - to other people concerned with this proposed wind turbine project southwest of Kilgore.

26 July 2016

Blackbird Hits Glass Window North of Valentine

A male Red-winged Blackbird hit a big pane of glass at a shack on the north edge of Valentine on Saturday July 16th. The impact was a loud and obvious smack from my vantage point just inches away on the interior inside of the glass pane. The stricken bird was then seen and found lying on the ground among the vegetation. It remained there for a time and then was no longer present within 30 minutes.

This is not the first bird strike to occur at this big window of the scene, though it is the first time that the victim remained, and the result could be documented.

Blackbirds are prevalent at this locality. Another species that has been known to smash into this window is the Orchard Oriole.

Most of the local birds seen and appreciated are hither and yon among the horse pens and the North Lake Shore Hills.

Cherry Commissioner Activity on Wind-turbine Business

The public input process for the proposed wind energy conversion system at Kilgore has been set for the coming weeks. Action on three items of business was consider at the Cherry county commissioners meeting on July 26th.

Regarding setting a date for a hearing on the conditional use permit, the members voted unanimously on these provisions:

1) Table action on setting a date for a public hearing on conditional use permit 16-01
2) Initiate a sixty day comment period that would end on September 26th
3) Have a public hearing rather than just a regular meeting
4) Set a date for the public hearing at the regularly scheduled commissioner meeting on September 27th

In the interim, the commissions will receive all material provided at the public hearing on July 19th. The commissioners will review this information, and other comments during the next sixty days.

The commissioners will evaluate the permit request based upon applicable provisions within both the Cherry County Development Plan and county zoning regulations, the commissioners indicated. The permit application to be evaluated would be the proposal already submitted by BSH Kilgore, they said.

When asked whether the Planning and Zoning Commission needs to consider both the county development plan and zoning regulations, there were two applicable comments:

Jim Van Winkle: I "feel that they do,"
Tonya Storer: both are relevant; the development plan is a "guide" to zoning regulations

The next business item of particular interest was an evaluation of additional options for public notification when there is a request for a conditional use permit. The board opted to continue the current procedure of placing a paid-for notice in the publication of record selected in January of each year. Applicable agendas will also be issued – as a public service – on the official Cherry county website.

Suggested options include the use of public service opportunities on local radio stations, or publishing notices in newspapers issued in surrounding counties (notably at Thedford, Mullen and Hyannis). One proposal that met with favor was preparing and sending an email to local publications, and letting the editor decide whether the notice could be placed on their community calendar or issued in the newspaper, for example.

Commissioners will continue to evaluate how to notify the public, while using the limited tax dollars of the county.

There was no selection of a new member for the Planning and Zoning Commission. Van Winkle first thanked George Johnson for his many years of service, and the Board accepted his resignation that had occurred on July 19th at the business meeting of the planning and zoning commission.

Van Winkle mentioned he had considered residents in the Nenzel, Cody and Kilgore areas as a potential replacement, and had talked with one person willing to be appointed to the volunteer position.

Storer mentioned that she thought the southern tier of the county was under represented, then indicated a couple where one of them might be willing to be appointed.

Someone among the people attending also mentioned a potential candidate that resides south of Merritt reservoir. It was suggested that further details be provided for evaluation.

There was no action taken to appoint a new commission member.

Attending the meeting were fourteen wind turbine and industrial powerline opponents, one turbine proponent representing a member family of the Cherry county wind group, one staff person of Bluestem Sandhills, the three county commissioners, the county clerk and a pending commissioner candidate selected in the May election.

This was - once again - an exceptional attendance at a Board of Commissioners meeting, one commissioner said, adding that they are appreciative of the public interest and input in county business.

Wetland Considerations - Permit Request by BSH Kilgore

James E. Ducey, Valentine; July 19, 2016 as presented at the County Planning Commission meeting at the Valentine school public hearing.
In addition to these prepared comments, my statement was prefaced by saying that the Cherry County Comprehensive Development Plan needs to be considered when the conditional use permit is evaluated. Also while presenting this statement some short, additional and supportive comments were made for emphasis. There were also some slight revisions in grammar.

