16 December 2017

Bird Tally at Valentine - October-November 2017

Bird observations continued in the immediate vicinity of Valentine during October-November 2017. Nearby natural spaces continued to be monitored in the manner as they have for many previous months, especially at the northern edge of the city, and as notably associated with Minnechaduza Creek. Patterns of occurrence—generally but with notable exceptions—continued to somewhat similar to those of the two previous viewing seasons, while still, every day has been different. These observations continue to convey what can be daily differences for bird occurrence, and with particulars recorded in detail, and for particular locales as entered into a well-developed database.

  • Canada Goose: numbers increased as bunches of these waterfowl began to congregate for the winter; notably occurring at the Valentine Mill Pond, but skeins regularly seen in flight and calling as they traverse the local airspace; the birds regularly flew northward in the morning; the reason: to forage on remnant agricultural field grain?
  • Wild Turkey: a hen and her brood of two were regular visitors early in October, and occasionally a larger bunch would visit, but eventually the birds went elsewhere in the vicinity and were no longer seen at the places they had once preferred
  • Sandhill Crane: migratory flights notably missed despite bird-watching attention focused to determine their occurrence; in previous years, the flights of birds going south were so obvious they could not be missed
  • Great Horned Owl: a pair dwelling on the north side of the pond were especially vocal, with duets regularly heard in the dark hours
  • Northern Flicker: the most regularly seen woodpecker, with both the red-shafted and yellow-shafted subspecies seen, there seems to be a shift in occurrence between seasons, as more red-shafted seem to be observed in the autumn and winter; this may just be an artifact of observations as no detailed comparisons have been done?
  • American Crow: only a couple of instances of larger sized flocks going southerly during October, and nothing like the numbers seen during the same period in 2016; just a few seen otherwise, probably representing birds that live locally
  • Cedar Waxwing: probably a permanent resident of lesser numbers, as they have been seen throughout the seasons and are known breeders, but they may not be seen on any particular day
  • Eurasian Collared Dove: a prominent resident, especially in the conifers used for lawn landscaping along Lake Shore Drive
  • Rock Dove: residents within the city, especially at the livestock market
  • Marsh Wren: heard at the mill pond at its western extent where the cattails grow
  • Common Starling: thankfully this species seems to have an intermittent occurrence; it can occur in greater numbers at the livestock market or on the powerline wires along the Cowboy Trail right-of-way, with a few sometimes seen here or there but not with any persistence
  • Townsend's Solitaire: a nice addition at the end of November
  • Red-winged Blackbird: the vegetation of the mill pond provided an overnight roost; they would then fly northward in the morning
  • American Robin: bunches regularly occur, being seen mostly in flight over the hills as they go about daily travels across the local landscape
  • Sparrow species: their transitory nature was evident; when they did occur, they were readily seen outside the north window of the shack so it was easy to keep records
  • Dark-eyed Junco: the most reliable species of occurrence once they arrive, as they are usually seen and appreciated every day; during the period, there were a few instances when one would strike the big pane of window glass on the north side of the shack, but thankfully no mortality was evident; bug smears on the glass, due to smashed flies seemed to make no difference
  • Northern Cardinal: surprisingly not a single one of this species was seen or heard during the two months; it has seemingly been a sparse resident so certainly only a few occur; perhaps one might be seen more often if time was taken to watch bird activity at some of the bird feeders on the north fringe of the city, near Eighth and Main streets, as a regular haven seems to be the Valentine City Park

Many of the other species on this list are regularly seen within the survey area. It would be a task to record species present on any day, and would actually not be worth doing, but to keep regular, intermittent records is a means to get facts to allow worthwhile comparisons. When these efforts extend for an extended time-frame, the indication of wildbird occurrence is improved.

The overall tally for the two months was 58 species. This compares to 56 species for the same time period in 2016, and 49 in 2015. Consolidating the records kept for these three years, the tally is 77 species, indicating well the variability of recorded occurrences, as represented overall, by observations made on a very regular manner for the days during these two months for three different years.

Weather during the weeks was moderate, with daily high temperatures above the average many times. There were no occurrences of cold where there might have been frosty days and without any temperatures below zero degress. There was very little snowfall, and so snow cover was nearly nonexistent except for a skiff on the ground.

Valentine Bird Tally: October-November, 2017
Proper Name     Julian Date: 277 280 281 282 284 303 309 315 316 317 318 322 328 334
Canada Goose 2 75 - - 16 24 12 223 110 106 143 146 575 725 215
Cackling Goose - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6 10 7 3
Wood Duck - - - - - - 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - -
American Wigeon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 - -
Mallard - - - - - - 3 - - - - 8 18 - - - - - - 5 - - 22
Common Merganser - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - -
Wild Turkey 18 3 - - 20 3 12 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Pied-billed Grebe - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - 1 - - 1 - - - -
Great Blue Heron - - - - - - 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Great Egret - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Double-crested Cormorant - - - - - - 1 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Turkey Vulture 44 - - 1 - - 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
Northern Harrier - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Bald Eagle - - - - - - - - 2 1 1 1 - - - - - - 1 1 - -
Red-tailed Hawk - - - - - - 1 2 - - - - - - 2 1 - - 1 1 - -
Rough-legged Buzzard - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - -
Greater Yellowlegs - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ring-billed Gull - - - - - - - - - - 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rock Dove - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 22 - - 35 - - - - 35
Eurasian Collared Dove 4 7 - - - - 14 4 3 1 1 - - 12 1 2 45
Mourning Dove - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eastern Screech Owl - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Great Horned Owl - - 2 - - 1 1 - - - - - - - - - - 2 - - 2 - -
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 - - 1 - - 1 1 - - 1 1 1 1 - - - -
Red-bellied Woodpecker - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Downy Woodpecker 1 - - - - - - - - 2 - - 1 - - - - - - - - 2 2
Hairy Woodpecker - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - 1 - - 1
Northern Flicker 1 1 - - 1 - - 1 1 - - - - - - 1 1 - - 3
American Kestrel - - - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Blue Jay - - - - - - 2 - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
American Crow - - - - 51 27 - - 5 3 - - 2 - - - - 2 4 2
Cedar Waxwing - - - - - - - - 3 - - - - - - - - 12 - - - - - - - -
Black-capped Chickadee - - 2 - - - - - - 2 2 1 3 - - - - 3 2 - -
Marsh Wren - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Red-breasted Nuthatch - - - - - - 1 1 - - - - - - - - 1 2 3 - - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - - 1 - - - - 2 2 2 1 2 - - - - 2 - - 1
Common Starling - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 40 - - - - - - - - - -
Eastern Bluebird 2 8 - - 5 7 1 - - 1 - - 2 - - - - 4 4
Townsend's Solitaire - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1
American Robin 5 5 - - 175 - - 125 - - - - 10 - - 30 15 10 15
House Sparrow - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 - - - - 12 - - 15
House Finch 12 6 - - 30 - - 8 12 4 - - - - - - 6 6 12
American Goldfinch - - - - - - 8 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Orange-crowned Warbler - - - - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Audubon's Warbler - - 1 - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Red-winged Blackbird 65 55 - - 40 - - - - 30 30 - - - - - - - - - - - -
Common Grackle - - - - - - - - 6 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Song Sparrow - - - - - - - - - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lincoln's Sparrow - - - - - - - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Harris's Sparrow - - - - - - - - 2 - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
White-crowned Sparrow 1 1 - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
White-throated Sparrow 1 - - - - 1 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dark-eyed Junco - - 1 - - 7 10 12 8 4 22 - - - - 8 5 10
American Tree Sparrow - - - - - - - - 2 5 5 - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Clay-colored Sparrow - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Vesper Sparrow 3 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Spotted Towhee - - - - - - - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Besides looking along the travel way to observe subtle actions and sounds of wildbirds worth denoting, attempts were made to keep one or two close. Placing a suet feeder on the front porch of the shack, was successful, but only minimally as a Downy Woodpecker visited only a couple of times. Flickers would forage nearby but never found the "free lunch." This is nearly the same result as trying to attract Turkey Vultures to a fox carcass. At least the juncos were attracted to the "horse feed" put out to provide supplemental feed. Deer liked to eat everything set of, but by varying the presentation, they didn't gobble it all up, so a newly arrived rabbit came to the buffet. One other appreciation during the month, was the eviction of a feral cat. Repeated personal efforts to drive it away didn't work, but someone else took care of the problem quite nicely.

The two silent owl sentinels continue to keep looking eastward at the nearby hillside. They are so patient, having not moved away from perch atop a fence perch as they continue their stolid hardware task. They are so stoic that it has not been possible to make an identification, though they are differently colored, but similar in size.

14 December 2017

Revised Zoning Regulations for Wind Turbines Were Approved

December 13, 2017. Revised zoning for wind turbines were approved. Valentine Midland News 46(23): 14. A letter to the editor.

Special thanks to Jim Buer, Coby Billings, Albert Ericksen, Todd Mathis, Herb Pabst, Lynelle Stillwell, John Wheeler, Gary Swanson, and Rob Lee. They are volunteer members of the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board that have given due diligence to tasks, especially most recently. After months of lengthy discussion and discourse, revised zoning regulations regarding wind turbines were approved by a majority vote in November for submittal to the county commissioners. Very important choices were made on acceptable noise levels, setback distances, as well as blade flicker and fire safety concerns.

It is now time for commissioners to responsibly consider regulation revisions as they regard the future for the county.

Decisions based upon public discourse have become words of particular pertinence. Any vote affecting the future should truly reflect ongoing public comments, including those of many county residents and others with experience with the industrial turbines. Many of these perspectives will likely be further expressed at a pending public hearing which will be a significant event that should not, however, occur during the holiday period out of respect for seasonal traditions.

Actions on any permit requests for turbines should not be considered until there is a commissioner vote on the final language of the regulations. There has been a multitude of hours spent considering this issue, and any rush to action would be disrespectful.

Wind developments in different parts of Nebraska and the nation have recently been getting knowledgeable scrutiny, resulting in a significant transition about the values and needs associated with turbine farms. In Cherry county, the citizens and decision-makers need to take full advantage of considerate fore-sight, rather than having any lament for what might go wrong following unsuitable industrial development.

Any decisions need to reflect the will of the people and represent what is best for Cherry county and indicate what the majority of residents prefer. Let the people decide! Perhaps the decision on these things should depend upon a vote of county residents, rather than people with an agenda of bias sitting in a room?

Figuratively, mules or horses may pull a wagon, but it is the attentive driver perched upon a front seat, holding the reins, that sets the course.

James E. Ducey,

28 November 2017

Prose on Sandhills Fiction Lacking

December, 2017. Grant County News book review.

Some fictional novels select a geographic location and include in the narrative specifics that are proper and realistic for the setting.

Two novels recently released by Shannon Baker include features of sandhill’s land and its people but in many instances, fit the setting to work with her perspective and selected prose.

Stripped Bare was issued in 2016 and Dark Signal was issued in the later extent of 2017.

Her stories convey many features of a place she calls Grand County. This corresponds with Grant county, where the county seat is named Hodgekiss. A mention is even made of the windmill in the middle of main street.

The primary character is a ranch wife named Kate Fox Conner, working on the Frog Creek Ranch while husband Ted Conner is the county sheriff.

