29 April 2012

Bird-motif Regalia Featured at Intertribal Powwow

Feathers and other bird-motif items were featured by grandly clad dancers at the Inter-Tribal Student Council Powwow. The regalia represents "the dancers own unique expressions of spirit and experiences, often comprised of priceless heirlooms and other articles handmade by family and friends," according to a handout on powwow etiquette.

Prominent example of the importance of birds to the tribe are shown in the following examples.


Rich, notice the thunderbird motif on his vest

Tyron, with a magnificent example of how eagle feathers can be used to create personal regalia

Darrell Grant, Omaha (pronounced "Maha")

His regalia included a waterbird staff ornament and an eagle-feather fan. Eagle feathers are held in the "highest regard" by members of the tribe, he said. Also prominent are screech-owl feathers (as featured in his garb), as well as Wild Turkey feathers.


Myron, an Omaha Winnebago

Ross, representing the next generation of dancers

Elbert, an Omaha; notice the raptor foot item

All of the most dramatic examples of bird-related adornment were outfits worn by the men. The women did often have a single feather adorning their hair.

Other examples of a bird-related motif are shown in an exquisite bead-work leggings and vest. There were numerous other examples of the fine regalia of tribal traditions being celebrated at the powwow, or wachipi in the native language.

The Omaha tribe has had a long tradition associated with birds, and their use in important ceremonies.

Darrell Grant working with the drum team during a dance.

The event was held April 28th, at the Sapp Fieldhouse on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.

Two young Queens of the powwow.

Ground Cover Netting Traps Chipping Sparrow

Plastic netting placed to hold bare soil in place, trapped and nearly led to the demise of a Chipping Sparrow.

A pair of these sparrows were observed was foraging along Happy Hollow Creek about noon, and about two hours later came word than one had been freed from the netting covering the ground.

A community volunteer planting berry trees nearby happened to notice the bird's predicament, and was able to set it free. Its head was caught in a couple of the small squares of the netting. Apparently when going after a bit of an edible, the head was stuck through the net, but when trying to pull it back out, the feathers caught and prevented any escape.

The bird could have easily died due to being trapped for a long term, or it might have fallen prey to a foraging crow, one which was noted at the site, later.

This netting covers three areas along Happy Hollow Creek where a City of Omaha project was recently done to stabilize the banks with gabion baskets full of rock. The mesh was supposed to be biodegradable, but it is not clear if that is actually the case?

The plastic material is now an obvious hazard to the many birds present in the area.

Arbor Day Tree Plantings at Omaha Parks

During the period around Arbor Day, tree plantings occurred at three different Omaha parks.

The most diverse planting was a neighborhood-driven effort to place berry trees along Happy Hollow Creek.

Wild plum, elderberry, paw-paw are planted closer to the creek, said Sarah Newman who is responsible for the effort. Nearer to the sidewalk are blackberry, raspberry and currants.

Planting started on April 26 with the plum trees on the west side of the plot, and once the rest of the ground was properly tilled (after two attempts), additional planting continued into the weekend.

Money for the trees and tilling came from a $1100 grant from the City of Omaha, Newman said. The city will also provide mulch. A portion of the funds will be used to provide fruit picking tools and baskets for people in the Dundee area to pick fruit at their own trees. The equipment will be kept at the Dundee Community Garden.

The fruit from these trees can be "freely picked," Newman said. The berries will also be available for local birds and other wildlife to feed upon.

An Arbor Day event was held at Fontenelle Park on Friday, the 27th. Five flowering crabs and two oak trees were planted during an event hosted by Omaha mayor, Jim Suttle.

Suttle read a proclamation, and then with a bunch of children from Holy Name Elementary School, threw dirt around the already placed crab trees, and dug a hole for one of the oaks. Acting director, Brook Bench, assisted, as did other employees of the Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property department.

More than 200 trees, especially Scotch pine which died due to disease, have been removed from the park in the past five years, said John Wynn, city forester.

A new tree nursery was established the weekend of April 21 on the north side of Levi Carter Park. About 130 trees, bought for $35 each, were planted, said Wynn. The trees included yellow-wood, linden, locust, catalpa, spruce, gingko and oaks.

Students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha helped with the planting done Friday.

The trees will be ready to transplant in two-three years, Wynn said. This nursery was created to provide a better-located site — with a reduction in travel while planting trees at east Omaha parks — rather than relying upon the nursery presently at Tranquility Park, in the western part of the city.

26 April 2012

City Responds Within Hours to Citizen Comment

City of Omaha officials responded within hours to a comment regarding the situation associated with a project along Happy Hollow Creek.

These are the notable details:

at 1:50 p.m. April 25, a set of four picture was sent to Omaha officials, and two media outlets, with the following comments:

The attached pictures indicate the current situation at the rec trail along Happy Hollow, a condition which has not changed for at least ten days.

There is a prominent error in the placement pads for the base of the barricades as shown in the pictures, representing different spots, not just one...

Please tell me why people have to jog in the street because of a construction error, and a failure to move ahead and address the issue so the trail could be reopened?

How simple it would be to get rid of the dirt piles at the south end and move the traffic barriers close to the barricade being installed, allowing at least partial access to the sidewalk.

I'm not sure yet if I will post these pictures online. They certainly do indicate how the people responsible for this project are indifferent to trail users and are willing to put people into unsafe conditions, by forcing them to run in the street or cross the street in an area where there is nothing to slow the traffic.

I'd think city officials would go out of their way to work with the neighborhood, but as this is a second instance of negative significance that has been left to languish, that is apparently not the case!

Perhaps local residents should revise the conditions at the site to make it safe for their community? It would only take a few minutes to move the barriers...

Along Happy Hollow Creek, though the situation was not quite pleasant at the time. It was ironic that three Turkey Vultures were soaring over the site when the media arrived.

At 4:15 p.m. a local television station was filming at the scene, and conducted an interview
The news item was presented on the 10 p.m. news, the same day; the reporter was live at the scene, and the story included custom graphics, including map
A written version of the report was available on the morning of the 26th, and later the video
At 10 a.m., the construction contractor was at the site, beginning to move the barricades and remove the dirt pile
By 1 p.m., the trail was partially open

The recreational trail was obviously being used once obstructions were removed.

The Happy Hollow trail on Thursday afternoon.

Once again, no response was received by the officials of the city of Omaha to whom the email was sent. The "acting" parks director also preferred to indicate a contractor's mistake, though it is entirely possible that the engineer plans were not correct.

23 April 2012

Accolades Received for Newspaper Writings

A story of water and graphic depictions of historic livestock brands associated with the Sand Hills region, as published in the Grant County News, issued at Hyannis, Nebraska, have been recognized for their exceptional quality.

The Better Newspaper Contest associated with the Nebraska Press Association, announced award-winners at their annual meeting on Saturday, April 14, 2012 in Lincoln.