After contacting the district manager of the regulatory office of the Army Corps of Engineers, the following information is pertinent to the conditional use permit application.

“The Corps, not the applicant, determines jurisdiction” on projects submitted to the Corps for review. Mr. Moeschen even went so far as to advise that the “project proponent talk to us before any filling occurs”

For a jurisdictional determine, the Corps generally looks for a “connection to a creek or channel that connects to a river that flows into the Missouri River.”

“If the wetlands are not waters of the United States, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality may have authority because the wetland is a water of the State.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has an “oversight role and generally handles enforcement action when someone does work in a WOUS that is regulated. EPA also reviews jurisdictional determinations completed by the Corps.”

The issues with the conditional use permit include:

  • Although the applicant is required to identify wetlands, the provision does not indicate any further action is required. Why is a determination made if there is no “indicated reason” to do so.
  • The application has not provided documentary evidence that there is no surface water connection to the nearby channel of McCann creek, which connects to the Niobrara River and then the Missouri River. This analysis should include details on various precipitation events which might create runoff when there is a flood or multiple-inch rainfall event.
  • There is no indication to indicate whether the applicant has contacted the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to determine if they have any jurisdiction.

Implementation Strategies for Policy 4 in the Cherry County Comprehensive Development Plan indicate:

Wetlands Item 2: “All developments potentially affecting wetlands must comply with state and federal wetlands protection programs” with the Section 404 program mentioned.

  • The conditional use permit does not indicate any communication with either state or federal authorities, nor has there been any written documentation available to indicate they will contact either mentioned agency.

Item 3: “Development shall leave a naturally vegetative buffer surrounding all wetlands. Roads and utility lines may cross there buffers, but the project’s site plan should minimize such crossings.”

  • The conditional use permit application does not indicate how vegetative buffers around the numerous wetlands will be maintained, nor how construction in any wetlands will be minimized.

Since neither of these two items have been addressed in a written manner by the applicant, BSH Kilgore has not fulfilled either of these requirement as indicated in the county comprehensive development plan.

Runoff and Erosion Control: “A runoff and erosion control plan shall be implemented in all developments.”

There is no runoff plan in the development application, and at least two requirements in the development plan seem to be applicable. Land Use Compatibility

“Cherry county will ensure that development is compatible with neighboring uses,” including “the impact on scenic views from existing uses.” How is this being accomplished?

Compatible: “Capable of existing or functioning well with another or others”

21 July 2016

Legacy of Martin Houses Continues at Valentine

The legacy of some martin houses providing nesting sites within Valentine has continued for years after being were built by Les Dooley.

There are three known purple martin houses that continue in use as seasonal purple martin nesting locales, decades after first put in place. Now – in mid-July – young are fledging from ornate structures at Wacky West RV park, north Ray street near 6th and at 900 west Candice.

The martin houses were built about two decades ago in the backyard workshop of Dooley. He’d retired from the construction business and after doing some research, decided to build and sell the big houses used by martin. Many of them included homes for ten or more pairs.

“He used many unique designs,” said Dan Mayhew, at Wacky West. A house was then sold for the cost of materials, and to get funds to build another.

A benefit of having many martins was the reduction in flying bug pests, as insects – especially mosquitoes – are a preferred prey of the birds.

Dan and Phyllis Mayhew got one of the last remaining houses when it was purchased a dozen years ago. There were no martins present the first year after the house was erected, but they have returned each year since.

“It is a joyful occasion,” when the Purple Martins return in the spring, Dan Mayhew said. “We really enjoy them, as they are a beautiful bird.” He especially likes to watch their behavior when they first arrive in mid-April. “A scout bird arrives first, then about a week later a bunch will return.” Some of our patrons also appreciate the martins and may spend time looking and listening to them.

Three of the last remaining houses were purchased from Marie Dooley, Lester’s widow, and given to the kids of Dan and Phyllis.

Some of the martin houses did not remain in Valentine, having been bought for country ranches, including the Duck-Bar Ranch of the Beels, near Kennedy in Cherry county. Marianne Beel did a story on Dooley in 1994, and reported that some houses went to California and Montana. Small wooden churches were also being built to provide homes for the House Wren, she said.