Each of the two fictional works deal with murder, and for each issue, the crime scene is conveyed amidst the first few pages.

In the first instance there is a killing of an oldtime rancher – Eldon Edwards former owner of a place of about 100,000 acres – and then the tragic shooting of the sheriff. With her husband in the hospital, Kate Fox takes on the task of finding the perpetrator(s). During the period of a few days that are needed to find the criminals, Fox travels throughout the county, and elsewhere, included Broken Butte, where the hospital is located. This obviously refers to Alliance, Box Butte county.

During the days of action, various characters or topics are regularly mentioned to convey features of the western ranch country in order to set the scene in the fictional sandhills of the books.

In each rendition, visits by Fox with various residents provides a means to introduce different residents so as to convey various “norms” of the ranch country.

In the first novel, a compatriot for the investigation is the county sheriff of the county to the north, the name of which has also been changed, and alluded to in various dubious ways.

There are also details included on a media mogul interested in creating a buffalo scheme by purchasing large tracts of ranch land. The derivation of this character, Glenn Baxter is obvious … just think CNN and realities of bought ranches where bison now roam. In the prose, there is obvious derision conveyed when the sheriff has to drive his electric car.

An aside thrown into Stripped Bare is the unneeded trivia that each sibling of the Fox clan has been named after a particular actor or actress. Fox’s family and relatives are regularly mentioned and serve as foils to make her efforts more difficult because while they can be helpful, they can also be troublesome. The artistic mother is conveyed as a character than any resident could gossip about because of her means of artistic inspiration.

A peculiar dubious item is why autogate is always spelled “AutoGate” as if the things deserve a proper name rather than just being a normal feature of county roads.

Why is Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said to be three hours from Hodgekiss? The distance is obviously much greater, but Kate Fox has to drive there in a day while searching for a family member so the distance is lessened to fit the narrative.

As the narrative of the first book continues, Fox soon discovers while she is looking into activities on many locals, that her husband has been having an affair with an old flame from years ago. This occurred prior to the marriage of Ted and Kate, eight years previously.

As the book closes, once the murders were found, Fox uses a devious means to change election signs. This changes provides a perfect introduction to the next book in the series.

Book two, Dark Signal, first pages present the grisly murder of a train conductor, occurring on the day when Fox was sworn in as county sheriff.

A brutal event that occurred with a swinging railroad tie at a railway overpass seven miles easterly from Hodgekiss. Of course, there is no train overpass in reality anywhere in the vicinity until at Thedford.

The prose continues to include local characters to add interest to the narrative. Some of the names are similar to actual residents of the region, including Hayward, Manning, Messersmith and Ostrander. Her relatively local compatriot was Trey Ridnoir, a state patrol officer from the west, and a character that Fox could use to show she was such a better officer, despite her lack of real experience. Typical clich├ęs are indicated: eating the donuts (i.e., cinnamon rolls), not understand local norms and schedules, appreciating fast food, and improper judgements. Each thing Fox did was, however, an accomplishment to achieve the final goal of closing the investigation, even if done wrongly and without a thorough consideration of the situation and possible outcomes, including personal safety.

During her search to the murderer(s), there were threats. Each instance – including a bolt removed from a tie rod that caused a vehicle accident, a fence cut (three strand barb wire?) and a murdered calf – provided a reason to talk with another resident, and meant she was getting closer to the killer and for the author to convey particulars associated with what our primary character thought was representative. Questions eventually arise about a long-time county commissioner, also a railroad employee.

Another statement which is blatantly wrong concerns a statement that robins and kingfishers “raised a ruckus” at the calving lot. Although this happened on the “Frog Creek Ranch” there is no such waterway in the given geographic locality, and there is not enough of a creek for kingfishers to occur. If the author had mentioned kingbirds, there would be no reason to question this statement. Anytime a kingfisher raises a ruckus, it is always just a bird or two and they do not occur at lot housing calves, according to the realities of a bird watcher.

The time-frame for this second work of fiction is also just a few days, which, similar to the first novel, does not allow any real expansive development of setting and land features, other than the personal view of the primary characters. There was certainly enough said about the Fox clan and their family matters.

The author took the opportunity to convey the family of the dead man as being intolerant of the region of the people, as they had not lived there for decades and thus simply did not understand the reality.

During both periods of time conveyed in the books, the weather is consistently indicated as being cold and snowy, with perhaps a day or two of moderate conditions. Their time frame is separated by nine months.

Included in the second novel, the media mogul is mentioned time and again, as he has become a friend, regularly talked to on the telephone. There is also the mention of the “Black Socks” a religious sect following particular strictures of faith. Both of these items can be interpreted as being similar to modern-day reality of the region.

One more problematic item closed Dark Signal. With ongoing pressure from family, and to get a life, sheriff Fox leased a home nearby at Stryker Lake, a relative short distance from Hodgekiss. It did not look so nice upon her initial viewing with a realtor whose medical condition was well described. The house looked more like a home when she arrived to move in. Her “friend,” the billionaire mogul Baxter, had refurbished the house, adding appropriate furnishings and making the place comfortable and welcoming. It would seem that this would be illegal as a county official cannot accept donations for their personal gain as given by any private citizen. Furnishing a home would seemingly fit within this constraint.

These books are an enjoyable and easy read, but if you have any sense of history and place, do not expect to read them without repeatedly finding statements which are not factual and thus detract from the value of these novels, despite any proclamation to having them set in the unique Sand Hills.

The Baker fiction can be a great read, but it does not properly represent the genre when facts are wrong presented, again and again. When an author decides to use the Sand Hills as a setting, they should at least be able to suitable convey the particulars and indicate details that represent reality. An author should convey the reality of the place and use their writing skills to refer to their characters and to express a comfortable story.

Give the prose some space and pay attention to details but don’t ignore the facts.

Changes to Zoning Regulations Approved by Cherry County Planning Board

November 16, 2017. Grant County News 133(16): 1, 4.

Valentine — Several significant changes to the zoning regulations were approved by the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board at their monthly meeting during the evening on November 7th.

Items approved by a board member vote of 6-2 were:

  • a setback of one mile from a non-participant property boundary for any turbine
  • a setback of two mile from the dwelling of any non-participant
  • a setback of three times total wind tower height from any road right-of-way or other rights-of way; and associated with this: no wind energy conversion system (WECS) shall cast any shadow flicker on any public road
  • a setback of one mile from any public conservation lands including wildlife management areas and state recreation areas
  • no WECS shall exceed 35 dba at the nearest non-participant dwelling during normal weather conditions

There were 28 people that provided testimony during the public hearing, with 18 against wind turbines in the county, and ten turbine proponents. Many of the comments made represent the many topics heard since an initial proposal for a conditional use permit for a wind turbine facility south of Kilgore, many months ago. Several people that spoke had not originally planned to speak, but after hearing comments, added their testimony to the public discourse.

An essential item not included in the tentative regulation revisions was a suggestion that there be legal documentation that a non-participant in a project has waived any setback distance(s). It was suggested that there be a “wind energy easement” filed as an official county record. No action was taken on this.

These items will be further considered by the Cherry County commissioners, probably before the end of the year.

Also approved at the meeting was a document giving a report on three items, as requested by the commissioners. The zoning board had been working on the report since January, and during this period there was a “moratorium” on any conditional use permits associated with wind turbines. The three topics were:

1) influence of wind turbines on property values
2) findings regarding a wind turbine fire and how it will be dealt with by volunteer fire departments
3) impacts on health because of operational turbines

In addition, the report identified five other “major concerns” including viewscape/landscape; wildlife protection; powerline encroachment; decommissioning of WECS; and, property rights. There was also some verbiage that the commissioners review details associated with Nebraska legislative bill 504 and testimony presented at a public hearing at Lincoln on legislative resolution 125.

This report was approved by an 8-0 vote of planning board members.

More than 50 people attended the meeting held in the county court room.

The county commissioners will also have a public hearing before voting on any permanent changes to the zoning regulations.

14 November 2017

Newly Opened Saline Wetland Tract Attracts Wildbirds

A recently opened tract of saline wetlands north of Lincoln has been an exciting place to visit for area birders.

Marsh Wren Community Wetlands "just opened in July and most birders weren't aware of it until September when I told Esa Jarvi about it and that's when he started promoting it on NEBirds," said Shari Schwartz, of Lincoln who has visited the area a few times.

"A mixture of available habitat is a factor that explains the extended list of species," Schwartz said. "A walk along the path leads past saline habitats with narrow-leaf cattails that host good marsh sparrows, wooded edges that attract accipiters and sparrows that utilize brush, seedy prairie patches for grassland sparrows, and a pond for ducks that has shallow edges bordered with cattails that houses rails and bitterns. There's even a bald eagle nest that hopefully will be active this spring."

"It's fun to explore a place that is somewhat yet undiscovered," said Schwartz. "The unit was so new and untrammeled, there wasn't a single scrap of litter in the new gravel parking lot. That was a memorable moment in my life!"

"It's really awesome it was protected because you can see housing has already gone in on the east border of the property," said Schwartz. "One concern I noticed was the source of the emergent springs is at the base of a hill where there's a private corn field that you can guarantee is depositing all kinds of pesticide and fertilizer into the ground water there. The Lower Platte South NRD (LPSNRD) co-manages it so you'd think they'd care about that but there's likely nothing they can do about that adjacent private property."

Management goals for the area include, said Tom Malmstrom, saline wetlands coordinator for the NRD:

  • Restore a source of saline ground water to the historical basins.
  • Manipulate the surface water hydrology providing multiple benefits for migratory avian species, halophytes, fresh water and saline water dependent non migratory species.
  • Utilize the restored wetlands for the benefits of threatened and endangered species.

Site work included fence construction, sediment removal, drainage channel stabilization structures and sediment traps, designation of vegetation management zones, embankment repair, placement of water control structures, and installation of a wetland enhancement berm.

Site restoration work was recently completed, with funding for the site work and engineering provided by the LPSNRD and a 2012 Nebraska Environmental Trust grant to the City of Lincoln, and funds from the eastern saline wetlands project, said Malmstrom. Other support was provided through the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership, which consist of the City of Lincoln, LPSNRD, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Pheasants Forever.

The eastern portion of the tract comprising 80 acres was purchased in 2009, said Mamlstrom. An addition of 50 acres on the western extent of the property was purchased in 2012. The Lower Platte South NRD is the area owner. The eastern extent of the area was used for years as a hunting club.

Particularly notable features of the site includes: saline wetland habitat, freshwater pond, two spring seeps, the confluence of Little Salt Creek and Salt Creek which forms the southern boundary, a small woodland area where bald eagle nests occur. In addition to a foot path and overlook, there is a roadway that can be hiked. The area parking lot is on Alvo Road, eastward from Northwest 40th Street.

This is a tally of the species that have been observed at the area from near the end of September through the first week of November, 2017. More than 35 checklists have been submitted to ebirds, enough to make the site a birding hotspot. The number of species seen during a particular visit have ranged from eight to 53, as well as 46 and 47. The ebird "species list was initially compiled during a time frame for the peak intersection of breeding marsh birds and migrating sparrows making for a hefty total right out of the gate," said Schwartz.

Figure showing management work done at the wetland area.

