May is for the birds in Nebraska

Nebraska Bird Month includes inaugural Birding Bowl
It's the time of year to grab the binoculars and go bird-watching.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:59 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Birding or bird watching is not an adrenaline sport.

The most difficult sightings require immense patience and are gone in a flash of feathers.

Other birds almost strut their stuff, daring you to check them off your birding life list.

In Nebraska, you can see roughly 460 species of birds, and 95 of those are vagrants, according to Omaha’s Ron Cisar, who recalls being one-upped after one of his rarest of sightings several years ago.

“I said (so) what did you guys find, and they found a taiga bean-goose, which belongs in asia and its totally in the wrong continent,” Cisar said. “So our ferruginous hawk kinda got put on the back burner. but that’s just kind of what happens. periodically some sightings are very unusual and people do travel from miles and miles to see them.”

On a bird-watching visit to Heron Haven in Omaha, just days before Global Big Day, the biologist and ecologist said one person can make a difference in the world.

“Here at Heron Haven, and I know a number of people were involved in the preservation of this site, but a lady named Ione Worthman who was president of the Audubon Society (of Omaha), kind of made this her puppy, she really worked hard, as other people did, along with Ione, to see that this place was protected. it happened, and here we are.”

Outdoor Nebraska has significant resources for people of all levels to learn more about birding in the state, including an interactive map. There is also a list of some of the state’s most popular locations, including Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue.

Matthew Little from Scotland is a self-professed “keen birder.” A PhD student at Iowa studying ecological restoration, he was taking time out from field research at Hitchcock Nature Center across the Missouri River in Honey Creek to enjoy one of his outdoor hobbies.

“I have a friend here, Dr. (Neil) Bernstein , who said it is a hobby you can take everywhere around the world,” Little said. “It’s so much fun.”

As for his bird watching in the metro, Little was impressed with what the natural areas are drawing.

“I have never seen so many red-headed woodpeckers in the same place,” he said. “We were doing some driving around here and not doing any directed looking and I must have seen five or six.”

No matter how old you are, or how many birds you have in your life list, the Nebraska Birding Bowl is a fun opportunity to keep track of what you see in the month of May, whether you use a field guide requiring no batteries, like the Peterson field guides, or the new smart phone apps like Bird I-D.

Either way, its advised to leave the video camera at home, bring your binoculars and just enjoy the sights and sounds for yourself.

“Birds are not just beautiful to look at, but they are important in controlling populations, like predator birds, like eagles and hawks,” Cisar said. “They are important pollinators, like ruby throated hummingbirds that pollinate flowers, and they’re important to us as bio monitors, I mean we utilize a lot of creatures to understand an environment’s health.”