At one time, Dooley had five houses placed in the back yard of his home on Ray Street, and had forty pair of nesting martins.

There are two other known martin houses in the Heart City, one near 5th and Government Street and at 6th and Valentine Street. The Mill Pond is one locale that does not have a martin house but would be a good place to erect one, because of its proximity to water.
Purple Martin house at Valentine. Built by Les Dooley.
Subsequently issued in the Valentine Midland News issue of August 3, 2016.

07 July 2016

June Birds in the Valentine Vicinity

A highlight of month was a juvenile Common Merganser well seen at the Valentine Fish Hatchery on June 28th. On the same date, Wood Duck young both larger juveniles and relatively smaller, mot recently hatched young were present at the Valentine Mill Pond. Most of the many Canada Goose present were larger juveniles, that hatched weeks ago.

A pair of Wild Turkey roamed along Lake Shore Drive, and they were accompanied by only one young. Eastern Bluebirds using a nesting box in the northeast part of the city had a second clutch of eggs underway by the end of the month. Chimney Swift numbers increased downtown, indicating the likely fledging of the season's young. Bunches of Common Grackle were scattered about by the last week of the month, with numbers of the drab, black-colored juveniles obvious.

The Sand Martin burrows at the Valentine Shooting Range were doing okay. After hearing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in regards to nests and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, city officials put cones in place to make certain that no dirt was removed from where the burrows were located.

Purple Martins were nesting at three houses in the city. One was infested by House Sparrows so the presence of the martins was drastically limited to just two or three nest holes.

There are 66 species listed for the month. Records were kept within the city, on the north side and also to the Valentine Fish Hatchery and Government canyon.

It was a busy month for local breeding birds as they took care of eggs and began feeding young.

Common Name 162 167 178 180 182
Canada Goose 12 7 6 36 - -
Wood Duck - - - - 2 13 - -
Mallard - - - - - - 6 - -
Common Merganser - - - - 1 - - - -
Wild Turkey - - - - - - 3 - -
Great Blue Heron - - 2 - - 1 - -
Turkey Vulture 4 6 5 4 - -
Red-tailed Hawk - - - - 3 1 - -
Killdeer 2 2 2 1 1
Spotted Sandpiper - - 1 1 1 - -
Rock Dove - - 14 - - - - 35
Eurasian Collared Dove 10 29 - - 6 10
Mourning Dove 4 4 16 4 - -
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - - 1 1 1 - -
Black-billed Cuckoo 2 - - 1 - - - -
Common Nighthawk - - - - - - 2 - -
Chimney Swift 9 13 - - - - 20
Belted Kingfisher - - 1 1 - - - -
Red-headed Woodpecker - - 2 5 1 - -
Downy Woodpecker 1 1 1 - - - -
Hairy Woodpecker - - 3 1 1 - -
Northern Flicker - - - - 4 1 - -
Eastern Phoebe 1 2 2 1 - -
Eastern Wood-Pewee - - 1 2 1 - -
Least Flycatcher - - - - 1 - - - -
Western Kingbird 8 10 - - - - 4
Eastern Kingbird - - 2 5 2 - -
Great Crested Flycatcher 1 2 2 1 - -
Bell's Vireo - - - - 1 - - - -
Warbling Vireo 1 - - 1 - - - -
Red-eyed Vireo 1 1 2 2 - -
Blue Jay - - 1 2 - - 1
American Crow 1 2 1 1 2
Cedar Waxwing 8 4 3 - - - -
Black-capped Chickadee - - 2 - - 3 - -
Sand Martin - - - - 20 - - - -
Purple Martin - - 9 - - - - 6
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5 7 15 5 - -
American Cliff Swallow 15 20 50 10 - -
House Wren 7 14 19 10 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch - - - - - - 2 - -
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 2 3 2 1
Grey Catbird 2 8 2 2 - -
Brown Thrasher 1 2 1 1 - -
Common Starling - - 4 6 - - 1
Eastern Bluebird 1 - - 3 1 - -
American Robin 20 45 11 6 15
House Sparrow 5 25 - - 4 20
House Finch 10 9 - - 7 4
American Goldfinch 3 3 3 2 2
Common Yellowthroat 1 2 5 2 - -
American Redstart - - 1 - - 1 - -
American Yellow Warbler 2 4 6 1 - -
Yellow-breasted Chat - - - - 3 - - - -
Western Meadowlark - - - - 2 1 - -
Baltimore Oriole - - 3 3 - - - -
Orchard Oriole 2 2 2 2 - -
Red-winged Blackbird 10 10 8 35 - -
Brown-headed Cowbird 6 14 11 2 - -
Common Grackle 25 35 2 25 30
Chipping Sparrow 7 9 1 2 3
Field Sparrow - - 2 2 1 - -
Lark Sparrow 2 3 9 3 - -
Spotted Towhee 1 1 6 2 - -
Northern Cardinal 1 - - 1 1 - -
Indigo Bunting - - 1 1 - - - -

