Date of this Version
Paseka, "NOU Spring Field Days and Annual Meeting, Valentine, May 15–17, 2015," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 2015) 83(2).
The annual meeting of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union was held in Valentine May 15–17, 2015, and ably organized by Dave Heidt and Betty Grenon. Although muddy roads from a Friday night storm prevented travel to several planned field trip destinations on Saturday and rain cut short field trips on Sunday morning, the 58 attendees were able to locate and identify 180 species. Most of the birding took place in Cherry County, and many birders commented happily on the good number of species they were able to add to their Cherry Co. lists.
On Friday evening Wayne Mollhoff told the group about the Northern Saw-whet Owl nest box project he has been working on since 2012. He now has 35 nest boxes out, and two of the boxes have been used so far, both by Saw-whets and by Eastern Screech-Owls. Screech-Owls feed their young almost exclusively on birds, but Saw-whet chicks are fed a variety of prey, including mice and voles. Wayne and Jerry Toll banded Saw-whet chicks at one of the boxes this past week.
On Saturday evening, Shelly Kelly from the non-profit Sandhills Task Force spoke to the group about their attempts to sustain ranching operations while at the same time supporting native plant and animal communities. The Nebraska Sandhills region is the largest contiguous grassland in North America, encompassing more than 19,000 square miles. The Task Force projects provide financial and technical assistance to establish rotational grazing systems, restore wetlands, and eradicate invasive species for the benefit of both ranch operations and wildlife.
Field trips on Saturday and on Sunday morning were led by Clem Klaphake, Wayne Mollhoff, Dave Heidt, and Don and Janis Paseka. Destinations included the Niobrara River, Merritt Reservoir, Ballards Marsh WMA, Valentine City Park, Valentine State Fish Hatchery, Valentine NWR, and Ft. Niobrara NWR.
Crowd-pleasing species included the Whimbrel (Merritt Res.), American Bittern (Valentine NWR), Violet-green Swallow (fish hatchery), Lazuli Bunting (Fort Falls trail in Ft. Niobrara NWR), Mourning Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Waterthrush (city park), and Yellow-Breasted Chat (canoe launch near entrance to Ft. Niobrara NWR). In all, 15 warbler and 12 sparrow species were tallied.