  1. Greater White-fronted Goose
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Wood Duck
  4. American Wigeon
  5. Mallard
  6. Blue-winged Teal
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Northern Pintail
  9. Green-winged Teal
  10. Ring-necked Pheasant
  11. Wild Turkey
  12. Northern Bobwhite
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Double-crested Cormorant
  15. American Bittern
  16. Great Blue Heron
  17. Great Egret
  18. Green Heron
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Bald Eagle
  21. Northern Harrier
  22. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  23. Cooper's Hawk
  24. Red-tailed Hawk
  25. Rough-legged Hawk
  26. American Kestrel
  27. Merlin
  28. Virginia Rail
  29. Sora
  30. American Coot
  31. Killdeer
  32. Spotted Sandpiper
  33. Lesser Yellowlegs
  34. Wilson's Snipe
  35. Franklin's Gull
  36. Ring-billed Gull
  37. Herring Gull
  38. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  39. Mourning Dove
  40. Great Horned Owl
  41. Belted Kingfisher
  42. Red-headed Woodpecker
  43. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  44. Downy Woodpecker
  45. Hairy Woodpecker
  46. Northern Flicker
  47. Blue Jay
  48. American Crow
  49. Horned Lark

    Aerial view showing property boundary of the wetland area.

  50. Barn Swallow
  51. Black-capped Chickadee
  52. White-breasted Nuthatch
  53. House Wren
  54. Sedge Wren
  55. Marsh Wren
  56. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  57. Eastern Bluebird
  58. American Robin
  59. Gray Catbird
  60. European Starling
  61. Orange-crowned Warbler
  62. Nashville Warbler
  63. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  64. Palm Warbler
  65. Common Yellowthroat
  66. Spotted Towhee
  67. American Tree Sparrow
  68. Chipping Sparrow
  69. Clay-colored Sparrow
  70. Field Sparrow
  71. Vesper Sparrow
  72. Lark Sparrow
  73. Savannah Sparrow
  74. Grasshopper Sparrow
  75. Henslow's Sparrow
  76. Le Conte's Sparrow
  77. Nelson's Sparrow
  78. Fox Sparrow
  79. Song Sparrow
  80. Lincoln's Sparrow
  81. Swamp Sparrow
  82. White-throated Sparrow
  83. Harris's Sparrow
  84. White-crowned Sparrow
  85. Dark-eyed Junco
  86. Dickcissel
  87. Red-winged Blackbird
  88. Eastern Meadowlark
  89. Western Meadowlark
  90. Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  91. Common Grackle
  92. Brown-headed Cowbird
  93. House Finch
  94. Pine Siskin
  95. American Goldfinch

There will certainly be more species observed as birders continue their visits. Especially valuable will be details on species present during the breeding season.

This area is an addition to other saline wetlands protected and which occur mostly northward of Lincoln.

"There are approximately 4,309 acres of Nebraska’s eastern saline wetlands remaining," Malmstrom said. "To date, approximately 1,590 acres of these wetlands are protected through conservation partner ownership and are open to the public."

13 November 2017

Chronology of Autumn Turkey Vulture Movement at Valentine

Turkey Vultures are a common summer resident in the vicinity of north Valentine, and the number present increases as fall migration occurs. By mid-summer of 2017, there were more than 100 that would congregate in tree snags at the western extent of Government Pond, immediately west of the Valentine Fish Hatchery.

From mid-September through early October, once the vultures left the roost in the morning, a group of them would soar westerly along the ridge of the Minnechaduza Creek valley. With their regular occurrence, several days were spent recording how many vultures were seen and the time of their occurrence. Details were also occasionally kept on local weather conditions, notably temperature, wind speed and its direction.

Information was derived from 88 records of observation as designated to a particular 15-minute period of time (i.e., all records between 10:30 to 10:44 within period for 10:30) for the same vantage point a bit more than one mile westward of the vulture night roost. Birds were denoted when they passed a particular line of demarcation of the landscape. A few of the records were associated with the nearby Valentine Mill Pond and the city of Valentine.

Regarding general bird movement, for most of the morning observations the vultures were going westerly. Those associated with late day times were going easterly, likely returning to the roost site.

In general, vultures would not occur until after 9 a.m. When there were windy conditions early in the morning, there would be vultures earlier than on calm days. If there had any precipitation or extensive dew, the vultures would also be seen flying at a later time.

These are a couple of examples of details associated with sightings of a greater number of vultures on a particular morning:

  • 09/27/2017: one soaring westerly at 1004
  • one soaring westerly at 1009
  • three soaring westerly at 1012
  • two soaring westerly at 1024
  • one soaring easterly at 1042; a bird returning easterly was not typical for the morning observations
  • one seen at 1110; calm winds with a few wispy clouds; temp at 59o
  • one at 1141 soaring above in slight winds less than 5 mph

Since an overall tally for a period of time was not determined, the difference in birds going westerly or easterly does not influence the extent of overall occurrence numbers as that particular detail was not determined.

  • 09/29/2017: ten in an obvious bunch moving westward above the pine-clad ridge; northeast wind at 6 mph, temp 54o and partly cloudy; the ten occurred at ten at 1004 and then another one at 1008 a.m.

Later in the day, there was a flock of 27 seen at the North Park Ridge, a prairie area just to the north of the roost site. Notations indicate: at 1640, soaring above the hills with some others above the heart city; what a magnificent sight; sunset near 7:30 p.m.

This is an example of a sightings on the morning of October 1st:

  • three at 9:45
  • one at 0950
  • three at 9:54; going westerly; at 10 a.m. 62o, winds ssw at 12 mph with gusts up to 18 mph
  • six soaring about above the ridge at 1008
  • one at 1010
  • one at 1012
  • two at 1017
  • two at 1020

The records kept indicate that the vultures set flight and were moving in small groups and from 915 to 1045 a.m.

Daytime Chronology of Turkey Vultures at the North Lake Shore Hills and Valentine
Time of Day 9/17 9/19 9/20 9/21 9/22 9/24 9/26 9/27 9/28 9/29 10/1 10/3 10/4
815 - - - - - - - - - - - 2 -
900 - - - - 3 - - - - - - - -
915 - 7 - 12 2 - - - - - - 1 -
930 - 6 - 5 - - - - - 1 - - -
945 - 5 - 2 - - 2 - - 6 8 - -
1000 - 1 5 3 - 1 1 5 2 11 8 - -
1015 - - - 3 - - - 2 2 - 4 - 1
1030 1 1 1 2 - - - 1 13 4 - - -
1045 4 3 - - - - - - - - - - -
1100 2 - - - - - - 1 - - - - 1
1130 - - - - - - 8 1 - - - - -
1300 - - - - 1 - - - - - - - -
1330 5 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1430 2 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1600 - - - 10 - - - 2 - - - - -
1615 - 2 - - - - - - - - - - 1
1630 - - - - - - - - - 27 - - -
1645 - - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
1700 - - - - - - 1 3 - - - - -
1730 - - - - - - - 1 - - - - -
1815 - - - - - - 1 - - - - - -
1830 - - - - - - 2 - - - - - -
1915 - 1 - - - - - - - - - - -

With only a relatively lesser percentage of the vultures noted going westerly along the Minnechaduza valley ridge, obviously many of the vultures went elsewhere. On occasion they could be seen going southwesterly. The destination for others is not known.

If there was one mystery for the breeding season occurrence of a few vultures and then the migratory season congregation, what did they eat? The carcass of a fox was placed at a spot visible to the soaring vultures, but it was never even visited.

Most of the roost trees used by the vultures are pine tree snags that are the result of a wild fire in 2012. The extent of these trees has decreased through the years as the trees rot and eventually fall to the ground. Eventually the snag trees now present will be gone so the vultures will have to find an alternative roosting site.

Testimony on Proposed Regulation Changes for Wind Turbines in Cherry County

Comments read November 7, 2017 during public hearing held by the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board. While reading this, additional comments were conveyed on the need for turbine facility owners to have greater responsibility to extinguish any wind turbine fire.

Although I am personally opposed to the placement of any wind turbines within Cherry county, some of the proposed changes to the county zoning regulations are steps in the right direction.

Notably deficient, however, is the review of impacts on land values due to wind turbines. This bare perspective is not thorough and in no way reflects what should be a comprehensive review of the topic. For one, there have not been enough comparisons and the details given are so sparse as to be misleading.

I am supportive of the proposed changes that will increase setbacks, including to a two mile distance from non-participant dwellings -- as needed as a bare minimum based upon experience of residents near turbine facilities in Holt county -- and a mile from the nearest nonparticipating property owner. Keeping turbine flicker off any county roads is also essential.

Also important is setting a 35 dba noise level for the nearest nonparticipating dwelling.

Addressing turbine fire concerns, the stance that the fire departments will only secure the area is reasonable. There does however need to be active involvement by the turbine owner to suppress any fire in the quickest manner possible. A turbine fire should not just be left to burn as this allows toxic fumes to spread and places a undue burden on the fire crew volunteers needed to monitor the site.

It is essential that the development of any wind turbine facility first and foremost respect the essential values appreciated by residents and that any facility not degrade the land and rural settings essential to the citizens of Cherry county as well as others which enjoy this country.

06 November 2017

Saturday Drive in Cherry County Country

With a temperate day of latter autumn expected, a drive to look for birds was done through eastern Cherry county on Saturday, November 4th.

The bird-watching route began east of Brownlee, and continued west and then northerly, including along Pass Creek to Swan Lake, west of Brownlee, along the road from Brownlee to Highway 97, then north to Spur 16B and past the northwest edge of Valentine NWR. Along the way, birds were recorded for seventeen distinct localities.

This is the tally of 35 species seen, based upon 72 records of occurrence. There were no large numbers of waterfowl at different water bodies but small-sized flocks of different species at the different places.

  • Canada Goose: only at Swan Lake
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Pintail
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Canvasback: enjoyed at Hackberry Lake
  • Redhead
  • Bufflehead
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Wild Turkey: a flock of 17 in a mown hay meadow in northern Wamaduze Valley
  • Common Pheasant
  • Pied-billed Grebe: the three species of grebes were all seen at Alkali Pond, along Highway 97
  • Black-necked Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant: at Swan Lake and Hackberry Lake
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Northern Harrier: three along Brush Creek and also present elsewhere
  • Bald Eagle: a few seen with single adult birds at each place observed
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rough-legged Buzzard: in a tree on the north side of Brush Creek
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel: single birds foraging along the county roads
  • Merlin: a very pale bird perched atop a tree on the north side of Brush Creek
  • American Crow
  • Horned Lark
  • Common Starling
  • American Robin: nice numbers at several different places
  • Red Crossbill: four heard flying over Swan Lake
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-winged Blackbird: flocks of hundreds at two locations
  • Brewer's Blackbird: amidst the Red-winged Blackbirds east of Brownlee
  • Harris's Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • American Tree Sparrow

The weather was especially enjoyable at Swan Lake, when early in the afternoon there were warmer temperatures, slight winds and partly cloudy skies. Conditions at this place made the days' outing especially enjoyable.

During the day, 150 miles were travelled during about four hours of observation time. A special thanks to Gordon Warrick for his company and providing transportation.

18 September 2017

Valentine Area Birds in August, 2017

This month was very humdrum with hot temperatures and troublesome transportation be limitave, especially when there was a good book or two to read in an absorptive manner.

