Spring is in the air!
Well. In most places. For Alamosa, Colorado that means it might stop snowing soon. Spring in southeastern Colorado means that the winds have started to pick up and many of our shorebirds have moved on to their nesting sites. Fortunately, it also means that the wetlands are starting to come alive in other ways.
There are a few birds that nest on the Blanca Wetlands, and they have started to get a little feisty when we get near their nesting sites. The American Avocet is one such bird, as is the Killdeer. This week our surveys out on the wetlands were a bit windy but multiple ponds still had avocets and killdeer chirping away, feeding on the insects that are starting to spring up in the salty waters, and warning us not to get to close to where they will soon be laying eggs and raising chicks. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Snowy Plovers stick around during the nesting season as well! Those, however, are much more difficult to spot. Pond 46 has been known to be home to 2 of them, and they stand remarkably still every time we are nearby – which makes them even more difficult to spot. I am super excited for the day that tiny little snowy babies hatch on this pond and up their numbers on the wetlands!
The one pond that we haven’t seen hardly any shorebirds on this season is Pond 141. This was confusing, as the habitat seemed just as good as any on the wetlands. We had started to suspect it was because of the Great Horned Owl that nests just on the corner of the pond, but today I think I might have found a more intimidating reason. At we drove around the back road to 141 Lisa stopped the car abruptly and reached for her binoculars. This is a fairly common occurrence when out with Lisa, her eyesight seems to be sharp as a hawk 😉 As I too grabbed my binos to try and make out what new and exciting bird she had undoubtably spotted in the distance, I heard her gasp. Now I was even more excited to find what she was looking at…. I followed her gaze to the fence line directly in front of the truck. There on a wooden post less than 30 yards away sat two Peregrine Falcons. They were easily the most impressive birds I had ever seen on the wetlands. Their little helmet feather pattern was unmistakeable at this distance, and they sat on the fence without a care in the world; preening themselves and not paying one bit of attention to us. It was as if they were saying “we don’t care that you’re here, we’re not afraid of you”. So naturally Lisa and I eased the truck forward bit by bit until I was close enough to snap some close up photos of them!
By the time we were 10 yards away they seemed bored of us, turned, and rocketed away. I know that sounds dramatic, but I had never seen a bird move so fast. They were more swift and sleek than anything I had ever seen fly out here before.
I then pictured one of these impressive birds moving at their incredible speed, talons outstretched, closing in on one of the peeps that wanted to nest on the shoreline of Pond 141. Suddenly, the desertedness of Pond 141 didn’t seem all that surprising.