Award-winning recognition for my efforts occurred in two categories, based upon entries submitted by the newspaper publisher, Sharon Wheelock.

Use of Computer Graphics - 2nd place
For the "Cattle Brands" entry associated with the paper's two stories on Heritage Ranches and Heritage Brands. The stock brands story included graphics depicting the hot-iron brands of the era, and associated details to convey how newspaper ads presented essential details during this early time for ranching within the sandhills region. This is the first time the Grant County News has won an award in this category, according to an article on the front page of the April 19 issue of the newspaper.

Two examples of those graphic images are given here in color, though they were issued in black-and-white. They feature a custom graphic of a cow or horse, designed to convey historic stock brands in a standard manner.

Single Feature Story - 2nd place for the story: "Amelia - the Village of Water" as written during the weeks when there was a great focus on the Keystone XL pipeline, which was not mentioned within the story. The story emphasis was on the people and the water as they knew it.

This story had an origin of uncertainty last year, but the effort went ahead on a weekend while in Holt County during an autumn visit. The opportunity to talk with the "mayor" made all the difference.

There were more than 4300 entries representing 13 daily and 83 weekly newspapers. Members of the Alabama Press Association were judges.

New Martin House an Immediate Attraction

Within two minutes, Purple Martins used their new house that had just been erected at Levi Carter Park on Saturday April 21st, during the Earth Day weekend.

Bing Behrens of the Wild Bird Habitat Store, and myself as a tepid assistant, installed the house north of the caretaker's residence at Levi Carter Park. A fisherman stopped by to inquire about the new structure, mentioning he was glad to see this sort of thing being done in the park.

Bing pulled the rope to raise the "mini-castle" to its peak in the sky, thus establishing a new martin house at mid-day.

In the following moments, filled with sublime excitement for the birds and two watchers, martins flew nearby to take a closer look, with others immediately following to get their own view. The first pioneer sat on a perch to get a good look at the new digs.

The same birds had been "complaining" about the temporary disturbance of the neighborhood during the installation. They were always vocal, whether in flight about the scene, or sitting outside their apartment rather than sitting in their residence.

The perspective of the martins was immediately changed.

Further watching indicated the martins were obviously appreciative of the East House. Shortly, females were attracted to what was nearly recognized as a suitable place to nest. Within a few more moments, some magnificent martins were sitting on the house-top roost, landing upon a roost outside each apartment to peer within, wondering if they should perhaps move.

A few feet away at the West House, there was uncertainty. Mother martins to be had been working hard to get their nest ready by bringing in nest material. Did they want to stay, or should they move to the new place?

The behavior of the birds was readily apparent. Ignoring any anthropomorphic fallacies, there may have even been a "husband" trying to stay put while his mate kept looking to the east. Was his preening displacement behavior?

The East House certainly had unsurpassed features. Each apartment offered more room with space between each place, and had an elevated floor for cleanliness. There was an individual perch out front for the couple's use and eventually for their brood. A common-space roost was available above the rooftop. The residence was a completely new, not a cleaned out space used by many other previous tenants.

The West House has been present for an unknown number of years. The mid-day bird drama at Levi Carter Park, was because the martins didn't get a message about a new construct.

Many others did, since this effort was successful only because of effort and focused intent.

The Audubon Society of Omaha board quickly approved purchase of the house, within a day's time.

The Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property provided a letter of approval on Friday morning. The department is "pleased to support the efforts to enhance the habitat of" purple martins in a park, according to a letter from Patrice Slavin, issued on April 20. Randy Garlip, park caretaker, was helpful in noting that he had cleaned the West House, and also helped indicate a good spot for the Eat House, out of the way of his mowing duties.

A multi-call process to the Diggers Hotline worked -- due to expressing an emergency on Friday afternoon -- to get a clearance approval, as required by Nebraska legal statutes, to break the surface of the ground. Approval is required even to plant a flower or tree, till a garden, stick a flag into the ground, break the ground surface which the kick of a heel, etc.

Focused discussions with Omaha Parks officials brought this topic into an awareness of complete amazement. The "drama-queen" at the hotline office certainly conveyed how communication to a city might end if the proper procedure was not followed. Such things happened "every day" according to her perspective. To ensure satisfaction across the board, the "registration" call was made about mid-afternoon on a Friday. Several call-back responses were received by 5 p.m., with the last one of the day associated with an onsite inspection by a utility inspection firm. A last reply was received just after 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Hours later, the installation was underway.

This martin house was needed due to an obvious bird activity first observed on Wednesday, April 18 when there were more martins than what the house could suitably provide. The birds were limited as vividly expressed in their behavior, and apparent in a single photograph where a female bird was looking for a place while sitting on the rooftop. She was not able to personally inspect the housing cube.

On Saturday morning, one female was attacked and held down by a male being protective an adjacent apartment. Two males were seen and heard tussling over one particular apartment, until one fleed, after some moments of anxiety, obvious in its open-beak behavior, as it looked back at its tormentor.

The new martin castle was up and ready for residency on mid-day Saturday. The endeavor was successful because of a common interest. Everyone involved deserves credit for their interest in helping to benefit Purple Martins, an iconic bird in the river city.

It was certainly a fine time for martins at Carter Lake! We can enjoy the results at the Martin Mecca Midtown later in the season.

19 April 2012

Birds Convey Exceptional Value of Missouri Valley Habitats

A wonderful confluence of bird reports for a few-day period vividly express the occurrence of birds during the current spring migration. The special value of the reports is that they occurred at different localities on different days, and most especially some visits to the same place which convey the variance in species and numbers from one occasion to the next.

This report conveys details of reported observations from Saturday April 14 through April 17th, as noted by personal bird surveys and online bird reports. There is no special significance in any particular effort, but the overall result provides a detailed account of the many species now present in the region.

Starting on Saturday — a day of the wandering storminess — multiple details express bird-watching efforts within the river valley and associated places:

  • April 14: Forney Lake, Bartlett SWA, Schilling WMA, La Platte Bottoms and Offutt Base Lake prior to stormageddon, where winds exceeded 100 miles per hour and semitrucks were blown off Interstate 29 near Thurman
  • April 14: some bird notes from Fontenelle Forest contributed by Rick Schmid
  • April 14: a singular note about a female Mottled Duck at New Lake near Sioux City by Bill Huser
  • April 15: Lake Manawa, Big Lake Park and Carter Lake to get a Sunday morning perspective of birds at lakes of the valley
  • April 16: Lake Manawa report issued on IABirds by Benjamin Griffith, Newmarket, NH, during a travel layover
  • April 16: Offutt Base Lake, Harlan-Lewis Flats and La Platte Bottoms as reported by Clem Klaphake
  • April 16: terse notes from John Carlini and Sheri Schwartz for Forney Lake SWA
  • April 17: a hike about Elmwood Park and Memorial Park places in midtown Omaha
  • April 17: a few notes from Forney Lake SWA by Denny Thompson and for the Fontenelle Forest floodplain by Clem Klaphake and Eric Scholar
  • April 17: evening visit to Offutt Base Lake and La Platte Bottoms by Justin Rink

It is only because of the variety of bird observation efforts that such a diversity of birds are now known to have been present at various places in different numbers. For most of the observations, particular attention was given to counting the numbers of each species. This is especially valuable for the bird chronicles.

