Tag Archives: birds

Britny Cordera Doane

July 10, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in July/August 2015 The Encounter.

You may have seen Britny Cordera Doane sitting with her typewriter on Howard Street in the Old Market. The “Old Market Poet” is a common sight, typing up poems on commission.

“I’ve always been interested in doing something with the community in the Old Market, like the musicians do,” she says. “It’s really fun going out there and meeting different people and running into people I know already.”

“Interested” might be the key word here, because the 21-year-old Cordera certainly has many interests. Cordera has been a street poet for almost three years, since she graduated from high school in 2012. You can count on her being in the Old Market most days, weather permitting; barring days when she has school (she’s a full-time student at UNO, studying creative writing and religious studies).

By no means, though, does her interest in poetry begin and end with her work on Howard Street. Cordera considers poetry to be her calling and published her first book of verse and prose, Wingmakers, this past February with Pinyon Publishing.

“Being able to type at the typewriter and get poems written, even if people aren’t coming up, is also a great gift,” she says. “There are some nights where I write two or three poems that aren’t for other people.”

She writes daily and produces at least a couple of new works a week. (I can tell you from personal experience, dear reader, that’s a demanding output.)

“It’s important to write a lot and to write every day in order to get better, in order to hone your abilities,” she says.

When it comes to that honing process, Cordera has a long list of qualities she would like for her poems to have. In addition to being vivid and free of cliché, she wants her poetry to have musicality.

“I see music and poetry as being one and the same,” she says. “The thing with poetry is that if it doesn’t sound right, I’m not going to use it in my poem.”

Indeed, music was how Cordera became interested in street poetry in the first place. In addition to writing, she plays the violin, and it was her violin teacher who suggested she write poems in the Old Market. Beyond being musical, Cordera believes the poem should be deep and weighty.

“I like a poem that says something, that has deeper undertones to it,” she says. “I’m trying to connect a web of themes and ideals of the world. I’m trying to connect things that seem unconnected already, but are actually thoroughly connected.”

More than anything else, perhaps, the idea of a web tying together a large variety of interests sums up Cordera’s aesthetic. Her other affinities include history and mythology. Wingmakers itself is heavily influenced by ancient mythology, as well as the bird constellations.

As if all that weren’t enough, Cordera plans to pursue a master’s in either religious studies or classics after she graduates. She intends to write more poems and books. She’s also learning Latin and Greek and hopes to work as a translator.

You may be wondering at this point how she gets it all done.

“I just do it,” she says with a smile.


For the Birds

April 27, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

At first glance when encountered on one of my frequent thrifting adventures, this magazine rack was anything but eye-catching. As is the case with most of the rehab works shown in the past on this page, I had to use a little creativity to imagine this as anything but a worthless piece of trash.

What You’ll Need

Assortment of acrylic paints of your choosing

Sand paper

Foam paintbrushes

Stencils (unless you prefer to freehand the designs)

Spray gloss sealer


Sanding the nooks and crannies of the spindled legs to a desired smoothness was probably the hardest and most time-consuming segment of this project.

I then went with a ’50s-era aqua hue to achieve the retro vibe I sought. Stencils, being the beautiful things that there are, allowed me to go further in the design motif than I would have in any
freehand effort.

Fuschia, besides being a strong complementary hue, is here punctuated by hints of a darker green in rendering the stenciled bird and floral designs.

As a finishing touch, I then accented the finials and other top-most edges of the rack to give it one more element of “pop.” Don’t forget such little additions as they can go a long way in giving any piece a more refined, thoughtful theme. Top it off with a spray or three of gloss sealer.

At the risk of being guilty of a little bragging, this fun, quick, and easy project exceeded all of my expectations.


Your Garden Glory

April 9, 2015 by

Originally published in March/April OmahaHome.

Mother nature is warming things up outside, which means it’s time to dig out those boots and gloves and get to work preparing your garden and outdoor living spaces for those heady, bountiful days to come. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Indoor Prep Work

To kick-start your spring color, cut branches of forsythia, crabapple, and spirea to place in a bucket of cool water inside. Leave in a cool area of no more than 60 degrees until buds show color. Snip and display in your favorite vase for an instant, preseason pick-me-up.

