Birders watchers associated with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies recently did surveys in the central and western Sandhills.
At the end of May, there was a survey done at the Apache ranch south of Hyannis, with another done the previous day at the French Ranch south of Mullen.
“We appreciate that land-owners provide access,” Michael Nicosia, a seasonal employee of the Colorado-based conservancy.
The localities visited are based upon a random selection that conforms to scientific rigors, with the hope that owners of the land will allow access.
During dawn and the first hours of the morning on the 31st, Nicosia was at work recording wild birds present at a selected grid on the south Hyannis ranch, which included prairie habitat adjacent to a wetland.
Following particular protocols, it took a few hours to denote essential details for about 160 acres with sixteen distinct grid points, as designated by Global Positioning Satellite spots that were randomly selected. These surveys require that birds noted at a specific grid point be denoted by particular details along with a requirement to indicate vegetative characteristics.
There were 53 species observed, Nicosia indicated during our conversation at the Valentine Public library.
Pervasive on the sandhills prairie were Grasshopper Sparrow. Other avifauna present in the vicinity were Long-billed Curlew, a Willet, Forster’s Tern, subtly present American Bittern, and Bobolinks in the meadow. Nicosia was effusive in mentioning that there were “tons” of small Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird appreciating marshland habitat.
There was a pair of Trumpeter Swan with six cygnets, though their occurrence was not amidst the survey grid, but was an ancillary observation. Other smaller-sized waterfowl also present included Blue-winged Teal and Canvasback.
At the Apache Ranch there is a setting something like a “like a mini-Valentine National Wildlife Refuge,” Nicosia said during a conversation at the Valentine library. In explaining the significance of the species variety, he said that a “high species richness indicates diversity representative of an ecologically healthy habitat.”
There is a great variety of land in the sandhills which are valuable to local flora and fauna.
Based upon more than one conversation, visitors from other states certainly enjoy birding in the sand hills because of their assignments. Other ranches may be visited.
Surveys by the BCR have and will occur elsewhere in Nebraska. Places that employees have already visited include McKelvie National Forest, Bessey National Forest. There are visits pending for the valley of the Niobrara National Scenic River and then multiple surveys along the multi-state Missouri River.
During their travels, the three men met have been reliant on local campgrounds, are known to linger at the Valentine Public Library to get work done, and have spent time looking at birds at local habitats during days when they did not have to work.
An additional survey was done June 5th at the Double RR Guest Ranch north of Mullen and 56 species were recorded by another surveyor.