A list was developed from more than four hundred records, with many derived from online, public forums which indicate sightings of significance. The 102 species reported:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-heron
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Mississippi Kite
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
American Avocet
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Hudsonian Godwit
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Franklin's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Harris's Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Add in the Rock Pigeon, certainly present in the overall vicinity, and the Wild Turkeys strutting a block west of Levi Carter Park, so the tally is even greater than indicated.

Especially interesting are reports for the same locale, but on different days, especially at Forney Lake SWA, Lake Manawa, Offutt Base Lake and the La Platte Bottoms.

For Forney Lake, the tally on the 14th denoted 37 species. Only five different types were reported for the 16th, but it added four additional species that were using the wetland. Records of two species of ibis was especially exciting. There will be more wonderful birds here as spring continues its progression northward in the river valley.

On Sunday the 14th at Lake Manawa, there were 36 species denoted, with particular attention given to getting notes on all the birds observed. On Monday, the number was 30, with a similar effort, but hurried by a visiting birder. Overall, there were 46 species determined during both days, which provides a unique tally as all species seen were noted.

At Offutt Base Lake, there were 14 species present during a hurried survey before the storm weather arrived. Two days later, the report indicated 14 species, though only waterfowl were indicated. The overall tally was 26 species, with more songbirds noted on the April 14 survey. There were many more waterfowl upon the lake on the 16th.

A bit to the south, at the La Platte Bottoms on the 14th there were 11 species observed. The tally on the 16th denoted five species, with one special addition a single Merlin. Overall, the number of species was 12. Because of the "partial" closure of the La Platte Road for utility work, some species may have been missed. On Saturday the occurrence of many Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret was significant at the shrinking pond on the westward portion of the bottoms. None of the other reports indicated the presence of any herons.

Though Elmwood Park and Memorial Park are a relative ways away from the Missouri River ditch, the habitats are regularly used by species migrating along the valley. Without a time-consuming walk-about through the green-spaces, the Red-breasted Nuthatch occurrence would not be known. It was also a complete surprise to see two Pied-billed Grebe atop Wood Creek near the Elmwood Park Grotto. Certainly they are common upon the riverine lakes and marshes, but at a narrow creek in midtown is certainly not expected. The woods also are appreciated by other species, and an observation of an Eastern Towhee and hearing a Carolina Wren were distinctive among the period of interest. The largest count of Turkey Vultures is from this area.

Overall, a wonderful variety of birds were seen, and more importantly recorded and documented which continues the wonderful documentation to the avifaunal variety of the region. As spring continues, hopefully, similar juxtapositions might occur that could be helpful in illustrating species and their occurrence.

Further details of migrational movement and numbers could be developed from this set of data where repeat surveys at the same locales were made upon days within a short period of time.

Wednesday started the cycle anew...

16 April 2012

Stormy Weather Notably Kills Birds

Severe weather on April 14th resulted in several known examples of bird mortality in the area.

On Sunday morning, a dead Franklin's Gull was noted near the middle of South Expressway Street, north of Lake Manawa. A number of these birds were present at the lake, with many others flying about. Possibly this bird was struck from the sky and fell to land on the thoroughfare. It has not yet been compacted by traffic.

There were two reports of fatality in Boone County.

William Flack reported on the NEBirds forum that: "At the intersection with county road 290 Ave in northeastern Boone County, found a flock of 29 Franklin's Gulls in a field beside the road. Most were clearly dead: lying on their backs with their wings sprawled out in odd positions, etc. Only six of the gulls were in positions consistent with living birds; two of those six moved, and were clearly injured.

"I conjecture that the birds were caught in the storm that moved through and killed by hail. A little earlier at Olson Nature Preserve, I'd found hailstones more than an inch in diameter (=larger than a U.S. quarter)" ...

Colleen and Don Noecker, reported at the same forum, they noted "a dead Canada Goose on a muskrat hut. We presume it died from the hail. Also saw an injured Franklin's Gull which was sitting upright but the wing was clearly damaged."

In midtown Omaha, an errant Pied-billed Grebe occurred on Davenport Street at 43rd Street, and ended up being struck by vehicles. The carcass was flattened but still could be readily identified.

The conjecture, according to first observer Justin Rink, is that the bird landed on the street during the heavy rain on Saturday and could then not get airborne, and was then struck dead by a vehicle.

These grebes were common at three area lakes along the river on Sunday.

There was a news report a few days later showing several Pied-billed Grebes being released at Cunningham Lake, which had also been grounded during the weekend storm.

Mottled Ducks in Missouri River Valley

The presence of two Mottled Duck at Forney Lake SWA in southwest Iowa has been an excitement for area fowl watchers. Several people have been to the wildlife area to see — or try to see — the unexpected pair.

A report of the occurrence was reported in the local newspaper, with a picture included.

Prior to the "stormageddon" on the 14th, the area was visited in the morning to see if the birds could be found. They might have been seen, but once noted they — like paparazzi can do — walked behind a muskrat mound and could no longer be seen. There was a huge variety of other waterfowl and songbirds also present, which made for an interesting outing.

Morning view of fowl amidst the fog at Forney Lake.

Saturday afternoon and evening, the area was blasted by a tornado and heavy rains. Area birders that visited on Sunday did not see the special pair of ducks, nor did they report any obvious bird mortality.

A second sighting of this species occurred on April 14th, near Sioux City, further northward in the Missouri River Valley.

An apparent female was observed by Bill Huser, at New Lake, along the Port Neal Power Plant entrance road. He noted plumage features but was unable to get an extensive view as the bird also moved to where it could no longer be seen.

These are the first sightings of this species in the river valley, and with two sightings at distant places, it is possible that they might also occur elsewhere.

12 April 2012

Ornithology of Government Expedition of 1819-1820

The 1819-1820 western expedition beyond the "Father of Rivers" and the pioneer town of St. Louis, had been officially directed to explore waters of the Missouri River, its tributaries and territory further westward on the Great Plains. This government expedition went forth into what was a basically unknown region of the U.S.A.

It was a grand endeavor, with the journey of the steamboat Western Engineer begining at Pittsburgh in the spring of 1819. Once set afloat, it easily floated down the Ohio River to its confluence with the mighty Mississippi River. Engine-power moved it up the "Father of Rivers" to a prominent St. Louis, on the edge of the western frontier. After a few days at a dock, the boat and passengers steamed under power up the ceaseless flow of the Missouri River.