Grab some paper cups and your kids or nearest tiny relative and show them the wonder of starting seeds. Their eyes will delight in the wonder of the bursting of that first tiny sprout. Ideal veggies for home germination include basil, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chives, leeks, peppers, and tomatoes. Make your own seed-starting mix with a blend of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. To neutralize the acidity of the peat, add ¼ teaspoon of lime to each gallon of the mix.

Clean up the Clutter 

Around the third week of March, clean your lawn of any debris like rocks and sticks (or annoying blow-away garbage from your neighbors, as is all-too-often the case here in the big O). Prep the beds by removing winter mulch. Prune fruit trees, shrubs and ornamental trees before buds begin to break. Later, prune spring flowering shrubs as soon as they finish flowering.

Early Spring Planting

Cool season veggies, like peas, onions, potatoes, artichokes, and some lettuces can be planted now. Just make sure not to work the soil when wet. Raspberries should also be planted in early spring as soon as the soil is dry and workable.

Survey the Scene

Check conifers and broadleaf evergreens for signs of winter injury. To control aphids, apply a soil drench treatment of imidacloprid on deciduous and evergreen trees. A March application will be effective against insects and will last all year.

Spread the Love, Garden-Style 

Share with your friends by dividing perennials before spring growth has begun. Who doesn’t
love the gift of greenery?

Keep a Record

Pick out an adorable journal that expresses your inner gardening diva and keep a record of all of your gardening information. Make a list of each item you have planted in the garden, and create a schematic to remember where everything is. Make sure to include seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date, and harvest date. Maintain a record of how well each plant does during the growing season. If any variety is prone to disease, record what was used to treat the problem. You will thank yourself next gardening season for keeping these handy records at your fingertips.

Thank you Berry Much 

Give established strawberry plants a dose of fertilizer before new spring growth starts.

Make Your Beds

Mama told you that if you make your bed you’ll have a great day. Transfer that wisdom to your garden by picking out flats of your favorite bedding plants such as begonias, geraniums, lobelia, busy lizzie, petunias, rudbeckia, California poppy, antirrhinum, and cosmos.

Revive Bulbs

Soak any bulb-like plants that are starting to shrivel. Put them in water for a short time to allow for plumping. Weed out dead blossoms from spring-flowering bulbs. Discard any rotted bulbs among your dahlias, gladiolas, elephant ear, caladium, tuberous begonias, and cannas.


Check your deck and lawn furniture for needed repairs or re-painting to make sure that your outdoor living space is ready for all of that entertaining you resolve to do this year. Search for the perfect
outdoor party treats on Pinterest. Bring on the guests!

For the Birds

Birds will now start looking for places to nest, so set those birdhouses out and keep an eye out for your newest fine-feathered friends to come calling.

Mid-Spring Mulching

Applying mulch now will cut down on your summer weeding time. The best mulches are compost and rotted wood chips. Buy only what you need. A yard of mulch will cover 300 square feet when spread an inch thick.


For the Birds

November 26, 2014 by
Photography by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Fall is the perfect time to make a 40-minute road trip north to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge and get the family back to nature for a couple of hours. You may end up witnessing a pelican feeding frenzy, beholding the mind-boggling sight of tens of thousands of mallards flocking together, or even spotting a “convocation” of eagles. Every day brings new wonders, says Tom Cox, project leader for the refuge.

“This time of year is prime for seeing different wildlife on the refuge. All wildlife will become more visible but the main reason—the purpose of the refuge—is that it is an inviolate refuge for migratory birds,” Cox says. “The numbers and species will continue to diversify as we continue through fall.”

The refuge, established in 1958, is located in the migratory bird corridor of the Missouri River floodplain and serves as a habitat for resident, migratory, and endangered species. The grounds cover 8,365 acres in both Nebraska and Iowa, “a mosaic of floodplain habitats that includes wetlands, forest, bottomland forest, and grassland/prairie,” Cox says. Visitors can enter the grounds 30 minutes before sunrise and stay until 30 minutes after sunset year-round, and the visitor center
is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

“For regular family visitors, weekends are a great time to come. If you have binoculars, you should bring those along,” Ashley Danielson, visitor services specialist, says. “And if you really want to see large concentrations of wildlife, early in the morning and later towards the evening is the best time; anywhere up until 10 or so in the morning and 3 or 4 in the afternoon.”

