Bird Viewing Areas along City Trails
By Roger Hirsch, GPTN Board Member
While pedestrians along Lincoln’s trail system are often alerted by a cyclist to “look out!” Lincoln’s trail-users may soon find themselves urged to occasionally stop and “look up!”
Thanks in part to a Watchable Wildlife Grant from the Nebraska Game and Parks Division’s Wildlife Fund, our expanding network of hiking and biking trails now sport signage identifying “Metro Birding Areas”. The Great Plains Trail Network (GPTN) made application for the grant, and was announced as a recipient in December. GPTN partnered with the City of Lincoln, which provided sign installation, and the Wild Bird Habitat Store (Recipient, Better Business Bureau’s “Integrity Award” for 2012) which supplied matching funding along with GPTN.
The white signs are 12- by 18-inches with gold lettering. Each sign carries an outline of a pair of binoculars, which is internationally-recognized as a symbol for wildlife viewing. In addition, the signs display the web site information for the Nebraska Wildlife Fund, GPTN and Lincoln’s Parks and Recreation Department and the website for the Nebraska Bird Library—just in case you don’t know what kind of bird you are looking at, or if just want more information about a particular bird you spot.
Using the latest technology, each website on the sign displays a “QR” or “quick response” code splotch. Savvy trail-users sporting smart phones, I-Pods or I-Pads, are able to read and download information about; Nebraska’s Wildlife Fund and the Nebraska Bird Library. Trail users can also access Lincoln’s Parks & Recreation or Great Plains Trails Network website for trail information.
The “Metro Birding Area” signs single out these trail areas for birding:
1. Billy Wolff Trail at Holmes Lake, 70th and Van Dorn Sts.
2. Beal Slough Trail near Pine Lake Park (not yet developed.)
3. Tierra Briarhurst/South Pointe Trail, Tierra Briarhurst Park, 27th and Hwy. 2.
4. Rock Island Trail, 27th and Hwy. 2 to Densmore Park.
5. Rock Island Trail, 27th and Hwy. 2 to South St.
6. Jamaica North, 27th and Saltillo Rd. to Salt Creek Levee, 1st and Van Dorn Sts. or “Wilderness Park”.
7. Bison Trail to Pioneers Park, Coddington and Van Dorn Sts.
8. Salt Creek Levee Trail extension at Oak Lake, 1st and Charleston.
9. Murdock Trail at Mahoney Park, 70th-84th Sts.
10. Adjacent to MoPac Trail and 33rd Sts., Maxwell Arboretum, UNL East Campus, 35th and Holdrege Sts.
11. MoPac Trail, 84th to 148th Sts., East Lincoln south of O St.
Dave Titterington, a long-time naturist active in the promotion, teaching and development of bird-watching, has been very enthusiastic about the signage project and hopes it is just the beginning for bringing birding to trail-users. “Next to gardening, birding is the second largest form of outdoor recreation. There are 450 bird species in Nebraska, and many of them will use areas close to the trails for their major needs—food, water and shelter. Birds are increasingly seeking backyard feeders and metropolitan habitats while rural habitats shrink. Trails are part of that, and these signs will emphasize that you don’t have to go out into the rural areas to do bird-watching.” The City of Lincoln’s trail system covers more than 80 miles of corridors adjacent to many “green spaces” and provides an easy access network for great bird viewing opportunities within the city. Titterington said that adding a QR code on each sign to reference the Nebraska Bird Library, a complete online field guide of Nebraska’s birds, would allow bird watchers, as well as other trail users, quick access to bird identification using smart phones, I-Pods, and I-Pads.
Terry Genrich, Natural Resources and Greenways Manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, said “we think this is a great opportunity to promote bird watching in Lincoln and to provide an opportunity for the public to learn about birds that can be seen in the area and develop an appreciation for them.”
So whatever purpose you use the city’s trail system for, whether walking, jogging, biking or horseback riding, be prepared to occasionally “stop, look, and listen” and spend a little trail time watching Nebraska’s many residential and migratory birds.
Note from Dave Titterington, Wild Bird Habitat Stores
A big thanks to Roger Hirsch who was instrumental in following through in bringing the parties together to establish the City of Lincoln’s “Metro Birding Area” project. Roger wrote the grant that secured the partial funding of this project and spent many hours developing the signage and convening meetings creating a partnership that may hopefully ad more signage at prime bird viewing areas along additional city trails and possibly out into Lancaster County.