There are a few notable comments, including:

  • Wild Turkey: sparse with no young seen at at a time when the poults should have been walking about as a brood with a hen bird
  • Turkey Vulture: It was nice to see good numbers soaring past in the mornings, with numbers greater than expected in comparison to previous years; their roost is east of the Valentine City Park, on pine tree snags occurring due to a wild fire several years ago, and whose condition continues to deteriorate; this site was not visited because of not having any interest in walking there on a hot evening!
  • Great Horned Owl: seemingly much more expressive this month than a year ago when they were not even heard, which is perhaps due to "night-owl" times and keeping the front door open to dissipate a days worth of hot air
  • Common Nighthawk: only one night of any notable number of migrating birds, despite several nights of watching; during the evening of the peak count, there were also 50 seen easterly of Valentine near the Borman Bridge WMA
  • Cedar Waxwing: known to nest along Lake Shore Drive on the north side of the mill pond, as single fledgling liked to sit atop a sprig of a blue-spruce conifer where it was readily seen multiple times, where the parents had been initially heard; often the youngster sat alone as if it did not want to depart, but that eventually did occur as the local waxwings gathered to forage in a greater vicinity
  • Purple Martin: a few initially roosted on power lines along the Cowboy Trail west and then east of Main street, as they also congregated atop the cellular tower in central downtown; later in the month, fewer numbers congregated near 8th and Main streets, with some of the birds foraging over the mill pond and hills to the north
  • American Cliff Swallow: nested on the dam across Minnechaduza creek that creates the mill pond, though not realized until later in the season due to limited visits to the particular locale
  • House Wren: a pair nested north of my residence and another to the south in the fixture of a yard light; both nests were successful

There were no Chimney Swift roost counts done, as my ride was not working properly so only a morning trip was taken into the city. Also not noted this year was any Ruby-throated Hummingbird activity. One residence that had formerly had a feeder did not have this attractant this year.

Efforts to attract species by providing food failed. A first effort to see if they might be attracted to horse grain failed as there was no interest except by grasshoppers. There was no interest in dried mealworms which were marketed as wildbird and poultry food. Once the birds showed no interest, not even a red ant colony had any interest in the edibles. At least the American Goldfinch appreciated the goatsbeard seeds, while the plume was discarded.

There were 53 species observed as recorded on basically four dates when records were kept. Excessive heat was an issue on several days when the high temperature of the day exceeded 100o and were often the highest temperature in the state of Nebraska. Most of the records are associated with north Valentine and especially in the immediate vicinity of my residence. Sometimes the best bird times of watching birds is while watching those outside a residence window.

Species             Julian Date > 218 227 238 239 243
Canada Goose 5 1 -- -- --
Wood Duck -- -- 8 -- 3
Wild Turkey -- -- 3 -- --
Great Blue Heron -- 1 -- -- --
Turkey Vulture 28 31 34 -- 17
Bald Eagle -- 1 -- -- --
Red-tailed Hawk -- 1 -- -- --
Killdeer 2 -- -- -- --
Spotted Sandpiper 1 1 -- -- --
Rock Dove -- 5 14 -- 16
Eurasian Collared Dove 18 9 4 -- 4
Mourning Dove 9 19 6 -- 4
Great Horned Owl -- 1 -- -- 2
Common Nighthawk 3 2 9 70 --
Chimney Swift 17 5 2 -- --
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 -- -- --
Red-headed Woodpecker -- -- 1 -- --
Red-bellied Woodpecker -- 1 -- -- --
Downy Woodpecker 1 1 -- -- 1
Northern Flicker 1 1 1 -- 2
Eastern Phoebe -- 2 -- -- 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee -- 1 -- -- --
Western Kingbird 2 6 -- -- --
Eastern Kingbird 5 3 -- -- 2
Great Crested Flycatcher 4 4 1 -- 1
Bell's Vireo -- 1 -- -- --
Warbling Vireo 1 -- -- -- --
Red-eyed Vireo -- 1 1 -- --
Blue Jay 7 6 1 -- 5
Cedar Waxwing 7 12 4 -- --
Black-capped Chickadee 2 4 2 -- 2
Purple Martin 3 45 18 -- 10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5 -- -- -- --
American Cliff Swallow 12 -- -- -- --
House Wren 8 11 4 -- 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 1 3 -- --
White-breasted Nuthatch 2 1 1 -- 2
Grey Catbird 2 2 -- -- 4
Brown Thrasher -- 1 -- -- 1
Common Starling 4 23 -- -- --
Eastern Bluebird 1 4 -- -- 4
American Robin 23 20 -- -- 2
House Sparrow 42 25 -- -- 8
House Finch -- 19 6 -- 8
American Goldfinch 6 3 3 -- --
Common Yellowthroat 3 -- -- -- --
American Yellow Warbler 1 -- -- -- --
Red-winged Blackbird 20 12 35 -- --
Common Grackle 1 6 -- -- --
Chipping Sparrow 2 7 -- -- --
Lark Sparrow 1 4 -- -- --
Spotted Towhee 1 -- -- -- --
Northern Cardinal 2 1 -- -- --

This tally compares to 64 species noted on 12 dates during this month in 2016, when there were a few more localities visited.

31 August 2017

Army March Through the Eastern Sandhills in 1856

August 24, 2017. Army march through the eastern Sandhills in 1856. Grant County News 133(4): 1, 5.

In response to orders from his commanding officer, First Lieutenant William D. Smith of the 2nd Dragoons of the U.S. Military - the leader of the squadron - wrote a letter the day after receiving the request for details of an overland journey just completed. His response was posted November 22, 1856 from Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory.

Smith had just officiated over an Army force that during the few weeks of October just pasty, had traversed a route to determine if there was an acceptable trail suitable for wagon-road travel between Fort Kearny on the big bend of the Platte River, Nebraska Territory, and Fort Randall, along the mighty Missouri River in southern Dakota territory.

On October 2nd the expedition left the Missouri River fort. Among the military there a couple of other commanding officers, as well as three laundresses particularly noted, burdened wagons, necessary live stock and others necessities not mentioned. The 105 government horses for the eight wagons, were "all in bad condition," according to the account conveyed by Smith's hand-written journal. Two guides along to identify the route through the country included a "half-breed" and a Ponca Indian, though neither of them, Smith noted, had "ever crossed anywhere near our proposed line of march." Nonetheless, the two hired guides had the responsibility of establishing the route that others would dutifully follow.

The essential distances traveled were measured with a "viameter," the only recording instrument along available to measure anything. Only the mileage figures made it into the narrative, as there was not even a thermometer to denote daily temperatures during the passage over the sands, and across sinuous rivers of fresh, flowing water.

Among the Hills and Across Creeks and Rivers

Moving along a vague route, the military force crossed numerous creeks and rivers, each carefully noted. A map issued in several military expeditions shows the route of travel but does not include any dates of occurrence in association with a particular locality.

During this particular portion U.S. Army exploration of unsettled lands the first waterway - noted on October 3rd - was Ponca R., readily recognized then and now. Water and grass was good. At the time, it was the on the north side of the "Ponkas Reservation" lands.

The L Eau qui Court - i.e., the Niobrara River in its lower reach miles east of the Keya Paha river - was described as a "wide and bold stream with low sandy banks and quick sand bottom a rapid current two feet in depth and a well timbered valley. ... Had much difficulty in crossing wagons on account of quick sands." The day's camp was on the south side of the Running Water.

Boggy banks of Willow Creek were the next crossing, as it was a southerly tributary stream of the prominent Niobrara. This may have been the Eagle Creek, as identified by the place name historians of the modern era.

Onward to the south, the Elk Horn was next along the way. "A beautiful creek of clear water with low well timbered banks and a fine sandy bottom." They passed the flat place where a settlement would be established in a couple of decades, named after an Irish man named O'Neill. The wagon train route went eastward for a few short miles along the river named for the natural, annual discard of an animal grazer of the grass, and camped.

"Road good and water good and plenty. Wood plenty - grass good."

With the morning's bustle, the force direction of travel then continued southward.

There were more creeks to get across. The first was the Graham Branch, a tributary among the flat meadow lands. "Water was good and plenty," but wood was scarce, Smith wrote on the October 6, 1856.

Was this Dry Creek, as this locality is currently identified? The map for the expedition differs somewhat from the modern map, but in the interest of simplicity, this would be the general vicinity, continuing in the modern Holt county.

"October 7th ... Road very bad passing over a succession of high sandy ridges (perpendicular to its course) and corresponding sandy depressions."

Next along the way was the designated Beaver Creek which then trended to the southwest. The attribution and cartography matches well the current channel of the Cedar River.

The Calamus river was then crossed. Its name origin is associated with the calamus or "sweet flag" plant as obviously well recognized by people of the Dakota tribe. These are the particulars according to historians: "Calamus, Sinkpetawote (Williamson dictionary); muskrat Sinkpe (Williamson dict.); food woyute (Williamson dict.); of, ta (Williamson dict.). Sinkpe, muskrat; ‘ta’, sign of the genitive (muskrat - his (or its) food. ‘Wate,’ food. Sinkpe ta wote, is the Dakota name of a certain plant which we call calamus or sweet flag. The scientific name is Acorus calamus. Dr. M.R. Gilmore 11-28-29 general letters," based up Link's place name history for Nebraska. Obviously this was an important landmark for the Indian residents as the name had been established so early in the lore of the region.

Next was relatively smaller-sized Storm Creek with its "deep, boggy ravine with precipitous banks" that were noted in the Lieutenant's words. On 10 October, it was a rainy and stormy day, so they all remained at Storm Creek all day resting while endeavoring to stay dry. Perhaps some of the men kept sheltered within a tent and enjoyed some camaraderie while playing cards to fill the idle hours?

During the next day's march, the "North Fork of Pawnee Loup" was crossed. The river was "a wide and handsome stream of clear water, with low banks quick sand bottom and about two feet in depth - water good - wood plenty - good grass." This would be the Middle Loup River, probably in the vicinity of Ord, a settlement which was not to occur until a significant number of years later in the area's history.

There are few observational details, with the condition of the grass, water and wood regularly noted, but little else. Beyond Buffalo Creek, on October 11th, buffalo were seen for the first time, during the march over what was described as a very rugged country.

Southward, were more waterways. Comparing the historic map to current maps may not have the precise places mentioned due to sparse notes and significant differences in map detail, it still allows details for a rough comparison but enough to place correlate the expeditions travel to a modern-era landmark.

Mean Creek, was noted on the 12th, and crossed the following day.

Then a crossing at the "South Fork of Pawnee Loup." Alternative names of "Potato or Hand River" were given for this waterway, now identified as the South Loup River.

The next water channel crossed was at Bog Creek, "with very high precipitous and miry banks a rapid current and a very boggy bottom." It took seven hours to build a suitable bridge using locally available timber.

Spuyter Devil creek was the next challenge, and where it was within the local landscape is a mystery. The derivation of the name is even more vague. It was like the mire at Bog Creek. There were a few more notable words in the account: "Country extremely rough." And another bridge had to be built which took sweat and toil by many men for an unknown extent of hours.

In the terse rendition of the voyage, the next landmark was a named derived from French language as indicated many years earlier, as the French presence was long gone in 1856. Smith wrote: "L'eau qui Bonne" - a very beautiful stream of clear water with such a distinctive French moniker - about sixty feet wide and two feet deep with sandy banks and hard sandy bottom." Here another bridge was built to permit an easier crossing for covered wagons loaded with life and its attachments, and the associated herd used to pull the people along to a military fort down on the flat waters.