Eventually the government force reached a season's end to their travels at the Engineer Cantonment, Camp Missouri and Council Bluffs, according to the different place names. The locale was their winter quarters, as sheltered by the bluffs of the Missouri River, on the eastern boundary of the Nebraska Territory. A fort was being established.

After a difficult winter sojourn, and weeks of spring and early summer, the expedition continued in early summer of 1820 to travel further and explore. Their first destination was westward to the Loup Fork, then along the Platte River to eastern Colorado, southward through a portion of New Mexico, and eastward through Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Finally the military men went across Arkansas on their return to the settled east. The final place of significance was once again St. Louis, where the journey ended.

There is a vivid record of history associated with this expedition. There was a relative multitude of reports of pertinent activities at particular places, by expedition participants, in news reports.

Details are especially evident in the vivid prose of various narratives issued at one time or another subsequent to the actual travels. Journals especially convey specifics of sights seen, a day's activities, places visited, troubles of one sort or another, and many other events associated with a large party of men traveling across an unknown territory. There are also interpretive articles written in latter years - decades later - which discuss particular topics such as birds, artistic accomplishments, and the overall biotic value implicit in the observations presented in notes from the expedition.

A focused evaluation of the fine variety of pertinent sources in order to document the bird history, indicated that none of them -- individually -- conveyed a complete and accurate tally for the species of birds observed during the expedition, which included particulars noted by preeminent naturalists Thomas Say, the zoologist, and Titian Ramsay Peale, assistant naturalist and secondary artist.

Each article or book source had a particular focus, which varied in purpose, and didn't convey a complete perspective or presentation of details for the birds noted at the different places visited. There was only a partial consideration.

To present a view of the specific bird species and records of their occurrence, a number of book and newspaper sources were reviewed to extract notes on species observed, date of occurrence if available, and particular locality. Each record was documented with associated metadata including modern-era state and county, along with the source citation(s). Each observation was entered into a relational database to facilitate further evaluation and comparison.

Particular sources considered include:

1) Several newspaper articles or letters reporting on the expedition, their travels, and especially prominent, their arrival at one spot upon the western edge of the Missouri River valley. The place was known as the Council Bluff, Engineer Cantonment, or Camp Missouri, and a vicinity which was eventually recognized as Fort Atkinson; an additional significant site presented in these reports was Cantonment, Cow Island, down the river
2) The Edwin James account, as originally published in 1823, then again in 1905 by Reuben Gold Thwaites in four volumes; a latter version, published as James 1972, was also reviewed, as there were differences in the narratives; this review also included a third version of the journals (Benson 1988). This journal was reissued in its original format in 2009.

3) The journal of Captain John R. Bell, the "official journalist" for the expedition.

4) The abbreviated journal of Titian Ramsey Peale for the portion of the expedition from Pittsburgh to Fort Osage, with a few cursory notes from later in the expedition.

5) Articles about the Peale sketches (Murphy 1957) and a brief anniversary perspective on bird observations (Osterhout 1920), as well as a review of details for the Peale sketches available at the website of the American Philosophical Society. The artwork illustrates species that can be identified, though they were not originally designated to a particular species.

6) A general evaluation of the entire natural history for the expedition (Evans 1997); which includes important references to observations made by Thomas Say.

7) A recent journal article conveying the seminal scientific value of the natural history inventory resulting from the lengthy stay at the Engineer Cantonment (Genoways and Radcliff 2008).

Although the ornithological value of each source differed, it is the entire selection which has the information essential for an overall evaluation of the bird records.

Starting the Voyage

Early in the May, 1819, the newly constructed steamboat Western Engineer departed from Pittsburgh. There had been a delay from the original date of March 26 due to inoperative parts of the steam engine, according a late-June letter from a gentleman on the boat (August 5, 1819; Alexandria Gazette 19(5567): 2).

A note about the expedition and its force of men was written early in July, though actually published about a month later. A tally of the officers of the Sixth Regiment attached to the military expedition to the upper Missouri was listed in detail by the newspaper. Col. Atkinson was listed first, followed by many lieutenants, captains, majors and many others.

"The officers attached to the expedition are young men of the growth of the last war, distinguished for their professional character and gentlemanly deportment, and animated with all the zeal for the success of the enterprise which the interest of the country, and the honour of the administration which planned it, could require at their hands." -- August 14, 1819; The American 1(48): 1. From the Missouri Enquirer).

July 9th, the Western Engineer reached St. Louis, at the edge of the western frontier. "She" anchored at the upper end of town, to lay over for a few days. The St. Louis Enquirer provided a news report presenting a vivid description of the boat and the men onboard:

"A description of this beautiful little boat has been given to the public. We remark, however, some further particulars which deserve to be noticed. The bow of the vessel exhibits the form of a huge serpent, black and scaly, rising out of the water from under the boat, his head as high as the deck, darted forward, his mouth open, vomiting smoke, and apparently carrying the boat on his back. From under the boat, at its stern, issues a stream of foaming water, dashing violently along. All the machinery is hid. Three small brass field pieces, mounted on wheel carriages, stand on the deck. The boat is ascending the rapid stream at the rate of three miles per hour. Neither wind or human hands are seen to help her; and, to the eye of the ignorance, the illusion is complete, that a monster of the deep carries her on his back, smoking with fatigue, and lashing the waves with violent exertions."
"Her equipment is at once calculated to attract and to awe the savage. Objects pleasing and terrifying are at once before him: -- artillery; the flag of the republic; portraits of a white man and an Indian shaking hands; the calumet of piece; a sword; then the apparent monster with a painted vessel on his back, the sides gaping with port holes, and bristling with guns. Taken altogether, and without intelligence of her composition and design, it would require a daring savage to approach and accost her... " -- July 19, 1819; Alexandria Gazette 19(5592): 2.

Another correspondent presented one more perspective of the expedition at this time in early summer. He wrote a letter to the newspaper, which was published in wonderful detail which conveyed specifics for the voyage of the steamboat as it left the east and floated onward to the western frontier.

Specifics of interest include a detail that the boat party arrived at Louisville on May 19; they entered the Mississippi on Sunday the 30th of May; the tribal residents knew it as the Missachipi, or "Father of Rivers" which was appropriate for this mighty flow of riverine waters.

This letter was the first to indicate some particulars about birds denoted during the expedition. One paragraph in the news story said:

"On the Mississippi game is plenty; we saw deer, turkeys, swan, geese and pelicans, but have not found a new bird."

As the Western Engineer steamed up the Missouri, particulars were given by the newspapers. The specifics are most interesting, but some few details might suffice:

  1. steamboat Western Engineer arrived on 14th July, and left on the 19th
  2. the boat left St. Charles on June 25th and arrived at Franklin on 15 days
  3. arrived at Fort Osage on August 16; everything was in good order

With the expeditionary force moving along, several prominent members decided to get off the boat and travel overland. Once again, a newspaper account provides the details of historic importance.

