08 January 2018

December Birds in the Valentine Vicinity - 2017

Bird observations continued to be kept in the immediate vicinity of Valentine during December, 2017. There were fewer dates this year when observations were recorded but the overall tally does not appear to be significantly different from noted sightings during this month in two previous years.

Birds about Valentine during December 2017
Proper Name 342 348 360 362
Canada Goose 60 - - - - - -
Mallard - - 3 - - - -
Wild Turkey - - 7 - - - -
Sharp-shinned Hawk - - 1 - - - -
Bald Eagle 1 1 1 - -
Rock Dove 30 - - - - 16
Eurasian Collared Dove 26 22 - - - -
Great Horned Owl 2 - - 1 - -
Belted Kingfisher - - 1 - - - -
Downy Woodpecker 1 1 2 - -
Hairy Woodpecker - - - - 1 2
Northern Flicker - - - - - - 1
Blue Jay - - 1 - - - -
American Crow - - 1 2 - -
Cedar Waxwing - - 6 - - - -
Black-capped Chickadee 2 3 7 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 3 - - 2 - -
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 1 2 - -
Eastern Bluebird - - 5 - - 4
Townsend's Solitaire - - - - - - 1
American Robin - - 50 2 - -
House Sparrow 70 - - 55 - -
House Finch - - 8 2 4
American Goldfinch - - - - 3 3
Dark-eyed Junco 8 6 24 18
American Tree Sparrow - - - - 6 - -
Northern Cardinal - - 2 - - - -

There seems to be no readily notable differences as far as occurrence or numbers present. There are the usual resident birds. It was a month of anecdotes. Perhaps hearing and seeing the Red-breasted Nuthatch once and again was appreciated, because if it wasn't heard it was always nice to hear sounds of the residential White-breasted Nuthatch.

More Dark-eyed Junco were denoted once bird seed was provided for them on Christmas eve. Their activity was readily seen outside my front door as they scurried about. More than one variation occurred subsequently, including at least the Oregon and slate-colored. More attention needs to be given to the particulars and could be an interesting pasttime when hungry deer and rabbits are being kept from the "food buffett." Juncos are disruptive foragers, as when one arrives it may chase away another already present. Sometimes there are "flight battles" as two birds alight in an obvious confrontation as to which of them will get their preferred foraging spot. It seems nonsensical as the juncos often arrive in a significant group for an interlude, and then they all depart. There are significant expanses of time when there are no birds present at the readily available edible seed. At least a Tree Sparrow found the seed and was seen actively eating on more than one occasion.

More than one bird feeder in the vicinity attracted various species, and their occurrence was a reason for some regular sightings of species that enjoyed the winter-time food source. One particularly known spot along Lake Shore Drive is a known magnet for squirrels, but it also provides for the nuthatches and chickadees. Juncos feed on the spill.

Rock Dove and Eurasian Collared Dove were prevalent within the city, and counts depended on traversing a walking route that went past where the were congregated, which was primarily near the livestock market. On the 28th, there were a bunch of juncos, and at the same time an Eastern Bluebird visited along with four House Finch and three American Goldfinch. It was an appreciated phantasmagoria of winter wildbirds.

As for the House Sparrow, they gather in a bit of shrubbery shelter at the southeast corner of the Mill Pond. Numbers vary on weather conditions, but during the winter, they are usually present to an extent of another.

Wild Turkey are more prevalent than indicated by a single occurrence at the Valentine City Park, but they are gathered in one flock or another someplace were a bird outing did not occur.

The resident Downy Woodpeckers continued to ignore the readily available suet. They made a early foray or two and knew that the food source was available, but did not return. A Northern Flicker arrived once or twice, but it also was no repeat visitor.

Canada Goose numbers took an indicative decline as waters at the Mill Pond froze. There was no open water which they appreciated. These watefowl were still in the vicinity, but were in flight so could not be associated with any particular geographic locality. They were probably roosting on the Niobrara River?

As the month ended, temperatures were frigid, and on a day or two the high temperature for more than one day was below zero ... conditions which were not conducive to riding a bicycle to some prime bird-watching place and to undertake an outdoor hike. Some wind chill temps were completely brutal and inhibited any attempt to even look upwards towards the treetops, as the face space had to be confined within the cover of an essential neck-scarf. A bit of snow cover was ongoing.

This is the third annual report for the month of December at Valentine. The number of species noted has varied, just as the occurence of any species can be different. The overall tally for the last three years is:

* 2017: 27 species based upon four dates of recorded observations
* 2016: 32 species based upon 11 dates of recorded observations
* 2015: 28 species based upon 11 dates of recorded observations

Overall for the three years, the tally is 36 species, indicating the value of keeping records that represent more than a couple of years. The only species added in 2017 was a Townsend's Solitaire in a tree-top at the east end of the Valentine Mill Pond.

A sumary of known records convey an occurrence of 144 species in the immediate vicinity of the Heart City, as derived from record keeping which started in August, 2015. Each of the sightings kept indicate the month and year when observed, and for most of them the number seen is known.

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