The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top-visited refuges in the region, but the welfare of the wildlife always takes precedence, so visitors won’t get as close to the fauna as they might expect, Cox says. The tradeoff is being able to observe migratory and nesting birds in an entirely natural habitat.

“It’s a natural area, so the wildlife should act accordingly. The national park system is set up with more of a philosophy that it’s for the people; our core philosophy is that a refuge is where wildlife comes first. We are a federal entity set up to protect species that are protected by the federal government,” explains Cox. “We manage the wildlife that is either threatened or endangered or migrates across state lines.”

Plus, it’s a natural outdoor classroom that has a lot to teach students through established, year-round partnerships with Blair High School; the West Harrison school district in Mondamin, Iowa; and Omaha Public Schools’ Edison Elementary.

“I think the education program is one of the best in the nation,” Cox says.

“We really try to take what they’re learning in the classroom and take it to our outdoor classroom,” Danielson adds. “We really try to make it so that coming to the refuge is not a field trip; it’s school outside.”

The staff strives to ensure that other school groups get a meaningful learning experience when they visit, too. That means less lecture time and a more hands-on, interactive experience.

“We offer a variety of things for our one-time visitors,” Danielson says. “We have a curriculum-based activity guide that the school can use inside the visitor center. With a lot of our programs now we’re trying to use inquiry-based learning, where the students have the chance to experience nature and study it from their own perspective.”


Birds in Pop Culture

April 10, 2014 by
Photography by Phil Swanson, vice president – Fontenelle Forest Bird Club & Getty Images

Warmer temperatures will soon send fair-weather birders scrambling for their binoculars. Let’s take a look at some of our local favorites and the roles they’ve played in pop culture.


American Coot

Howard the Duck (1986)

Trickeration alert! The American Coot is not directly related to the titular character of this box office bomb. The coot does not have webbed feet, but uses its large-lobed toes to rather comically scramble across the surface of the water to gain the momentum needed to take flight.


American Crow

The Crow (1994)

Legend tells us that crows have the power to reanimate human corpses. Such was the case when Brandon Lee’s character joined the undead to seek revenge in this dark and brooding tale.


Cedar Waxwing

Pale Fire (1962)

This postmodern novel by Vladimir Nabokov—No. 53 on the Modern Library list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th century—has a poem embedded within that begins with the words, “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure of the windowpane.”


American Robin

Blue Velvet (1986)

David Lynch is known for finding beauty in the banal. The idealized, Rockwellian, white-picket-fence scene with the robin at the end of this harrowing story belies the film’s twisted plot.


Great Horned Owl

Blade Runner (1982)

Owls were the first species to go extinct in the noir-ish, replicant-hunting world of tough-guy Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Remember the animatronic version of an owl swooping through the dystopian darkness? Yeah, me too. Creepy.


Red-Headed Woodpecker

The Woody Woodpecker Show (1957)

What baby boomer could forget the staccato laugh of Walter Lantz’s hyperactive cartoon bird? Or his trademark intro of “Guess Who?” uttered just before he carves the show’s title card into a tree?


Turkey Vulture

The Jungle Book (1967)

Check out the quartet of mop-topped vultures in this animated Disney classic. That’s right, the physical appearance and even temperaments of these goofy, nothing-but-trouble galoots were modeled after the Beatles.


American Cardinal

Angry Birds

We were tempted to go with fire-balling St. Louis Cardinal Hall-of-Famer and Omaha native Bob Gibson on this one, but Red, the leader of a gaggle of Angry Birds, is more active these days—especially on any device with an “i” before its name.


“Creighton” Blue Jay

Big-Time Hoops

A welcome visitor to any backyard, the Blue Jay’s natural habitat includes the CenturyLink Center Omaha. Did you know that the specie’s Latin name of Cyanocitta cristata translates roughly to “Three-point Bomber?” Just trust us on this one.