"Messrs. Say, Jessup, Peale, Seymour, Biddle and Swift, accompanied by Mr. Dougherty, assistant Indian agent and interpreter, left the boat at Fort Osagem and proceded by land to visit the Kansas Indians, and from thence to the Pawnees, and will join the Engineers at the Council Bluffs. This mode of progressing will enable the naturalists to explore the country leisurely, and obtain a correct and general knowledge of it. Majors Long and O'Fallon, and Lt. Graham proceeded in the Engineer." -- October 9, 1819; Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle 5(728): 2.

An officer in the U.S. Services expressed his perspective in a September 4 letter issued from "Cantonment, Cow Island" which was published a month later (October 27, 1819; National Messenger 2(139): 3). The primary portion of the expedition left Martin Cantonment on Cow Island on September 20, 1819. The prominent newsworthy item regarded an Indian attack upon a group of explorers.

"We regret to learn, that the party of naturalists, consisting of Messrs. Say, Jessup, Peale, Seymour, Biddle and Swift, with Mr. Daugherty, Indian agent and interpretor, who left Fort Osage a few days previous in the Engineer's departure, with the intention of proceeding by land to the Council Bluffs, while encamped, on the 18th of August, were visited by a party of Pawnee and Otto Indians who appeared friendly at first, but soon commenced plundering, taking from them their horses, provisions and every article excepting the clothing they had on, abstaining however from any violence in their persons, and in this fashion left them."

The visitors wandered for a few days until being "relieved" by a band of Kansas Indians, and subsequently rejoined with the main group of the expedition.

Another letter was sent from the Council Bluff frontier, dated October 1919. It indicted a wonderful perspective for the edge of a frontier moving westward. The details are most interesting. Their date of arrival was indicated as October 14th, with the military force creating a presence at Fort Atkinson and the Engineer Cantonment, down the river a few miles.

In mid-November, a letter written a military officer, expressed a specific perspective for recent events at Camp Missouri. The news article presented the situation at the post being established by the government forces.

The unknown officer of the Sixth Regiment expressed his perspective which also has birdly importance. The troops had arrived at the Council Bluff, a.k.a. Camp Missouri on October 2nd. The gentleman not only conveyed interesting and specific particulars for the Council Bluff, but within the words, there were the vivid details of two game dinners given by the officers.

"Two great dinners have been given since we arrived here; one by Col. Atkinson to the officers of the two regiments; the other was given in return by the two regiments at which we had turkeys, wild geese, brant, grouse, partridges, ducks of every description, fresh beef and venison -- but no vegetables." -- February 9, 1820; Republican Compiler 2(22): 2.

The military men were on the edge of the frontier, but still had a regular connection to eastern places through mail services. Once a month, an express took communications from the post to St. Louis, according to late November letter from the Council Bluff, as indicated in a latter January news item in the Baltimore Patriot.

A December letter by a "gentleman" expressed that his perspective of the country:/p>

"The river is muddy, crooked, shallow, and rapid; its course is through a valley of from five to ten miles broad, of very rich land; but as soon as you leave the valley, the ground is rolling, and mostly prairies, and the proportion of prairie increases as you ascend. In this vicinity, the bluffs have scarcely a tree, and the valley is principally prairie. It is truly an interesting sight to ascend some of the highest hills in the prairie and view the surrounding country. The eye wanders over thousands of acres of ground with scarcely a tree to relieve it.
This country must long remain an asylum for the Red-skins, and the wild beasts. Whites cannot inhabit it until their habits, or the country is changed." ... -- April 20, 1820; New-York Daily Advertiser 930: 2.

Subsequent articles related additional pertinent details of relative importance.

Based upon a May 14, 1820 mail item from Franlin, Missouri, Major Long, Dr. James and Captain Bell had arrived there a few days earlier. They were making their way to the Council Bluff and indicated that forthcoming was an exploration of the "La Platte by land, then cross over to the head waters on the Arkansas..." according to a item derived from the late mails as issued in the Norwich Courier on June 28, 1820.

The "meterologic register" kept by General Atkinson noted that during January, 1820 the temperatures were frigid. The mean temperature, based upon 93 observations was 12.45 degrees, with 27 observations from "ten to twenty-two degrees below zero." -- J.M. June 24, 1820; Daily National Intelligencer 8(2325): 2.

The western exploration started on June 6th, heading first to the Pawnee villages at a fork of "La Platte" about 120 miles distant across rolling prairie country.

According to details conveyed in a letter scribed June 24th, the troops at the Fort were healthy, and prospects were good. The "great and universal rise of the Missouri has driven us from our winter position. Almost the whole of the bottom lands are inundated," the author noted. "The flood is greater than is recollected by the oldest Indians, ... The Platte is also in flood." At the time, the cantonment was being moved to the summit of the bluffs. The earliest gardens planted were "deluged" though further gardens "exhibit the most promising appearance." -- August 21, 1820; Evening Post 5669: 2.

The chronicles associated with the scientific discovery suffered a loss during the latter months of 1820. Three men -- Mordecai Nowland, Peter Bernard and Charles Myers -- deserted, and took with them rifles and horses, along with four "saddle bags, belonging to Captain Bell, Dr. Say, Lieut. Swift, and Mr. Seymour, containing wearing apparel, some specie, a box sextant, a manuscript book on topography, one a journal, one on zoology, one on Indian manners and customes, and two containing vocabularies on Indian languages." -- December 2, 1820; The American 1(231): 3, issued at New York.

It was a loss that was undoubtedly reflected in a lesser amount of scientific details derived by the scientists.

Journal Documentation

The original journals obviously provide the details needed to initiate the list, but it was later interpretations which give further additional and very helpful annotations. Especially important are modern interpretations which provide accurate locations of where the expedition was on particular days (Fuller and Hafen 1957, James 1972) and maps showing the route followed (Goodman and Lawson 1995).

The original James narrative was important as the basis for determining bird sightings, though this source had to be compared to the original narrative. One entry for a particular date indicates how the revised edition issued later did not include one of the species mentioned in the original source, specifically for July 13, 1820:

"In the timber along the creek, the sparrow-hawk, mocking-bird, robin, red-head woodpecker, Lewis' woodpecker, dove, winter wren, towhe, bunting, yellow-breasted chat and several other birds were seen."

The Benson (1988) version did not include the Lewis' woodpecker, and cited the "towhe, bunting" as "towhe bunting," with the comma not included, a situation sufficient enough to indicate a single species, instead of two.

In the review of the natural history (Evans 1997), wren was mentioned rather than the winter wren in particular, with no mention of a bunting. There was no particular mention given for the Pine Warbler noted on August 23, 1820, by the Say party of the expedition, with warblers given in the summary, even though this was the only time this species was mentioned in the entire narrative.

