Louisiana Waterthrushes Might be Nebraska's Most Enigmatic Breeding Birds
by Shari Schwartz and John Carlini
Louisiana waterthrushes are not thrushes, and they have no special connection to Louisiana, so even their name is an enigma. Not only are they a warbler, they're also officially recognized by the Waterbird Society because of their reliance on streams for breeding habitat, and their diet is so similar to the fare of an aquatic species that they've been nicknamed the "feathered trout." The eastern edge of Nebraska is the periphery of their breeding range where occurrence is localized largely on the region's limited spring-fed headwater streams.
When we first started birding, we stumbled onto a small jackpot of Louisiana waterthrushes on Stone Creek at Platte River State Park and looked them up in our Peterson's warbler book only to
find they were described as having formerly bred in Nebraska which was worrisome because species that don't exist on the record can't be afforded proper protections. We set about to document breeding Louisiana waterthrushes on Nebraska's public lands that harbor appropriate riparian corridor habitat. We'll present a short photo travelogue of the highs and lows (literally) of our quests for nests and juveniles in areas so remote that there was no litter marring the landscape and no cell phone reception—just miles of gorgeous idyllic forested streams on precipitous terrain with flesh-piercing vegetation and paths that don't accommodate anything much larger than a raccoon. The number of territories on which we observed nests and juveniles significantly exceeded that previously identified. It wasn't difficult for us to understand the reason for this after having experienced firsthand the arduous treks required to properly survey this type of habitat. Registration required at this link:
Strategic Planning Check-in Time and Your Opportunity to Ask the Board Questions
The Board invites you to participate in the July 9 general meeting to hear recommended action items and timelines developed during meetings with the consultant. There should be plenty of time for Q&A after the highlights. Then, if possible at the end of the meeting, we’d like to practice Zoom “break out rooms” to see how going into discussion groups and then coming back as one group could work for future get-togethers.
In last month’s Babbling Brook, the results of the strategic planning process were summarized:
1. ensure that prairies currently under Wachiska’s umbrella are preserved
2. strengthen lobbying and advocacy for preserving and enhancing natural areas
3. continue increasing Wachiska membership
During the June 6th retreat, the Board worked hard to identify focus areas for the priorities. Near-term and long-term actions were established for each:
1. Caring for Tallgrass Prairies. Wachiska is at a place where professional resources are needed to coordinate and manage the 900+ acres of prairies under the chapter’s care. So, the process to hire a prairie manager has begun, including seeking grant opportunities to help “jumpstart” filling the position. Related near-term actions are drafting a job description, securing personnel documents, and determining training needs and work location. The target is to hire a prairie manager by June 2021.
2. Advocating for the Environment. One way to be successful is to communicate more effectively with elected officials. This group will invite leaders from other organizations to do some training for Wachiska. This should help the organization and individuals to track and monitor proposed legislation that could negatively or positively affect birds, wildlife, tallgrass prairies, and climate change.
3. Building Relationships. The Wachiska Audubon Society more fully achieves its mission through relationships. We will focus on increasing membership, utilizing technology, improving communication, and engaging volunteers. There were many suggestions received in the survey, and four actions were identified to work on during the next year. Planning for one-on-one conversations with Wachiska members is underway and will be used as a resource when considering types of activities and volunteer needs and will provide contacts for social media communications. Improving Wachiska’s social media presence will receive much focus. The third action is underway—updating Wachiska’s website to allow use of both PayPal and credit cards to make donations and to join and renew Friends memberships. Lastly, we will conduct a review of capabilities in the current database with what is possible with online relational database software. In year two, many hearts and hands will be needed to prepare for Wachiska’s golden anniversary celebration in 2023.
4. Strengthening the Organization. Following the hiring of a prairie manager in 2021, expectations are to begin the process of hiring an executive director, with a goal to have the position filled no later than January 2023. Part of the process will include reviewing and updating the current bylaws, policies, and procedures.
Board members for the January – December 2020 term are Stu Luttich, Theresa Pella, Marilyn McNabb, Mary Rogge, Linda R. Brown, Dave Titterington, Terry Stentz, Ross Scott, Tim Knott, Lana Novak, Bruce Kennedy, Patty Spitzer, and Kristal Stoner.
To attend this Zoom program on our regular meeting night, Thursday, July 9, at 7:00 p.m., register at the link below by copying the link into your browser. You can also find it on the website, WachiskaAudubon.org, on the first page of the July newsletter where you can click on it directly to register:
REGISTRATION IN REQUIRED FOR THIS PROGRAM (see above).
Knott Prairie Open House Planned
by Tim Knott, Conservation Committee
Wachiska’s prairie near Yutan, the Knott Prairie, is exceptional. It has particularly good plant diversity, a number of rare plant species, and it’s a magnet for bobolinks. The prairie should be in top form in early July. Wachiska purchased the 21-acre prairie in 2001, thanks to funds provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust because we believe it is one of the best native tallgrass prairies remaining in Southeastern Nebraska.
If you haven’t visited this native grassland, now is your chance. We are planning a visit on Sunday afternoon, July 5, beginning at 3:00 p.m. It is likely to be a hot and humid day, but late June and early July are the best times to see a native prairie. The plants are at their peak, and the nesting birds are still active taking care of their young. We are planning to have experts on insects, birds, and photography to answer questions and give some demonstrations.
Because of COVID-19, it might be safest for attendees to drive their own vehicle to the site. If you are not too concerned about COVID-19 by early July, I am planning to provide rides for three people and there may be others willing to do so. For carpooling, we will meet at the Wachiska office at 1:30 Sunday afternoon. We will then drive north to Wahoo, turn east on Highway 92, and proceed to Yutan. It is about 45 miles and one hour and 10 minutes from Lincoln to Yutan. We will rendezvous at Cubby’s filling station (on Hwy. 92) at 2:45 p.m. and proceed to the prairie by 3:00.
Directions: Knott Prairie can be reached from Yutan by driving one mile north of Highway 92 on County Road 5 (east side of Yutan). Turn east (at the northeast edge of Yutan) on road N, and drive one mile down into the Platte floodplain. Next, turn north again on road 4 and drive ½ mile to reach the prairie.
Bring water and insect repellent and wear long pants and boots. If it has been dry for at least a week, there should be no problems with puddles in the road; if it has rained heavily in the days just prior, we may want to postpone the visit until the following weekend. Check the July Babbling Brook for any schedule changes or call me before you go at either my