Overall there have been 120 species noted in this vicinity since late in the month of August 2015.

Owls are probably present but are not very expressive this time of the year.

06 July 2016

Nest Features of Niobrara River Terns and Plovers

Each nest of the Least Tern and Piping Plover found at the Turpin and Laughing Water colonies along the Niobrara River were associated with some object on the sandbar. No nest was without some nearby object of a greater or lesser extent.

At the Turpin colony, a stick or two was prevalent. Cobble was more evident in the plover nests, as a substrate for the eggs. Where these small pieces were found is not known, yet the breeding birds found these objects and brought them to their nest site.

A stick was also a prominent feature at the nests at the Laughing Water Colony. One nest was adjacent to a large piece of bark, which was detritus that had floated down the river and then became anchored on the sandbar.

The Piping Plover nests had a greater extent of cobble at the base of their nests.

Every nest was associated with some sort of object that naturally occurred on the sandbar. There was very little vegetation at either sandbar location.

At each colony some of the eggs were floated to determine the days of incubation.

It was a pleasure to once again visit these colonies. My first outings associated with these species in Nebraska was in 1980, when some surveys had been done along the Niobrara River. Surveys done then were along the eastern extent of this prairie river.

June Survey of Niobrara River Tern and Plover Colonies

On June 30th, a secondary survey was done to determine breeding occurrence of Least Tern and Piping Plover at two localities at the eastern extent of the Niobrara National Scenic River. My outing was done as a volunteer of the National Park Service, along with Gordon Warrick, a biologist that provided transportation and other essentials.

The first location visited in the morning was the Turpin Colony, named because it was a short distance eastward on Turpin Lake, at the northern edge of Rock county, northward of Newport and west of the Highway 137 bridge.

During the time, other birds in the immediate vicinity were noted. Additional notes were kept while driving along county roads at places where a location and associated place name was obvious.

A special highlight of the visit to the Turpin Colony were two Common Tern aflight above the river. They were obvious in their larger size!

While among the tern and plover colony, the agreed upon protocol was to first place flags at found nests. Once this was done, each flag site was revisited, with pictures taken of each nest in order to provide documentary details useful for further consideration of nest characteristics. Egg float samples were also taken in order to evaluate incubation.

The time among the nesting locality was limited, and was certainly less than 30 minutes on a morning with relatively cool temperatures. Time spent among the colony was intentionally limited in order to minimize disturbance to the wild birds.

There was no GPS reading kept since the government equipment did not work. The initial intent was to demark the nests and then get an overall reading for the extent of the entire sandbar. Since there were equipment difficulties, these details were not kept. Knowing the details for the sandbar for this season would allow a comparison to other, future years in order to get an understanding of changes at this locality.

Records kept were the nests and their contents with egg sampling. At the Turpin Colony there were seven tern nests and three active plover nests. There was also an abandoned nest for each of the two species.

At the Laughing Water Colony there were also nests of both species, each of the several having eggs. There were four plover nests and two active tern nests. An abandoned tern nest had a hatchling.

The number of terns present was determined by birds in flight. The number of plover was based upon the birds that were running about on the sandbar, or based upon the number of nests. At each locality, there was one plover with a green band on its upper left leg.