This condensed version does provide further annotations on localities and some interpretations of species identification which were helpful. Nearly the entire route was discussed, with the history starting with the departure of the steamboat Western Engineer from Pittsburgh on May 3, 1819. Although there is trivial journal information for prior to Pittsburgh, there is a bit related to two types of birds seen on the Allegheny ridge, prior to the arrival there, according to the Peale journal.

This interpreted history can be vague on particulars for dates when something was observed, so the original sources usually needed to be relied upon for this essential detail. In a few cases, when particulars on a species are given in the source journal, this may be just a few summary words in this book about the over natural history. There was also no overall summary of birds observed given, except for a list of the newly described and named birds, given in an appendix. One other trivial point, only the first article for the Peale journal is given in the bibliography, with part two not reference, though portions of the article are obviously used within the book.

Engineer Cantonment and Council Bluff

The journal article on the biodiversity value derived while at the Engineer Cantonment (Genoways and Ratcliffe 2008), has been considered in detail, with has meant some revisions. This report includes couple of misidentified species, instances where species were not identified though historic sources provide clues sufficient details to allow a suitable identification, and additional, pertinent details which were not considered.

The following are different particulars to consider for the list of species from this territorial locality.

Anas (Anser) bernicla?, barnacle goose - the common name in this article was listed as Brant, with the authors mentioning that this could be an erroneous report.

A viable option which could possibly be more accurate is Anas bernicla, which could equal Anas hutchinsii, a synonym for Cackling Goose, as given in Elliott Coues' "Birds of the Northwest," issued in 1874.

Muscicapa novaboracensis, was listed with the common name of White-eyed Vireo, along with Muscicapa cantatrix, thus grouping two distinct names for one species.

The original list of birds for the Engineer Cantonment cites "Muscicapa novaboracensis, Gm. - Green black-capt fly-catcher, Wilson." (Thwaites 1905). The green black-capped flycatcher is an alternate common name for the Wilson's Warbler, a species which would have readily occurred in the spring in the woody habitats near the expedition quarters.

In the biodiversity article, there is no modern equivalent given for "Turdus fuscus," with the original bird list including a common name of "Brown thrush."

This scientific name is attributed to the Olive-backed Thrush in the "Birds of the Colorado Valley" by Coues; also to Turdus swainsonii in the 1858 edition of U.S. Pacific Rail Road Report of Explorations and Surveys. This is the Swainson's Thrush, another seasonal migrant within in the area.

The identification of tanagers in the biodiversity article is not correct.

The article identifies "Tanagra rubra" as the Summer Tanager. This is despite the original bird list entry which is "Tanagra rubra - Scarlet tanager." The scientific name matches many other published sources which indicate this is properly the Scarlet Tanager.

For "Tanagra Ludoviciani," the 2008 article correlates this to the Scarlet Tanager. The original entry is "Tanagra Ludoviciani, Wils. - Louisiana tanager." Based on numerous sources of tanager records for the period prior to 1880, from throughout the United States, the scientific name Tanagra ludoviciana refers to the Western Tanager.

An additional species can be added to the species list for this locality based upon a Peale sketch (APSimg5665). A "sparrow" sketched in March, 1820 at the cantonment is depicted partially in color, but otherwise showing just the general body shape. Particular items shown in color are the bill, head stripes and coloration, a rufous patch on the shoulder near the upper wing and a distinct, isolated spot on the chest. These aspects all match key features of the American Tree Sparrow, which would certainly have occurred in the area during latter winter.

Another Peale sketch dated February, 1820, and drawn while at the cantonment, is a "Young bison bull" which includes magpies feeding on the carcass of the dead animal. This date could have been included in the "Arrival Dates and Comments" listing of Appendix 5 in this paper.

Another sketch dated May 5, 1820, also done at the cantonment, shows an unidentified sandpiper (APSimg5672), with an annotation "Pelidna pectoralis," so it would refer to the Pectoral Sandpiper. A band across the chest of the bird, could indicate a line of coloration which occurs on this shore bird. This sketch provides an actual date of occurrence, which is not given with the comments for this species in the article. It should be noted that the bird in the sketch has black legs and a completely black bill, whereas this species does have yellow legs and a mostly black bill.

There are some additional notes on bird migration which were included in the meteorological register kept at encampment. A few times the remarks include some tidbits on bird migration:

February 23: "Geese flying northward"
February 24: "Geese passing northwardly"
February 25: "Ducks passing down river"
March 10: "No geese, few ducks flying"
March 18: "River open. Geese, swans, ducks, &c. flying up"
March 21: "Geese, &c. flying up"
April 2: "Geese, &c. flying S. to-day"
April 10: "Geese flying N. Strong wind"

These further bits of detail are a portion of the natural history which indicates bird movement, and contributes an additional date of occurrence for the swans.

There was also no mention in the biodiversity article the cultural aspects of local birds as shown by bird-effigy garments which the Indians were wearing during visits to the military cantonment. There were two pertinent notations:

1) October 3, 1819: large cushion, made of the skin of a crow, stuffed with light material, and variously ornamented.
2) November 15, 1819: Sioux decorate their hair with a profusion of feathers of the war eagle, and of a species of owl; also suspend in the head dress the entire skin of the paroquet.

These comments indicate the significant role of colorful feathers/skins of local birds in tribal life and ceremonial events.

Overall, this analysis records 145 species for the Engineer Cantonment and Council Bluff locality, which compares to 142 listed in the biodiversity article, with a different combination of species.

Additional Species Drawn by Peale

Several Peale sketches drawn at different times during expedition, depict additional unidentified birds.

An ink drawing thought to be a pigeon or dove (APSimg5692) dated to 1820, is obviously the Band-tailed Pigeon. The bill color is a precise match. There is the reddish color around the eye which is a common feature, and the whitish collar and ruffled pattern of the feathers on the back of the neck are basically similar - though not in color - in the drawing of this species.

Another example, rendered on July 17, 1820 - when in southeast Colorado along the Arkansas River - shows a thrasher-like bird with a long decurved bill (APSimg5680), which matches well with the characteristic bill of the Curve-billed Thrasher, with a known, modern range in the area. The body shape is also similar, though the tail is shown shorter than for this species. It is very likely that the "mockingbird" mentioned in the journals for July 13, actually referred to a thrasher, and it seems plausible that this would be this species that was historically designated as unidentified.

This species was not scientifically classified until 1827.

This same sketch includes another unidentified bird, which has features like a bunting, and could be the Lazuli Bunting that was mentioned in the journals, also on July 13, 1820.

A second sketch made in the same vicinity on 14 July 1820 can also be attributed. The black-and-white and ink drawing (APSimg5678) shows a larger bird in profile and from the rear perched on the side of a tree. It is obviously a woodpecker, based on the way in which it is shown, as well as by the two claws forward, and two backwards on the feet. The bill shape and size, as well as the general feather features and vague patterns indicated match features of the Lewis's Woodpecker, which was first noted here in the expedition narratives. A Red-headed Woodpecker was also reported on the same date, but features do not match this species, and it would be less likely for Peale to sketch a bird he was obviously familiar with from points back east, than to depict something newly observed.

