Featured site: Blanca Wetlands, Colorado
Blanca Wetlands in Colorado’s San Luis Valley is another America’s Great Outdoors research site. At this location, we will be hosting two interns who will be working on bird conservation efforts in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management.
Long ago, the San Luis Valley’s landscape was composed of a network of playa lakes, ponds, marshes and wet meadows. Today, many of these wetlands are dry due to a lower ground water table and decreased runoff from the mountains. The Blanca Wetlands – a part of this wetlands network – is making a comeback through the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management and its many partners. Ponds, marshes, playas, wet meadows, and uplands intermingle across 10,000 acres at Blanca Wetlands to provide rich and diverse habitats for wildlife – and a haven for people.Blanca has been declared an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, or an ACEC, for its recreation and wetland values, including playa and marsh habitats containing large populations of water birds, amphibians, macroinvertebrates, and 13 threated, endangered and sensitive species.
To protect nesting birds this area is closed to the public from February 15 to July 15, but when it is open, it can be one of the best birding spots in the county. Large birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon make their home at the wetlands. Shorebirds such as gulls, sandpipers and pelicans are at home in the salty environment, as well as 158 other species. Other Species of Management Priority that have been documented are American Bittern, Avocet, Common Yellowthroat, Eared Grebe, Forster’s Tern, Greater Sandhill Crane, Hen Harrier, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Sora Rail, Western Grebe and Yellow-headed Blackbird. The wetlands is a duck breeding concentration area, with Mallards by far the most common, but good numbers of pintail and green-winged teal also visiting. One of the real ornithological jewels here is a breeding population of Snowy Plover, but you will be lucky to find one!
With all the wildlife found in Blanca Wetlands our interns are going to be busy conducting their field work all season! Interns will be working on projects such as playa-wetland shorebird “blitz” surveys, waterbird nesting studies, water quality data collection, collecting and recording data, and writing reports on findings. In addition to field work, our 2 interns will be conducting community outreach and education on shorebird conservation. These interns will be delivering bilingual on site and off site presentations to children and adults to engage the surrounding Latino communities in conservation efforts.