While walking amidst each colony, adult birds were constantly observed in order to determine a count. The number of nests was indicative, with birds present contributing further details.

Each of these colonies can be considered to be "fringe" habitats. On the morning of the visits, the sand was moist following recent rain events. The height above the river water level is minimal, so any intensive rainfall could readily result in an increase in water flows sufficient enough to inundate the sandbar and any nests. The nests are mere few inches above the water flow level.

At each of the two nesting places, there was a green leg band seen on the upper left leg of a Piping Plover.

A nice variety of other species were heard of seen during the time at the colonial bird sites and associated localities while driving along the way. Details are indicated for those places where a known place name was known.

Access to each colony was via private property for which permission had been obtained for the visit.

Common Name Highway 137 Bridge Turpin Lake Tract Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary Laughing Water Creek Laughing Water Ranch
Canada Goose 2 - - - - - - - -
Wild Turkey - - 1 - - - - - -
Turkey Vulture - - - - - - 3 1
Cooper's Hawk - - 1 - - - - - -
Bald Eagle - - - - - - - - 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2 - - 1 - -
Killdeer - - 3 - - - - 2
Piping Plover - - 8 - - - - 8
Least Tern 1 8 - - - - 8
Common Tern - - 2 - - - - - -
Mourning Dove 2 1 2 4 4
Black-billed Cuckoo 1 - - - - - - - -
Common Nighthawk - - 1 - - - - - -
Red-headed Woodpecker - - - - 1 - - - -
Northern Flicker - - 1 - - - - 1
American Kestrel - - - - - - - - 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee - - 1 - - - - - -
Eastern Kingbird - - 2 1 2 1
Bell's Vireo 1 - - - - - - - -
Red-eyed Vireo - - 1 - - 2 - -
American Crow 3 - - - - 2 4
Black-capped Chickadee - - 1 - - - - - -
Horned Lark - - - - 3 - - 3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2 - - 2 - - - -
Barn Swallow - - - - - - - - 3
American Cliff Swallow 125 - - - - - - - -
House Wren - - 2 - - 2 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - - 1 - - - - - -
Eastern Bluebird - - 1 - - - - 1
American Robin - - - - - - - - 2
American Goldfinch - - 2 1 - - - -
Common Yellowthroat 2 1 - - 1 1
Bobolink - - - - - - - - 6
Western Meadowlark - - 1 1 - - - -
Orchard Oriole - - - - - - - - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - - 2 - - - - 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 1 - - - - - -
Grasshopper Sparrow - - - - 2 - - - -
Chipping Sparrow - - 1 - - - - 2
Field Sparrow 1 - - - - - - 1
Lark Sparrow - - 4 2 - - - -
Spotted Towhee - - 2 - - - - 1
Towhee 2 - - - - - - - -
Dickcissel - - 1 - - - - 2
Indigo Bunting - - 1 - - - - - -

There were 47 species observed during the morning outing.

The most recent known records of occurrence for Least Tern and Piping Plover along the scenic river was in 2009 during a survey also done by park service personnel. Those records are for a section of the river, and were not attributed to a specific locality.

Dam Fiasco Relict Lingers as Swallow Nest Site

A building left behind after the loss of a dam on Minnechaduza Creek has seemingly provided a Cliff Swallow nesting place for decades.

Located on city of Valentine property, the concrete structure has overhangs beneath which the swallows construct their nests. On a visit on June 26th, there were 37 nests in a condition indicative to convey that they were being actively used. The setting is similar each year, so these birds could have readily nested here ever since the building was constructed and abandoned.

This structure has been present since being built in 1910, in association with a 30 foot height dam meant to provide electricity and water to the city, according to an article in the Valentine Democrat newspaper.

The dam washed away in March 1911 when being filled. It was not replaced. The structure on the south bank of the creek remained. Earlier in the year when the dam pond was initially being filled, water washed under the spillway apron so repairs were necessary. The repairs were not adequate.

The contractor – Catz Craig Company – had been paid $41,000 to construct the dam and associated facilities.

This location is known as the One Day Dam tract, according to details provided by the city manager.

The walls are an obvious attractant to kids that have used the space for their graffiti for many years. Several years are indicated.