In a faint ink drawing from August 24, 1820 an unidentified bird is once again depicted. This image (APSimg5687) is very similar to another drawing (APSimg2047) which includes a color rendition of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

With this watercolor sketch of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (APSimg2047) dated to 1820, is a second type of bird, which was not identified.

This bird has several notable features, starting with the short feathers at the base of the bill typical to birds which capture insects such as flycatchers and nightjars. The bill appears to be flattish, a characteristic of a flycatcher. The plumage is shown in three colors, darker gray on the head, and a slighter shade for the wings and back and on the upper chest, with a reddish tinge on the lower belly and rump. The tail is black. The legs are also shown in black.

Overall, these features conform to characteristics of an adult Say's Phoebe, as the general body shape is very similar though not a precise match. The bill of the bird in the sketch is also shown longer than those of living birds.

If the second bird was sketched at the same time as the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, this would have been later in August - based on occurrence records recorded for this species - when a party of the expedition was in western Oklahoma. This would be within the range of the Say's Phoebe, based its modern distribution, adding to the plausibility of the identification.

There aren't particular notes in the expedition narratives that could refer to this specific species. However, on August 25, 1820 while in western Oklahoma, there is a mention of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, with additional text mentioning "other birds" with no further details. It is very possible that this is when Peale sketched both of these flycatchers.

The Say's Phoebe was not identified as a species until 1825.

Expedition Avifauna

There are around 450 records available overall from the various expedition sources with bird observations. About 336 are attributable to a particular date. There are 172 distinct species represented (or 173 if a Say's Phoebe was actually observed and sketched), which does not include generic references such as duck, geese, gull, hawk, heron, owl, sandpiper, or other identifications which were not to a particular species, or could not be identified based on given characteristics or as visually depicted. The overall tally of records does include culturally related information such as bird effigy material and bird-motif garments.

Common Name - Number of Records
• Greater White-fronted Goose - 1 record
• Snow Goose - 1
• Cackling Goose - 3
• Canada Goose - 10
• Trumpeter Swan - 7
• Wood Duck - 5
• American Wigeon - 1
• Mallard - 1
• Blue-winged Teal - 1
• Northern Pintail - 1
• Lesser Scaup - 1
• Long-tailed Duck - 1
• Bufflehead - 2
• Common Goldeneye - 1
• Hooded Merganser - 1
• Common Merganser - 1
• Ruffed Grouse - 1
• Dusky Grouse* - 1
• Sharp-tailed Grouse - 1
• Greater Prairie-Chicken - 4
• Lesser Prairie-Chicken - 2
• Wild Turkey - 40
• Domestic Chicken - 2
• Northern Bobwhite - 6
• Common Loon - 1
• Eared Grebe - 1
• American White Pelican - 8
• Brown Pelican - 1
• Double-crested Cormorant - 2
• Great Blue Heron - 1
• Great Egret - 2
• Snowy Egret - 2
• Green Heron - 2
• Black-crowned Night-Heron - 2
• Black Vulture - 2
• Turkey Vulture - 10
• Osprey - 3
• Swallow-tailed Kite - 1
• Mississippi Kite - 3
• Bald Eagle - 4
• Northern Harrier - 1
• Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
• Red-shouldered Hawk - 2
• Broad-winged Hawk - 1
• Red-tailed Hawk - 1
• Rough-legged Hawk - 1
• Golden Eagle - 1
• American Kestrel - 2
• American Coot - 1
• Sandhill Crane - 9
• Whooping Crane - 1
• American Golden-Plover - 1
• Killdeer - 2
• American Avocet - 2
• Spotted Sandpiper - 1
• Solitary Sandpiper - 2
• Greater Yellowlegs - 2
• Willet - 1
• Lesser Yellowlegs - 2
• Upland Sandpiper - 3
• Long-billed Curlew - 4
• Marbled Godwit - 2
• Semipalmated Sandpiper - 2
• Least Sandpiper - 1
• White-rumped Sandpiper - 1
• Pectoral Sandpiper* - 3
• Long-billed Dowitcher* - 1
• American Woodcock - 1
• Franklin's Gull - 2
• Least Tern - 7
• Black Tern - 1
• Band-tailed Pigeon* - 1
• Mourning Dove - 4
• Passenger Pigeon - 1
• Carolina Parakeet - 16
• Eastern Screech-owl - 2
• Great Horned Owl - 3
• Northern Hawk Owl - 1
• Burrowing Owl - 5
• Barred Owl - 1
• Long-eared Owl - 1
• Northern Saw-whet Owl - 1
• Common Nighthawk - 2
• Chuck-will's-Widow - 3
• Whip-poor-will - 2
• Chimney Swift - 3
• Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 2

• Belted Kingfisher - 4
• Lewis's Woodpecker - 1
• Red-headed Woodpecker - 3
• Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
• Downy Woodpecker - 1
• Hairy Woodpecker - 1
• Northern Flicker - 1
• Pileated Woodpecker - 4
• Ivory-billed Woodpecker - 1
• Eastern Phoebe - 1
• Great Crested Flycatcher - 2
• Western Kingbird* - 2
• Eastern Kingbird - 1
• Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 2
• Northern Shrike - 1
• White-eyed Vireo - 1
• Red-eyed Vireo - 2
• Blue Jay - 3
• Black-billed Magpie - 5
• American Crow - 3
• Common Raven - 4
• Horned Lark - 2
• Purple Martin - 3
• Bank Swallow - 4
• Cliff Swallow* - 2
• Barn Swallow - 3
• Black-capped Chickadee - 1
• Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
• White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
• Rock Wren* - 2
• Carolina Wren - 2
• Winter Wren - 2
• Marsh Wren - 1
• Eastern Bluebird - 1
• Swainson's Thrush - 2
• Wood Thrush - 2
• American Robin - 5
• Gray Catbird - 2
• Northern Mockingbird - 2; includes a couple of references to a mockingbird, where it was more likely a thrasher, especially once on the plains of New Mexico
• Brown Thrasher - 4
• Curve-billed Thrasher - 2
• American Pipit - 1
• Cedar Waxwing - 1
• Blue-winged Warbler - 1
• Orange-crowned Warbler* - 1
• Northern Parula - 1
• Yellow Warbler - 1
• Pine Warbler - 1
• Blackpoll Warbler - 1
• Cerulean Warbler* - 1
• American Redstart - 2
• Ovenbird - 1
• Northern Waterthrush - 1
• Wilson's Warbler - 2
• Canada Warbler - 1
• Yellow-breasted Chat - 5
• Summer Tanager - 1
• Scarlet Tanager - 3
• Western Tanager - 1
• Spotted Towhee - 1
• Eastern Towhee - 1
• American Tree Sparrow - 1
• Chipping Sparrow - 1
• Lark Sparrow* - 1
• Song Sparrow - 1
• Dark-eyed Junco - 1
• Northern Cardinal - 3
• Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 4
• Lazuli Bunting* - 2
• Dickcissel - 1
• Bobolink - 2
• Red-winged Blackbird - 1
• Eastern Meadowlark - 2
• Yellow-headed Blackbird - 1
• Common Grackle - 1
• Brown-headed Cowbird - 4
• Orchard Oriole - 1
• Baltimore Oriole - 3
• Pine Grosbeak - 1
• Purple Finch - 1
• House Finch* - 1
• Red Crossbill - 1
• Common Redpoll - 1
• Lesser Goldfinch* - 1
• American Goldfinch - 1

Items marked with an asterisk (*) are the newly described species discovered by the men during their expeditionary travels.

