During the weekend of February 16-18 the Great Backyard Bird Count event occurred throughout across the nation. Birders at a myriad of places kept track of local wildbirds during this annual effort for bird enthusiasts, with results reported online.
At Valentine, several surveys occurred on Saturday and Sunday. There were some notable results associated with the 34 bird species recorded at seven different localities.
Hundreds of Canada Goose were observed from a vantage point on Bryan Bridge. Also notable here were two groups of Trumpeter Swan, totaling seven overall. There were 15 species seen during a brief visit.
The next place visited by driver Gordon Warrick and myself was the Vanderploeg Ranch. While visiting with Marvin Vanderploeg, and upon looking at the feeder out the south windows a couple of birds were especially notable. They were Common Redpoll amidst a fine bunch of American Goldfinch eating the provided seed. This sighting was especially unique in a historic context. The most recent known record for the county was in 2012 along the Niobrara river south of Eli. The previous known record for the Valentine area was in 1915 at the Niobrara Game Preserve. Records for sightings through the decades have occurred many years past at Valentine NWR and Smith Lake WMA. Personally, my last sighting was in late-December 1991 at Peterson Lake, in Rock County. Only a quick glimpse indicated the occurrence of a Townsend’s Solitaire in the woods along the Niobrara. Also prominent were a pair of Bald Eagle, active in their annual breeding cycle near a nest they have used for years.
A very nice place where a backyard bird count occurred was at the Anne and Bill Quigley residence on the north edge of Valentine. With brisk winds prevalent upon our arrival, it seemed that any tally would be minimal. While there, Mrs. Quigley refilled the suet feeder. Almost immediately after, a bunch of birds arrived, notably woodpeckers, including a vivid male and female Red-bellied Woodpecker, at least four Downy Woodpeckers, as well as White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Also present were cheery Black-capped Chickadees and drab-colored American Goldfinch.
Dark-eyed Junco were common near the Mill Pond, especially at bird feeders.
Potters Pond, on the south side of the county road easterly from the eastern boundary of Fort Niobrara NWR and before Berry Bridge, had upon our arrival mid-day Saturday, a wonderful mix of waterfowl. Besides the geese there were many mergansers, as well as a mix of various species of ducks. It was sad that a car with a nearby license indication disturbed the many birds and which resulted in them flying away. Those people in the SUV obviously did not understand the ethics associated with bird watching, most importantly, do not disturb them!
While at the Burr Oak Trail area at Fort Niobrara NWR, not a single bird was seen or heard at this wildlife refuge. A transit was made past a bunch of deer – numbering more than ten – in a swale where winds were lesser and there was warmth from the sun. The deer were comfortable.
Along the Niobrara River channel birds seen that appreciated the open water as a place to forage were mergansers and the goldeneye. Hundreds of Canada Goose were on sandbars above Cornell Dam, though actual numbers were not counted.
There was not a bunch of birds everywhere. Ray Sholl along Lake Shore Drive gave attention to his well-filled feeder, with only Black-capped Chickadee prevalent during the morning. He’d provided ample feed early on Saturday morning.
Warm temperatures brought numerous Canada Goose to the Valentine Mill Pond on Sunday. These big fowl, which are a prominent feature of the Valentine sky-scape these days, had apparently moved from other roost places.
Brisk winds were detrimental to watching birds on both Saturday and Sunday, but none-the-less a quite fine variety of species were seen. The first five surveys were done Saturday, the other two on Sunday.
|Proper Name||Bryan Bridge||Vanderploeg Ranch||Quigley Place||Fort Niobrara NWR||Potters Pond||Valentine Mill Pond||Valentine|
|Canada Goose||350||- -||750||- -||- -||165||15|
|Cackling Goose||2||- -||10||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Trumpeter Swan||7||- -||3||- -||- -||- -||1|
|Mallard||- -||38||175||- -||- -||- -||1|
|Ring-necked Duck||- -||2||7||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Common Goldeneye||1||3||3||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Common Merganser||8||- -||50||- -||- -||- -||5|
|Greater Prairie-Chicken||- -||10||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -|
|Bald Eagle||1||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||2|
|Red-tailed Hawk||1||- -||- -||1||- -||- -||1|
|Rough-legged Buzzard||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||1|
|Rock Dove||2||- -||- -||- -||20||- -||- -|
|Eurasian Collared Dove||- -||- -||- -||- -||3||2||- -|
|Red-bellied Woodpecker||- -||- -||- -||2||- -||- -||1|
|Downy Woodpecker||1||- -||- -||4||1||- -||- -|
|Hairy Woodpecker||- -||- -||- -||1||- -||1||- -|
|Northern Flicker||- -||- -||- -||1||- -||1||1|
|Blue Jay||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||1||1|
|American Crow||12||- -||- -||2||- -||2||1|
|Black-capped Chickadee||- -||- -||- -||3||- -||4||5|
|Horned Lark||2||4||- -||- -||8||- -||1|
|Red-breasted Nuthatch||- -||- -||- -||2||- -||- -||- -|
|White-breasted Nuthatch||- -||- -||- -||4||- -||2||- -|
|Common Starling||5||- -||- -||- -||8||- -||- -|
|Eastern Bluebird||1||- -||- -||- -||- -||4||1|
|Townsend's Solitaire||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||1|
|American Robin||5||- -||- -||- -||2||2||3|
|House Sparrow||- -||- -||- -||- -||35||25||1|
|House Finch||- -||- -||- -||2||- -||1||- -|
|Common Redpoll||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||2|
|American Goldfinch||- -||- -||- -||6||5||3||15|
|Dark-eyed Junco||- -||- -||- -||2||- -||14||4|
|American Tree Sparrow||- -||- -||- -||- -||- -||2||1|
|Northern Cardinal||1||- -||- -||- -||1||- -||- -|
There were no species that had recently occurred in the area about count days that were not recorded during the bird count weekend.
The efforts by many bird watchers during the weekend, and nationwide, were a great contribution towards better understanding of wildbird numbers and distribution.