In the account quickly written more than 150 years ago, two names were given for a waterway still prominent on modern maps. It was designated as "Black Water creek (Wood River)" at the time. The route just to its north was through a "very rough and sandy section of country." Everyone remained encamped the next day as military men built a timber bridge so the waterway could be safely crossed.

After crossing "Winding Creek [Ash creek?]," the valley lands of the Platte River were next along the route. The entire government party reached to north bank of the Platte River and followed the river road eastward a few miles to arrive at Fort Kearny on October 21st.

The entire route was traveled in fewer than three weeks, specifically with twenty days noted for being on the road with their stock and wagons. Apparently there were seventeen days of travel through a foreign land. Smith did not note in his journal any native residents along the way, and in fact, not even anything about the entirety of the Army force moving along the route. Descriptions of the camps or activities of the people during the march were not noted in Smith's rudimentary narrative.

Smith did note that some of the creeks were named "by the officers of the squadron as neither of the guides has names for them." Some names provided were based on the place names known by the Ponca guide.

Smith was "fully satisfied that the route we came was about the best that could have been chosen without making detour to the East," the report said.

To summarize the region so many decades ago, these words written by Lieut. Smith will have to suffice:

“Our route at the time of year when we came was almost impassible and I am compelled to believe that it could not be traveled in spring or at any time when the ground is soft or when the waters are up. There are too many points to tempt the squatter along the route were it not for the difficulty of reaching them. The forks of the Loup and the Elk Horn are peculiarly attractive without being particularly difficult of access.

"The entire section of country traversed by my command is wonderfully rugged and uneven but much of it yields fine grass - It is my opinion that it would make one of the finest wool growing regions that could possibly be found.

"Game was quite abundant along the route, Elk, Antelope, Deer, & Buffalo," according to the chronicles.

There were no notations of migratory birds, despite it being a time of passage for various migratory fowl.

These too brief chronicles convey a relativistic, brief perspective of a sand hills region at a distinctive time in the regions first history when parties of government-sponsored expeditions were traveling among the dunes and around the western plains. The particular notes by Lieut. Smith indicate how the small, wind-blown grains of sand and rugged landforms, together, wrought a journey overcome with difficulty, among great and subtle dunes of an unsettled territory in 1856.

Smith's brief jaunt was finished, but the military explorations amongst the sandhills continued. In 1857, the party of the Warren Expedition traveled along the Loup Fork and into the desolate hills beyond the river, through the dunes and onward to the Niobrara River, before they went onward to Fort Laramie, and then subsequently eastward along the Niobrara valley.

Also not to be forgotten is the north to south military expedition in 1855 through the central sandhills. Subsequently there was one of the most significant battles between bands of Indian families and the U.S. Military occurred at Blue Water Creek in the southern extent of the sand hills. This is history that shall never be forgotten because of the enormity of what occurred.

During the middle years of the 1850s – in particular 1855-1857 – three well-known expeditionary forces of the U.S. Military traveled through the Sand Hill region, trying to find a means to establish travel routes from one particular place to another and in the best means possible.

It seems the military forces did not succeed as no obvious trail routes were established across or among the great dunes of sand. Only after many years would commerce establish one route or another to connect the Platte Valley, via the iconic Buffalo Lake place and along a trail to the Black Hills. Soon there would be cattle men pioneers that discover and realized the value of grass for beeves. In a short time, some settlement commenced and railroad routes were built.

The western sandhills were an unorganized territory though the state of Nebraska had been established in 1867. It would take even more years for settlers to recognize the western counties of the region and for which there are many memories of the first years of their struggle to be established as people of a special land of grass.

17 August 2017

Chronicles of the Central Niobrara River Valley in 1857

An ever-running river of water flowing easterly across central great plains country has been known and denoted by multiple generations familiar with its features and seasons. The rapidly running waters were personally known in many unknown ways as it has been everlasting amidst the land.

There is a minimal extent of history known about tribal legacy of decades long ago as there is a dearth of written chronicles during this era. There were prevalent populated villages representing natural cycles of moving around as associated with the seasons of every year. Indians walked or rode on hearty ponies across this land. They knew realities based upon shared or individual experiences within their tribe or band. There were years unknown of oral history among the resident tribes so many decades ago. The people present then lived amidst a country they knew so well and was a place of their life and where essentials of survival depended upon locally realized resources and knowledge of a multitude of seasons and neighbors of some interest or another. These people did not write about their lives and times in something like a book typical of latter years. Words vividly spoken or via actions individually expressed within a lodge or tepee on the evening during one or another gathering. This was the manner through which experiences were shared and perhaps remembered by another generation.

It was about 1830 when some French men associated with the American Fur Trade Company had gone westward and established a post along the river they identified as the L’Eau qui court. They had a primitive outpost near the confluence of a tributary river, the Wamdushka W. which had especially prominent falls nourished by waters flowing from a vast southerly land of sand dunes. The fur company men traded with local tribes that gathered beaver furs.

As the area became further known and designated as a territory of the U.S.A., government officials became especially active with legislation enacting legal treaties that would bring great changes upon the vast expanses of the central plains of the western frontier of an expanding nation. Military expeditions became a regular occurrence and undertaken for various purposes.

Following a government edict by legislation, in 1855 Lieutenant Gouverneur Kemble Warren - a topographic engineer of the U.S. Army and primary officer of the march - was leading the “Sioux Expedition” traversing “Dacota Country” as they went from the imposing Fort Randall on the Missouri river to Fort Kearny on the Platte river. This military officer travelled elsewhere on the northern plains during 1856.

A map of Nebraska and Dakota prepared in 1867 by Brevet Major General G.K. Warren of the U.S. Military later indicated prominent features of the region, including areas where tribes were resident, waterways and prominent landmarks as compiled from several surveys and reconnoissances done during many previous years. There was the “Niobrarah or L’Eau qui Court or Rapid River,” with the name Niobrara used by the Ponca. “Mini Tanka” or Big Water was a denoted attribution of the Dacotas. Also there was the “Wamdushka W.” or Snake river where the French traders had a fur trading post. This river was also known by the Omaha tribe as “Cici ka wabahi i te. Where they gathered turkeys. Many turkeys were found here starved to death, and the men gathered them to pluck the feathers to feather their arrows,” (27th annual report of the American Bureau of Ethnology, page 94), There was also the “Little Rapid R.” as primarily indicated.

Along the western extent of the L'Eau qui court a military map indicated the prominent tribe was the "Sichangu or Brule Dakotas" whose country extended into Dakota during this era.

A particular reconnaissance of the L Eau qui court was the 1857 Warren expedition that had started in July, originating at Omaha City on the Missouri river. The necessaries were gathered together from other places using steamboats bringing supplies along this river-based route of commerce. There were associative details taken care of at St. Louis as well as Fort Leavenworth in northeast Kansas. The assignment of the military force was to evaluate the best route for a commercial business or transport travel road from Sioux City to the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains. Details also needed to be known regarding a suitable route to the Black Hills. The character of the Loup Fork and Niobrara were to also be determined. There was $25,000 allocated by the U.S. government to pay expeditionary expenses.

Essential to the details of the expedition's route are hand-drawn maps giving details of its route to Columbus City, then westward along the Loup Fork through the interior of the Sandhills, amidst the sand dunes with various sorts of lakes to eventually reach the Niobrara river. There was more travel that occurred in the autumn as the expedition made their way eastward in close distance to the river valley. The original renditions were drawn by topographic engineers that were government employees. For nearly every portion of the Niobrara traversed, there is a cartographic sketch indicating prominent land features and places where the expedition camped.

According to detailed words written on the range, a western extent of L'Eau qui court was a point of occurrence in latter August. The expedition then went westward to Laramie, also visiting Laramie Peak during the time spent in the Wyoming territory. Upon departure to return eastward in September, one party went eastward towards the Niobrara valley country while Lieut. Warren and others went into southern Dakota territory to undertake investigations.

Details in hand-written journals kept by two notable military men depict regular activities and occurrences amidst a western frontier, as made by the nearly daily entries kept by J. Hudson Snowden, as well as additional notes by Edgar Warren.

On September 22, 1857 a portion of the expedition was prominently along the L'Eau qui Court river in northern Nebraska territory.

Snowden wrote in his hand-written journal: “Tuesday Sept 22d 6 am ther[mometer] 42o – wind NW 2 clear. Started at 7 1/2 o’clock. Kept clear to the bluffs following the road there very good over high prairie mesa. Came into the river camped in good grass & a few cottonwood trees furnished fuel, opposite the point where we first struck L Eau qui court R on our way to Laramie. Saw today two buffalo bulls some distance down the river, and four Brules who came into our camp from below & who are on their way up the river say that there are a great many buffalo travelling north toward L’eau qui court R. I might mention here that from this point to as high up as the place where the Fort Pierre road crosses the river, the bluffs on either side are of soft rock more broken and denuded as you ascent, those on the south side as a general thing are close to the stream, while on the north the hills lie farther back a high mesa or table land extending to near the stream leaving narrow bottom which is the only place you find good grass, and here it is very fine and is interrupted with many rushes of which the animals are exceedingly fond. There is no river along this portion of L Eau qui court with the exception of what is in the hills about 35 miles back from the point the drift from which in the vicinity of and below the hills furnishes scanty fuel hardly sufficient for cooking purposes.”

Snowden: “Wednesday Sept 23d 5 1/2 am ther 40o. Wind SE & clear. We started at 7 1/4 o’clock. After proceeding about three miles we came to the Indian lodge trail here the Indians who are travelling and as, wanted us to cross the river. We determined to remain on this side however the bluffs on each side of the stream being very steep & broken and the bed quicksandy. In two miles further having crossed two bad ravines we got into the sand hills, the same formation as those on Loup Fork. We wound our way through these hills for nearly thirteen miles where we camp out upon a high hard mesa. We descended into the bottom of the river and camped in good grass and sufficient wood. The lodge trail recrosses the river to the side a little above our camp. Above the mouth of a small creek putting in from the South side, which has very steep & broken bluff banks. The river along our route to day varies in width from 50 to 60 yds and runs between high steep and broken hill with very little bottom, in which cottonwood ash cherry trees grow to some extent and with many grape vines hanging in rich festoons over the branches. The cherry & grape are now ripe, but the latter are very acid. Sand hill on the north side run in close to the river while on the south is one high level plain only broken by the small creek which enters above our camp.

“The Indians who are with us say they will return tomorrow morning as there is now no danger of our horses being stolen. They say we will find the road god for four or five day and there to the Missouri it is very bad. We camped at 1 1/2 o’clock. 8 pm ther 52o – no clouds – wind SW 1. Wind west all the time we were travelling and hard. Warm during the middle of the day.”

The tributary waterway coming in from the south was Deer Creek, as it is currently designated.

Snowden: “Thursday Sept 24th. Ther 44o. Wind SW 1 clear. 6 1/2 am ther 50o – wind SW 2. Having given our Indian friends provisions enough to last them home & taking leave of them, we started at 8 o’clock. Standing Elk accompanied us a few miles before he started back. He told us he knew the country through which we were travelling, belonged to the Great Father but that the game, grass, wood etc. all was the property to the Brule Indians and if we had any powder & balls to spare he would be very thankful for it.