Records are available from Arkansas (one record), Colorado (36 records), Illinois (22), Iowa (4), Kansas (13), Kentucky (11), Missouri (50), Nebraska (185), New Mexico (11), Ohio (12), Oklahoma (55), Pennsylvania (27), and Texas (17 records).

This geographic distribution readily indicates the value of the expedition for indicating occurrence and distribution of numerous birds species at a time in history when such information was extremely limited for the western frontier.

Further consideration of these bird records might readily illustrate the biogeographic importance of the sightings, especially in comparison to the modern range for the different species.


Benson, Maxine, editor. 1988. From Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains. Major Stephen Long's expedition 1819-1820. Fulcrum, Inc., Golden, Colorado. 410 pages.

Evans, Howard Ensign. 1997. The natural history of the Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains 1819-1820. Oxford University Press, New York. 268 pages.

Fuller, Harlin M. and LeRoy R. Hafen. 1957. The journal of Captain John R. Bell, official journalist for the Stephen H. Long expedition to the Rocky Mountains, 1820. Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale California. 349 pages.

Genoways, Hugh H. and Brett C. Ratcliffe. 2008. Engineer Cantonment, Missouri Territory, 1819-1820: America's first biodiversity inventory. Great Plains Research 18(1): 3-31. Appendix 5, birds collected and observed in the vicinity of Engineer Cantonment.

Goodman, George L. and Cheryl A. Lawson. 1995. Retracing Major Stephen H. Long's 1820 expedition. The itinerary and botany. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 366 pages. With maps of the expedition route.

James, Edwin. 1972. Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains under the command of Major Stephen H. Long. Imprint Society, Barre, Massachusetts. 547 pages.

Murphy, Robert Cushman. 1957. The sketches of Titian Ramsay Peale (1799-1885). Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 101(6): 523-532. With several examples of Peale sketches.

Osterhout, G.E. 1920. Concerning the ornithology of the Long Expedition of 1820. Oologist 37: 118-120.

Thwaites, Reuben Gold. 1905. Early western travels 1748-1846: James' account of S. H. Long's expedition, 1819-20. Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, Ohio. Volume 14, 321 pages, vol. 15, 356 pages; vol. 16, 291 pages, and vol. 17, 308 pages.

Weese, A.O., editor. 1947. The journal of Titian Ramsay Peale, pioneer naturalist. Missouri Historical Review 41(2): 147-163; continues, 41(3): 266-284.

06 April 2012

First Bird-strike Fatality of 2012

A White-throated Sparrow found the morning of April 5th was the first known bird-strike fatality of 2012. It was — to no surprise — at the west side and north end of the CenturyLink Center, formerly the Qwest Center.

Nearby, construction is well underway on the building for Zesto, as well as Blatt Beer and Table, which will feature large areas of glass. The structure is across the street from the baseball stadium where trees have been planted. It will be a hazardous mix.

05 April 2012

Failures at Omaha City Project

The Omaha Parks and Recreation has a project underway through a private contractor, to control erosion along Happy Hollow Creek, on the west side of Happy Hollow Boulevard. The creek borders a popular recreational trail.

Last Friday a portion of sidewalk was replaced, but there had been no further construction activity noted through mid-day on April 4th. A visit was made in the evening to document the situation with signage, and other items.

At least the porta-john (which has been tipped at least twice) and removed waddles have been hauled away and off the sidewalk. There were at least a dozen other "failures" associated with the project site, which despite the construction and signage, is still very much being used.

The city and its contractor have not suitably maintained the project details, and this is obvious in the following pictures.

1) Sign laying unused next to the street. It is surprising that some miscreant has not kicked it onto the boulevard.

2) Chunks of rock were used in the gabion baskets, and those as shown here were not been properly removed. This is now nothing more than debris.

3) An errant sign indicating the presence of a flagman, which obviously not been used for days.

4) Trail closed signage on the ground, rather than properly displaying its message.

5) A large barricade sign that has fallen over. This includes twisted wire which a frisky dog could easily get tangled into.

6) A pile of waste dirt.

7) Forms used to construct the sidewalk, just left setting around.

8) Unnecessary tree damage.

9) Another flagman present sign that is falsely indicating a traffic hazard. This was at the evening, long after typical work hours.

10) Trail closed signage readily bypassed by joggers and walkers.

11) Sign indicating road work when there is no such activity underway.

12) Jogger on the trail. In the foreground where the walk is dirty was where there had been a pile of waddles.

Instead of having the contractor work with the community, they simply imposed a situation upon the many users of the trail/walkway. Obviously the sidewalk/trail users are ignoring what the city would prefer.

It is just another example of poor leadership and management by city officials, and careless maintenance by the construction company. Signs should be dealt with daily. Any debris or unneeded materials should be removed by the end of the work day. Damaged trees should be replaced, etc.

Thankfully, once the barricades are installed — hopefully soon — this project will be completed!

Additional Creek Issues

The following are images of obstructions in the creek near where it goes into the culvert under Dodge Street. This situation was reported to city officials a couple of weeks ago, but there has been no response.

Note the erosion above the drain pipe outlet. Obviously there is a problem here, and there will soon be a hazardous hole.

Illegal Parking Ongoing

This lawn company rig parked illegally on the grass on the east side of Memorial Park was reported to the city on the day it was observed. The same rig was parked at the same place, one week later and about the same time. At least the second time it had its lights flashing.

Apparently city officials have been unable to make a call to get this stopped. Or perhaps they don't care?

Situation Update

While going along the same route 24 hours later — that would be 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5th in particular — all of the signage was gone and it was a free ride. The string barricade remained as it was later last evening, on the west side of the sidewalk. The sidewalk forms were still present.

Obviously some city official got the point of this post, as also indicated in an email message sent to city administrators this morning.

Thanks to the person(s) paying attention, and for their efforts to make the trail/walkway once again a welcoming place for the neighborhood residents.

Time will convey how the creek obstructions might, if at all, be dealt with.