Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Date of this Version



Ducey, "Notes on the Birds of the Lower Niobrara Valley in 1902 as Recorded by Myron H. Swenk," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 1983) 51(2): 37-44.


Copyright 1983, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


An expedition consisting of Messrs. J.C. Crawford, Jr., W.D. Pierce, and myself, was sent out by the Department of Entomology and Ornithology of the University of Nebraska during the summer of 1902, into the lower Niobrara valley in order to examine and collect specimens of the fauna of that region After August 1, Professor Bruner also worked with us. Although essentially an entomological expedition, considerable attention was paid by different members of the party to the birds, and some fairly interesting and valuable ornithological notes were secured.

The party started from Long Pine on June 14, and proceeded down the river by boat, arriving at the town of Niobrara August 9, from which place It returned to Lincoln. A stop of two weeks was made at Springview Bridge1, and of one month at Carns, in order to closely examine the fauna of that region. The other two weeks were spent between Carns and Niobrara along the river.

Before entering into a detailed consideration of the birds to be found in this one hundred miles of river valley, it might be well to glance briefly at the general configuration of the country. At our place of starting the impression was decidedly western. The gently sloping, pine dotted sides of Long Pine Canyon runs off to the south, cradling the cool, transparent waters of Long Pine Creek - a last dying trace of the eastern foothills - while to the north arises the rugged hills of Keya Paha County, cut with numerous deep canyons and covered with an ample growth of yellow pine Back of these hills the country broadens out into great treeless prairies. and finally into the vast sandhills themselves.

As we proceed eastward the character of the country gradually changes. The rugged surface outlines soften, the steep, shaly river banks caused by the eroded hills become less and less steep, and finally melt away altogether, while the rough hills and canyons back from the river modulate into gentle undulations. When we reach the western border of Holt County the pines and cacti are left behind, the prairies begin to assume a,greenish hue, and an occasional cornfield in a moist valley betokens the advent of farming land. After passing the northern bend and again turning to the south, the river country is predominated by the eastern characteristics, until by the time we reach the Missouri we are on genuine prairie land.