“In about a mile after leaving camp we came into the Indian trail. One quarter or mile more we came to a small creek to the left, up the valley of which I could see for a long distance no wood infill but grass however appears very good in the valley. The divide between the L Eau qui court and the stream here is only a few hundred yards, the tributary makes a bend & runs parallel to the river for about three miles before it enters. We crossed near the mouth where there was water running through the rushes & high grass. After ascending a steep and high hill road passed over rolling hills for about 8 1/2 miles, the rest of the way over level plain. We camped on bottom of river in good grass. Sand hills were visible all day to the north of the road. The river yesterday was inclosed between high steep banks, the ravines filled some with pine not however in sufficient quantity to be of any importance. Considerable growth of ash cottonwood ash & grape vines plum & cherry bushes flourish on the bottom, these for the last few days have been betraying the presence of the approach of autumn, the foliage partaking of all the varied tints which blended together give the bottom of the river as you look down upon it from the high bluff banks a most beautiful & rich appearance. Two lodges of Brules are camped below us on the opposite side of the River. They came into our camp in the afternoon, to sell fresh meat. They killed a buffalo. They confirm the report of the others are met; that the Buffalo were travelling north. River yesterday & to day filled with sand bars shallow & here is 50 yds wide. 2 pm ther 81o NW 2. A few cum clouds in SE.

“9 pm ther 46o clear – no wind.

“Made 9 3/4 miles."

The waterway flowing in from the northwest, and which a route map indicated was designated as Omaha creek. This waterway is now known as Rush Creek on a modern era map at its place northward north of Deer Creek in Sheridan county.

Snowden: “Friday Sept 25th

"5 am ther 42o. No clouds. Wind SE 1.
"7 am ther 50 no clouds. Wind SE 1.

“Started at 7:45 am. We made a circuit of three miles to head two ravines, thence for five miles we passed over rolling hills where we crossed another ravine with ease, and followed along the river over level mesa, crossing another raving in about three miles after which we came to a small creek with clear running water, four feet wide. Very little bottom in which the grass was pretty good. The bluffs along the L’eau qui court are similar to those mentioned yesterday & wood in the valley increased in quantity as we descend. Some pine in ravines. The grass however is not so good or in as great quantity. I saw indications of Beaver on the bottom. Back from the river the bluffs are sandy. We saw today a great many antelope. Two were killed. Before reaching camp one of the soldiers having killed an antelope one of the herders went to assist him in bringing it into camp. This mule getting restless at the train leaving our presence broke away from him and went back on the road which we came, the man followed him until dark, but being unable to catch him he returned.

“2 pm, ther 87o, wind SW 5
“9 pm, ther 72o, wind SW 4 blew hard from the south west all day.

"Made 13 8/10 miles."

Snowden: “Saturday Sept 26th.

5 am ther 39o. Wind NW 4. Cum stratus & cirrus close 3.
2 pm ther 71o cum st & cir 3 wind NE 1.
9 pm ther 43o cum str in NW & N 2. No wind.

“We remained in camp to let the man go back and hunt his mule. He found it at the Indian camp about 12 miles above where he was tied. He got everything except a Colts pistol which the Indians said was not in the holster when they found the mule. I took advantage of our delay here to examine the little creek on which we are camped. Dr. Moffett & myself rode up it about eight miles. The running water gives out in four miles. After which we found it in holes. The wood extends about three miles only a few large trees. The lower part the stream runs between high cut banks, but above a wide valley spreads out. The slopes of the hills are gradual, and the grass in the valley is very good. On the east side of the creek several cone shaped hills rise out of the high plains. Some also in the shape of pyramids, capped with white rock. The valley of the creek was filled with bands of antelope and the water holes covered with flocks of small teal ducks. From the hills the country on the south side of L’eau qui court appears level & free from sand.”

In recognition to the herds comprised of many of these animals, this place was designated as Antelope creek, a name which it continues to retain. The government map also included the name "Stinking Hand C." along with another notation that could not be deciphered.

Snowden: “Sunday 27th 1857.

"5 am ther 43 1/2o. Wind SW 1 cum stratus from N by E SE 4.
"7 am ther 45 1/2 wind and clouds same.
"9 pm ther 48o no wind. Cum str & cirrus all over the heavens. Wind all first part day from the west changed to NE in the evening.

"Started at 8 o’clock for four miles the road was very good when we came to a small creek four feet wide, 18” deep clear running water the approach to which was very steep. After crossing this the trail passed under the bluffs along the river for two miles. Crossing on this space very steep and deep ravines, and there passes up very steep hill to regain the ‘mesa.’ I could see no way to avoid this place by going around. The last seven miles the road was good somewhat sandy, hills on our left being of that formation all the latter part of the days journey. We camped at 2 1/2 pm on the bank of the river some 200 feet above the water in poor grass & little wood on the banks of the stream. River to day runs between high walls of soft rock in all most. Canons narrows very much, is very crooked, and the current is very swift. One of the men tells me he travelled from the mouth of the Snake River to point near where we camped last night on south side of river. He was with some of the American Fur Co’s. traders, and they travelled with carts. He says the road on that side of the river is very good and it appears so from this, and yet the main lodge trail is on this. It would be impossible to cross the river however with wagons.

“Large flocks of cranes passed over our camp this evening travelling south. Made 12 1/2 miles."

Another stream entering flowing from the north discovered soon after leaving camp in the morning, seems to be Hay Creek of modern denotion.

Snowden: Sept 28th Monday. 5 am. ther 42o, wind NE, cum str clds 9 light around the horizon. Started at 7 1/2 o’clock. After travelling about one & half mile the river which make a bend to the north cuts into the sand hills on this and forced us into this hills through which we had a very tortuous and fatiguing march and was bad if not worse than any of our sand hill experience.

“Camped at 2 1/4 o’clock on slope of a sand hill near the river in poor long course grass peculiar to sandy regions affording very little nutriment to animals. Wood plenty in bottom but hard to procure being unable to get down into the bottom with the wagons.

“River in vicinity of camp not quite so tortuous and the channel is wider and is about 2 1/2 to 3 ft deep and filled with sand bars. All day the bluffs run in close and from the bed of the stream for 100 feet are composed of soft white chalk rock, and on this side sand overlying this to the depth of 75 to 100 feet near the river. The pine in & the ravines increases in quantity. Wood on bottom as usual. No game was seen on our route to day. 9 pm ther 46, wind NW 1, cum str clds SE 1. Cum str cir scattered over heaven all day wind SW 1. Wind changed a good deal during the evening.

Snowden: “Tuesday Sept 29th.

"5 am ther 33o, wind NE 2. Cir stratus clouds in the south & SW 1.
"2 pm ther 68o, wind SE 3. Cir str, cumulus & cir cum scattered over the heavens. Cum in South. Wind was east about 12 o’clock.
"9 pm ther 55. No clouds. Wind SE 1.

“Remained in camp all day and sent two men ahead to roam the river to look for a camping place. They returned in the evening and reported having found a very good place about 3 & half miles below where a creek comes in from this side. They killed a buffalo bull some of meat of which they tonight.”

Snowden: “Wednesday Sept 30th Ther 5 am 41o, wind SW 4, no clouds. Started at 8 o’clock and travelled through sand hills for 3 miles when we came to a small creek which I think is Maca sca Wakpa, or White Earth Cr. it answering to the description the Indians gave of a creek of that name following road thus far for two miles. We camped on the L Eau qui court about half a mile above the mouth of the creek in a little bottom shut in by hills with good grass and plenty of wood for fuel. Road to day was sandy and heavy.

“9 pm ther 60o. Wind N 1. Cum str 10 passing to south. Wind N & NW all day at times quite hard. Made to day 5 1/3 miles."

The military map of the era labels the waterway as “Clay Creek.” Two weeks – from September 30th to October 13th - were spent at this camp at this tributary where it met with the running water river. In modern parlance it is designated as Leander creek, apparently named after a homesteader of later years, according to place name history.

Snowden: “Thursday Oct 1st

"7 am ther 58o. Wind NW 1. Cirrus clds 1
“2 pm ther 73o. Wind NW 1. No clouds.
“9 pm ther 41o no wind, few cir str clds in S.

“This being about the point where Lieut. Warren said he would join us we determined to remain here as least as long as the grass hold out. I went down to the small creek (Maca seu W) which is about 6 or 7 feet wide with clear running water 18 in to 2 feet deep. Hills close up to the stream on both sides. Ravines filled with small pine, in the bottom along the banks are trees similar to those that fringe the L’eau qui court, also an immense quantities of plum bushes with fruit now ripe and grapes in profusion. Many signs of elk in the vicinity and several were seen.”

Snowden: “Friday Oct 2d 1857.

"6 am ther 39o. Wind NW 1. Cum str & cir str 9
“8 am ther 59o. Wind SSW 3. Cum str & cir str 9
"2 pm ther 66o. Wind SW 4. Cum str 10
"9 pm ther 56o. Wind N1. Nimbus clds & raining commenced at dark.

"Found this morning two mules gone. Several men were sent in search of them but had not succeeded in finding them. They were most probably taken by the Indians as they were picketed near the mouth of a ravine and further out than the rest.”

Snowden: “Saturday Oct 3d

“8 am ther 67o. No wind. Raining slightly. Numbus clouds W. Rained all night, at times quite hard.
“2 pm ther 53o. Nimbus clouds W raining. Wind NE 1
“9 pm ther 49o. Wind NE 7. Nimbus clds 10. Misting rain.

“Rained slightly all the evening with wind in same direction.

“Rain prevented any search being made after the missing mules. There is some red cedar on the hill near our camp, but only a few trees. Some huge cottonwoods grow along the banks of the river and a few pine in the ravines. The river here is about fifty yards wide with swift current and hills run in close as above leaving here & there a small valley similar to the one in which we are camped.”

Snowden” Sunday Oct 4th

"9 am ther 53o. Nimbus clds 10. Misty rain falling. Wind NE 1. Rained at times slightly during the night.
“2 pm ther 57o. Wind NE 2. Cum str clds 10. No rain. Wind N at times during the morning.
"9 pm ther 56o. Nimbus clds 10. Drizzling rain. Wind NE 1.

"The sergeant of the escort with one man went in search of the missing mules. They went back on the trail some distance but their search was fruitless.”

Snowden: “Monday Oct 5th

"7 am ther 52o. Nimbus clouds 10; misty rain falling. Wind NE 1.
"3 pm ther 57o. Cum str clds 10 no wind.
"9 pm ther 54. Cum str clds 10. Wind S 1 changes about 7 1/2 pm.

“Since we arrived at this camp the men have been luxuriating in plums & grapes the camp being full of the fruit all the time and it has had a very beneficial effect on checking the scurvy which began to show itself amongst the soldiers. I might mention here that the situation of our camp is such, being hemmed in by hills on all sides, that the wind is not felt unless it blows very hard and it might blow a hurricane over the hill & still be comparatively calm here consequently the direction & force of the wind, given at the head of each day does not give the actual force and probably true direction of many of the camp.”

