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Lower Platte River CBC summary

The first Lower Platte River Christmas Bird Count (CBC) took place on 4 January 2018.   It was a hoot starting a new CBC and I was not certain about what would be recorded, especially considering the recent spell of extremely cold weather.   Below, I provide a summary of the CBC and rundown of the results.

Coverage area:  The new CBC encompasses a large chunk of Sarpy County and adjacent areas of Cass County.   The big bend in the Platte River that forms the border of much of Sarpy County is included in the CBC.  The CBC circle includes popular public areas such as Mahoney, Platte River and Schramm state parks, Louisville State Recreation Area and Chalco Hills and Prairie Queen recreation areas.   Also included in the circle are the towns of Gretna, Louisville, Springfield and Cedar Creek.  A map of the area is provided below.

Conditions:  It was very cold ahead of the Lower Platte River CBC and it was very cold the day of the CBC.   Low temperatures were around zero degrees and high temperatures were in the upper teens.  It was cloudy in the morning but the sun came out in the afternoon.  Fortunately, winds were light.   Lakes, streams and rivers, including the Platte River, were approximately 99% frozen.

Species total:  A total of 71 species was recorded for the day, which is better than I thought we’d get following the Arctic blast and also considering this was the first year of the count.

Even though a few Hermit Thrushes are around most winters, they are always a nice find. This one was found and photographed by Loren and Babs Padelford during the CBC.

Notable species:  A Townsend’s Solitaire was perhaps the bird of the day, but also good were a Trumpeter Swan, two Hermit Thrushes and three Rusty Blackbirds.  Also notable were the 15 species of waterfowl considering the limited amount of open water.  I thought it was possible we’d struggle to get more than just a couple species of waterfowl.

Notable high counts:   Without previous years of data to reference, it is a little challenging to know what are high counts.  However, the 15,032 Mallards, 85 Red-tailed Hawks, 9 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 34 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 7 Fox Sparrow were all healthy figures.

Notable misses:   There were no glaring misses which was certainly possible during the first year of the CBC.  I thought we’d get a Pileated Woodpecker but we did not get that species.  Other species that could be considered mild misses include Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Shrike, Winter Wren, Spotted Towhee, and White-crowned Sparrow.  Purple Finch, which I thought would be a lock, was a near miss with only a singleton being sighted.

Participants:  a big thank you to counters Mary Bomberger Brown, Lauren Dinan, Kenny Dinan, Larry Einemann, William Flack, Angie Hammitt, Alice Heckman,  Joel Jorgensen, Clem Klaphake, Loren and Babs Padelford, Don and Janis Paseka,  Theresa Pella, Justin Rink, Gary Roberts,  Shari Schwartz, Ruthie Stearns, T.J. Walker.

There will be more opportunities in the coming years to say things about the birds observed during any one Lower Platte River CBC once a few years of data are collected.  A full rundown of the species observed in 2018 follows below:

Greater White-fronted Goose            5

Snow Goose     32

Ross’s Goose   1

Cackling Goose           11

Canada Goose             5553

Trumpeter Swan         1

Gadwall           3

American Wigeon       2

Mallard           15032

Green-winged Teal     11

Redhead          3

Ring-necked Duck       1

Common Goldeneye   12

Hooded Merganser     3

Common Merganser 57

Wild Turkey     51

Great Blue Heron        5

Bald Eagle       46

Northern Harrier        2

Sharp-shinned Hawk   3

Cooper’s Hawk            4

Red-tailed Hawk         85

Rough-legged Hawk    10

American Kestrel        7

Merlin             2

Rock Pigeon    53

Eurasian Collard-Dove            87

Mourning Dove           50

Eastern Screech-Owl 2

Great Horned Owl      3

Barred Owl     1

Belted Kingfisher        3

Red-bellied Woodpecker        59

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker        2

Downy Woodpecker    47

Hairy Woodpecker      13

Northern Flicker          27

Blue Jay           137

American Crow           179

Horned Lark    183

Tufted Titmouse          15

Black-capped Chickadee         45

White-breasted Nuthatch       52

Red-breasted Nuthatch           9

Brown Creeper           3

Carolina Wren            18

Golden-crowned Kinglet         3

Eastern Bluebird         65

American Robin          394

Hermit Thrush 2

Townsend’s Solitaire   1

European Starling       596

Cedar Waxwing          292

Lapland Longspur        133

Yellow-rumped Warbler         34

American Tree Sparrow         1126

Fox Sparrow    7

Song Sparrow 7

White-throated Sparrow         5

Harris’s Sparrow         48

Dark-eyed Junco         2271

Northern Cardinal       115

Red-winged Blackbird             27

Rusty Blackbird           3

Brown-headed Cowbird          6

Meadowlark (sp.)/Western Meadowlark         272

Purple Finch    1

House Finch     81

Pine Siskin       14

American Goldfinch    276

House Sparrow            206

Good birding!


About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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