Snowden: “Tuesday Oct 6th

7 am. ther 53o. Wind S 3. Cum Str 10.
9 pm ther 58o. Cum str clds & Cum 9 passing very rapidly to the north. The moon & stars shining brightly during the intervals of the clouds. Wind S 5. Same direction all day.

“I started this morning in company with Dr. Moffett and crossed the river and travelled south thinking I might find Snake river. Shortly after leaving the river we entered into sand hills of the most dismal character increasing in size and barrenness as we advanced & after travelling eight miles I could see from a high ridge 6 or 7 miles beyond, nothing however but sand presented itself to view. I saw several bands of antelope & one buffalo bull who was making the best of his way to the south frightened at our approach.

“On returning we struck the river some six or seven miles below our camp. It is here spread out about 200 miles wide quicksandy sinking if you stop a moment in one place. Along the river is a thick growth of underbrush peculiar to wet bottoms, and a few large scattering cottonwood trees. We crossed and followed up the bottom valley which is narrow & low filled with springs and in many places boggy, a species of came some fifteen feet high and very thick grow in places. White & red willow grow in great profusion in the wet places while the rose & plum & cherry bushes chose higher ground. While riding up the valley horses sank in one of these bogs and it was with difficulty we extricated them.

“Grass along the river is nearly all dead as are the rushes. There is considerable quantity of long coarse grass but the animals do not touch it. Saw a small band of buffalo north of the river on the plain.”

Modern era topography shows that the river valley eastward of the camp widens to the extent that lowland bottoms are present adjacent to the river channel, and which is a different aspect to the more constricted valley to the west and also eastward. This section of the river would be southwest of the modern geographic place, the Connely Flat.

Snowden: “Wednesday Oct 7th

"8 am ther 60o. Cum stratus and cum clouds 10. Wind South 6 blew hard all night.
“2 pm ther 69o. Cum & Cir clds 7 passing to N. Wind S 5.
“9 pm ther 54o. Wind NW 1. No clouds. Wind from S ceased about sunset.”

Snowden: “Thursday Oct 8th

"8 am ther 58o. Cum str clds 10. Dropping rain. Wind S 3.
"2 pm ther 62o. Cum str clds 10 wind S 1.
"9 pm ther 59o. Wind N 1. Cum st clouds 10. Storm from S & SE came up with thunder & lightning about 5 pm and another from NW; rained for a few minutes. Wind changed at same time to north.”

Snowden: “Friday Oct 9th

"8 am 56o, wind NW 1. Cum str clds 8. A few cir stratus in NE & E.
"2 pm ther 55o. Nimbus clouds 1. Raining quite hard. Wind NE 2.
“9 pm ther 48o. Nimbus clouds 10. Raining hard. Wind North 5. Commenced raining with thunder & lightning about 5 1/2 pm and continued without interval. Forked lightning principally in NW.”

Snowden: “Saturday Oct 10th

"7 am. ther 48o. Nimbus clouds 10. Raining hard with wind NW; as it did all night with exception of small intervals.
“2 pm. ther 45o. Nimbus clouds 10. Raining at intervals wind NW 5. 9 pm there 44. Cum str clds 10. Wind north 2. Rain ceased at sunset.
“12 pm ther 64o, cum str & cum 7. Wind sw 1. 2 pm. Ther 62o cum & cum str 9. Wind Sw 5.
"9 pm ther 46o nimbus clouds 10. Few drops of rain now & then. Wind north 4. It changed about 3 or 4 o clock.

“About 2 pm twenty-two Brule Indians crossed the river and charged into the camp and their bows strung & arrows in their hands. They said they left Snake River this morning, where they left their village & chief “White Black Bird” who was on his death bed, and who sent his paper, given by Gen. Harney by one of these present, who was leading the party. They said one of their young men who was out hunting had seen us on our road and supposing we were French traders they were going to take all our property away from us. They were very indignant at our going through their country and wanted us to pay for the privilege of passing. They said we were eating all their plums & wild fruit and burning there wood. That our horses were eating & destroying all the grass along the river. That we were killing & scaring away all the game. That they met the buffalo & antelope flying from our approach 100 miles before they reached us. That Gen. Harney had assured them that no white men would come into their country without a license from him, and had told them to stop & rob any one who came into their domain with such a passport. We had some difficulty to make them leave camp at dark, and we had to threaten to fire on them before they would leave; they camped near us.”

Snowden: “Monday Oct 12th

7 am ther 42o. Wind NW 2. Cir stratus clouds 3 in E & SE. Cirrus elsewhere. Rained hard about 11 or 12 o'clock and after at intervals.
“2 pm ther 54o. Wind SW 1. Cum & cir cum clouds in S & SW 1.
"9 pm ther 35 no clouds or wind.

“The Indians left early this morning all of them separating going in different directions saying that they were going to join Little Thunder when their village moves over from Snake river. Having exhausted nearly all the grass in the vicinity of our camp we determined to move further down the river and in the evening Lt. McMillan took some of the men with picks & spades to make a crossing to White Earth Cr. and improve the hill on opposite side to this latter however very little could be done.”

Snowden: “Thursday Oct 13th

6 1/4 am ther 34o. Wind S 2. No clouds. Heavy frost in the ground.
7 am ther 40o wind & clouds same as last.

“We struck our tents and were on the road by 7 1/2 am. We crossed White Earth Creek without any difficulty at the hill on the opposite side we had considerable trouble having to double the teams and partially unload some of the wagons & considered ourselves fortunate that we did not have to unload all and carry up the contents. Having reached the top of this hill, we passed through sand hills for half a mile, when we came upon one of those level plains, which always indicated the approach to a tributary to L’eau qui court. These plains lying between the forks appear to have had all the drift sand removed by some cause leaving the surface perfectly flat over which the travelling is very good. While on other side of the branch and opposite side of L’eau qui court the sand hills come in close to the streams. On arriving within 1 1/2 miles of confluence of the stream, and finding no place to camp (the hills closing in here having no valley whatever) we retraced our steps some distance and camped on L’eau qui court on a bottom about two miles long and varying from 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile wide. The grass here is only tolerable, but wood in abundance for fuel. The river is comparatively straight for some distance, about 100 yds wide filled with sand bars & shallow below our camp it narrows very much to not more than 15 to twenty yds wide is very crooked & rushes along between high walls of soft rock. After receiving the waters of the creek which I think is Little Rapid R. It turns to south east & pursues a course as far as I could see. All the ravines in the vicinity contain cedar & little pine and nearly all of them fine springs of clear cold water sending out in places good size brooks to swell the waters of L’eau qui court. 9 pm ther 45. No clouds or wind. Clear all day and quite warm during the middle part. Light wind from SW. (22 miles from last camp.)”

Edgar Warren: “To day we travelled about 26 miles our road for the first part was much the same as yesterday but after travelling a short distance it became quite level I saw quite a good many antelopes to day. After travelling over this level prairie we finally came to some small hills these we passed over and then our road became somewhat level again we then came down into the valley of the L Eau qui court our road was very level. We soon came upon the trail which our wagon’s had made. We followed this and finally came to camp upon the L Eau qui court. The grass here is very good and there is some wood here.”

Snowden: “Wednesday Oct 14th.

8 am ther 54. No clouds or wind.
2 pm ther 45o nimbus clds 10. Raining. Wind north 3. Commenced clouding up about 9 o’clock, at same time wind arose from N. Commenced raining about 7 o’clock.
“9 pm ther 38o. Cum str clds 10. No wind. Commenced hailing about 6 o’clock pm which changed into rain and stopped in about an hour.”

E. Warren: “October 14th. To day we travelled about 25 miles our road was not very good. We travelled most of the time on the wagon trail. There was but a little timber on the L Eau qui court. We are camped upon the L Eau qui court. The grass here is quite good but somewhat dry and there is a little timber here.”

Snowden: “Thursday Oct 15 6 1/2 am ther 32o. Wind NW 3. No clouds. Hailed & rained about 12 or 1 o clock in the night & wind blew very hard from NE.

“About 10 o’clock this morning we were surprised by hearing a shot & whoop on the hills, shortly after which men of the Black Hill party accompanied by an Indian rode into the camp. He said Mr. Warren & party were close behind and in a few minutes they came defiling down the hill, their long string of pack mules and the motley groups of men presenting quite a fantastical appearance. After the shaking of hands & congratulations were over, the rest of the day was spent in relating the different incidents & adventures which had happened to each since our separation at Laramie.”

E. Warren: October 15th. To day we travelled about 12 miles our road for the first few miles was quite bad but after this is was over a high level prairie. We travelled mostly upon the trail made by the wagon’s once we went into a ravine and then crossed a river supposed to be little rapid river. To day we came up to were [=where] the rest of our party was upon the L Eau qui court and camped there.
“The grass here is quite good and there is some timber around here.”

E. Warren: “October the 16th. To day we remain here still.”

Snowden: Oct 16th 17th 18th. We remained in camp making preparations to start, reorganizing the party, etc. dividing provisions, also discharging some of the men who wished to return to Laramie only having been hired for the Black Hill trip. 16th we remained in camp all day.

“It clouded up & commenced raining in the evening and in the morning of the 17th we found it snowing hard & kept it up all day, although it melted as fast as it fell ... on morning of the 18th found about four inches of snow which had fallen during the night, and weather was cold. I did not take any more observations on the weather after the Black Hill party joined us, because Mr. Carrington is taking full meteorological notes.”

E. Warren: “October 17. To day we remain here still it snowed all day to day.”

E. Warren: “Sunday October 18th. To day we remain here still.”

Snowden: “Monday Oct 19th 1857 Started this morning at 9 1/4 am after taking leave of [word n.l.] etc who returned to Laramie and ground was had frozen. Ther being 22o at 7 am. We reached Little Rapid River in one & half miles. The descent to the stream was very steep but we reached the bottom & crossed without much difficulty. The creek is 3 yards wide two feet deep crooked & contained within high steep hills. Pine & cedar in the bluffs while a few elm cottonwood & cherry bushes fringe the banks. The water has a reddish tinge similar to rain water or as if impregnated rust oxide of iron. After leaving this road was tolerably good following valleys between sand hills which were [word n.l.] more thickly with grass and not cut much by winds.

“We were not in sight of the river all day until we camped on bluff bank between two ravines filled with pine. River here flows between high steep banks and is about 40 yds wide. The snow all disappears to day except on shady side of the hills. Made 16 1/2 miles.”

E. Warren: “October 19th. To day we travelled 16 1/2 miles when we first started we left the valley of the L Eau qui court and came upon a high level prairie after travelling over this for a little while we came to a ravine after working the road here some we crossed over this ravine. There was a river a running through the bottom of it. Our road after crossing this ravine was not very good except in a few places. When our road was in a small valley our on ridges when it would be quite level for a short distance we are camped upon the brow of the L Eau qui court’s bluffs. The grass in the bottom land is quite good. There is some timber along on the bluffs and some cotton wood along the river.”

The map issued by the government labeled the tributary coming in from the northwest was labelled as "Reunion C." in obvious reference to the two groups of the expedition becoming a singular force a bit of a distance westward of a waterway confluence and what is now known as Connely Flat of the modern era. This locality was obviously in the vicinity - based upon geography and topography - of what became known as Bear creek, the name recognizing a place where Sioux hunters had killed bears, and along a stream within a canyon northward of the running water river. These was probably a plains grizzly bear that found the valley to be haven of some sort. Bear in the Lakota language is “mato” as a noun, or matohota in reference to the grizzly bear, with particular inflections according to the Lakota dictionary done by general editor “Joseph S. Karol.” The name first appeared in association with a survey done by the General Land Office.

In subsequent days the party would traverse the north side of the L'Eau qui court river, northward of a land feature that would eventually be named Medicine creek. The name of this waterway is derived from Indian language that refers to the medicinal plants present along the creek banks, and which were apparently collected for tribal use. The tribal name was Maca seu w. The w refers to wakpa, or river in tribal language. The expedition route upon departure would go northward to a route that provided level ground which the mules and wagons could more easily traverse.

Snowden: “Tuesday Oct 20th. We started at 9 am and had to make a considerable detour to head some ravines which ran out a long distance into the prairie. Passing over low rolling ground we came into the river in the afternoon down a divide between two ravines, & filled with pine for two miles. Some grass in beds of the ravines & also fine springs. Soil along our route today seems better having thicker darker mould, and sustaining a better growth of grass. Sand hills far to north show their white summits. Our camp is about 100 ft above the level of the river. Timber in the distance on south side gives the appearance of a tributary, probably Snake R. We were not in sight of the stream during the day. Pine is increasing in quantity & size as we descend but wood in the bottom diminishes here in quantity. Made today 18 miles.”

E. Warren: “October 20th. To day we travelled 17 8/10 miles Our road was quite good except in some places where it was over some small hills our road was made some longer by our having to go around large gulleys all along on the brow of the L Eau qui court. Bluffs there was some pine timber. We are camped upon the brow of the L Eau qui court's bluffs. The grass in the bottom land is quite good and there is a little timber along the river.”

This was in the vicinity of the current McCann canyon with its distinctive creek flowing southerly on the north side of the L Eau qui court. Note that the expedition had to revert northerly several miles to the upland in order to avoid the ravines that would have nearly impossible to traverse with loaded wagons.

Snowden: “Wednesday Oct 21st Rained during the entire day. At same time turns quite warm and SE wind blowing. On account of the rain we remained in camp. One of the soldiers who went hunting yesterday and got lost came into camp 2 o’clock pm.”

E. Warren: “October 21st. To day we remain here still one of the soldier’s did not get quite into camp last night but came in to day. It rained some last night and some to day.”

Snowden: “Thursday Oct 22d Cloudy this morning with appearance of rain & quite chilly. Starting at 9 1/2 am we travelled over good hard ground for about eight miles in NNE direction to avoid crossing ravines, when we came into small heavy sand hills, we passed through these in SE direction and did not emerge from them until we found ourselves close upon the river. Here we camped on small bottom hemmed in by hills in pretty good grass and a few large ash trees growing near the bluffs furnished fuel. The river here spreads out and contains many little low grassy islands. The pine is not very abundant in this vicinity and not as large as that left behind. Mr Engel made the survey of the river today. He found it very crooked, in many places filled with numerous grassy island with very rapid current. Hills on each side steep & broken and he found it difficult to follow the bottom with his horse. Snake river adds its water to L’eau qui court 8 miles back. This stream is 30 yds wide at its mouth with high steep bluffs on either side & is well timbered with pines. Our days travel was 18 1/3 miles.”

E. Warren: October 22nd. To day we travelled 18 3 /4 miles. Our road was quite good in some places where it was quite level and in some other places it was quite rough being over sand hills along on the brow of the banks of L Eau qui court there was some pine timber. We are camped in the valley of the L Eau qui court the grass here is very good and there is some timber close to camp and there was some timber along the river.”

The night's camp would was on the north side of the Niobrarah river across from the confluence of the waterway that would, later in history, become known as Gordon creek.

Snowden: “Friday Oct 23d. Dr. Hayden came into camp this morning. He & one of the men got lost yesterday. They got separated in the night and the man is still missing. We started at 9 am and travelled through sand-hills in northerly direction for six miles when we came to a creek in a valley about 1/3 to 1/2 mile wide inclosed between soft rocky bluffs. The creek is about twenty feet wide & half feet deep. Rapid current & very crooked. A tree here & there along the banks. Crossing and ascending the bluffs on north side we came upon a high level plain. The monotony of which was only broken by a small rocky hill occasionally rising out of it and by ravines running to SE. Pursuing this in northerly direction for 7 miles further we turned to SE and in 6 miles came to L Eau qui court, which here cuts its way through perpendicular walls of soft rock about 200 feet high. The river to day for the first few miles is filled with large islands their running in a very narrow channel inclosed between steep & broken hills. Pine in considerable quantities on south side, but none on north before reaching the mouth of the small river which is 1 1/2 miles back from our camp.

“The man who was lost with Dr. Hayden arrived in camp shortly after we camped. We made to day 19 1/2 miles.”

E. Warren: “October 23d. To day we travelled 19 65/100 miles. Our road was quite bad until we cross a creek it being mostly over sand hills after we crossed this creek. Our road was very good being over a high level prairie. I saw some few buffalo bulls to day. Two of our party did not get in to camp last night. One of them came in quite early this morning and the other one came in shortly after we had camped. There was some pine timber upon the brow of the bluff of the L Eau qui court. We are camped upon the brow of the bluffs of this river. The grass down by the river was quite good and there is considerable timber here and there is some timber along the river.”

They had reached and crossed the waterway known as the “Mini-Chadusa W or Rapid Creek” on October 23rd, according to the military map of the area. Mini-chadusa has an indicated English rendition of rapid creek or little rapid river. The current, modern name of Minnechaduza Creek is an alteration with a different spelling and as no longer hyphenated. The night's camp would have been eastward of the confluence in the vicinity of the what is now known as Big Beaver creek, with its lower extent within the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. A second spring just to its east was also indicated.

Snowden: Saturday Oct 24th. Started at 7:45 a.m. Travelled back on our trail two & half miles and in 1/2 mile more we crossed a ravine where we found water hole and pretty good grass. If we had discovered this level last evening and camped here we would have saved 2 1/2 yesterday and as much today. After this our course was a little south of east all day, over fine country for travelling. Dark soil, and grass more abundant than usual. Ravines along to the south of us running into the winter filled with pine and are very steep & broken. [word n.l.] through the ravine in every direction. Our route was very straight, and we camped on head of ravine finding there good grass in the bottom. Wood & water in springs. We passed 7 lodges of Yankton Sioux 7 miles back. Made today 24 1/2 miles.”

E. Warren: “October 24th. To day we travelled 24 4/10 miles our road was quite rough in some places it being over rolling hills and in small valleys. We crossed one creek to day. There was some timber along on the bluffs of the L Eau qui court. We are camped upon a bluff and there is a ravine by the side of it which has water in it. The grass here is quite good and there is some timber here.”

The camp for a couple of days was along the valley in a place southerly which is now southerly of Norden, Keya Paha county, Nebraska.

Snowden: Sunday Oct 25th Lay in camp to rest the animals and await the arrival of Mr. Engel & Dr. Hayden who followed the river yesterday and did not get in last night. They came in about 9 o’clock. These ravines near our camp are filled with scrub oak, ash, a few elm, plum & cherry bushes in the beds, while their sides are covered with pine. Near the mouth you find some black walnut. Our camp is about three miles distant from the river.”

E. Warren: “Sunday October 25th. To day we remain here still.”

Snowden: “Monday Oct 26th Started at 9 o’clock and travelled over rolling prairie and occasionally crossing depressions at heads of ravines and a small brook with running water 2 1/2 to 3 ft wide and 18 in deep (this was 11 1/2 miles from camp). In 15 miles we came upon a high table land perfectly level upon which we travelled for 6 1/2 miles when we turned to south toward the river, following a ridge with ravine on either side and camped on hill above one of these ravines about two miles from the river. The ravines along to the south of our route are similar to those mentioned in last days travel being broken & filled with pine. Grass was poor and the hill were covered gravel & course sand.”

E. Warren: “October 26th. To day we travelled 22 1 /2 miles. Our road was not very good. Part of the time it being over small rolling hills and in small valleys and part of the time it was very good it being over a high level prairie. There was some timber along on the bluffs of the L Eau qui court. We are camped upon the brow of the bluffs of the L Eau qui court. The grass here is quite good and there is some timber here and there is some timber along the river.”

The location indicated by the military map – later issued – was on the east side of the ravine which is now known currently as Jewett Creek, which is southwest of Springview, Keya Paha county.

Snowden: “Tuesday Oct 27 Started at 8 am. After travelling back on our tracks for one & half miles to head a ravine, we travelled east, gradually turning to NE across a high level plain, with short grass. In 8 or 9 miles we found depressions in heads of ravines leading north, probably into Turtle Hill R. and the divide between these and the ones leading into L Eau qui court is very narrow. Only a few hundred yards in places. Going east for a few miles the divide widens and we struck across a broad plain, relieved by little mounds (about 10 to 15 ft. high & rough in diameter at the base) rising out of it here & there. For 7 or 8 miles when we camped on the head of a ravine, which empties into L Eau qui court, in poor grass. The country being sandy in the vicinity, but plenty of wood (pine oak etc.) in ravine, also good water. Camped at 3 1/2 o’clock.

“Made today 20 6/10 miles.”

E. Warren: “October 27th. To day we travelled 20 6/10 miles. Our road was very good most of the time it being over a high level prairie except in some places where we crossed over small rolling hills and were [=where] we travelled in little valleys. We are camped by one of the ravines of the L Eau qui court. The grass here is quite good and there is some timber a short distance from camp and there is some timber along on the bluffs of the L Eau qui court to day.”

Snowden: “Wednesday Oct 28th Starting this morning at 8 o’c we travelled through sand-hills for seventeen miles in NE direction. After this over high level plain for 6 or 7 miles when” ... and his journal continued though not being conveyed here.

E. Warren: “October 28th. To day travelled 23 1/2 miles. Our road some of the time was over small rolling hills and in small valleys and part of the time over a high level prairie. We are camped at the mouth of Turtle Hill River. The grass here is very good and there is some timber here.”

Two other prominent waterways shown on along the eastward route were Long Pine Creek on October 25th, and which had been visited two years previously by Lieut. Warren. The military map may have indicated the waterway as “Long Pine Creek” but however the depiction of the waterway features conforms more appropriately to Plum Creek with its southwesterly channel. A number of miles easterly, another waterway is shown on the military map as another primary waterway. The land features as shown historically match closely the alignment of Long Pine Creek and Bone Creek, especially in regards to distance and placement and was an attribution – due to the presence of the wild plum – as designated in 1874 by a survey team associated with the governmental General Land Office.

The Long Pine Creek of the 1850s became Plum creek on the current era. Another creek in a relatively close proximity would get the attribution of Long Pine Creek by men of doing land office surveys. By 1879 this name was indicated on an official map issued by the state of Nebraska.

There was the Keya Paha river which was crossed on the 28th of the month by the Warren Expedition. Keya Paha was indicated on the map as Turtle Hill river. A Lakota language dictionary also refers to Keya as turtle, with Paha meaning butte.

This name remains to be the modern attribution, though translated.

The expedition then continued easterly across Ponca lands – including a traverse of Ponca creek – northward of the lower L Eau qui court. The expedition eventually reached their destination, prominent Fort Randall on the Missouri river.