Animals Need Water, and People Need It Too!

Hi there everyone, Ricky Martinez here, your Environment for the Americas Intern and San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management Intern. I am coming at you today from beautiful Alamosa, Colorado, to talk to you about the importance of water. Particularly about how water levels are very important for all the species of birds and animals in general at the Blanca Wetlands, my research and shorebird data analysis site.

Water is ubiquitous on planet Earth. Water is also the prerequisite for living, which means that water is crucial for every living organism on the planet and the quality of life. In today’s world what we also know is that water is becoming very scarce, and the regulation and data analysis of water levels/precipitation levels are extremely important.

So here in the San Luis Valley (SLV) every spring/summer, April through August, the Bureau of Land Management installs 33 rain gauges in 33 different locations all around SLV. There are 18 rain gauges in the northern part of SLV and 15 rain gauges in the southern part of SLV. I was extremely excited that I got to tag along with Eduardo Duran, BLM’s Natural Resource Specialist, and Negussie, one of BLM’s Hydrologists. I tagged along to install the 18 northern SLV rain gauges. This was an all-day 9-hour task, because the 18 rain gauges are spread so far apart and are in some very remote locations all over the valley. A big plus of this was that the valley is extremely beautiful ,and I got to experience some beautiful Colorado landscapes like no other.

The pictures you see above are the rain gauges: very simple innovations. They are made of a hard plastic and they have two units of measurement readings, inches and centimeters. For the BLM’s precipitation data we record everything in inches. Anyway, what you do is you hook these rain gauges into fabricated metal clips and pour 0.5 inches of clear mineral oil into them, which you can see on the photo on the left. Why do you pour oil into the rain gauge? So when it rains water collects in the gauge and it is more dense than the oil and sinks to the bottom of the gauge and the oil on top prevents the water from evaporating out. Every first of the month from May to August we will go record the levels and reset the gauges.

Lastly, I just want to tie in the importance of precipitation/water levels at my site, the Blanca Wetlands, and how that effects certain bird species, especially shorebirds. Some species of shorebirds like the Snowy Plover, for example, need and love lots of shoreline especially for nesting, as they are ground nesters. Other bigger shorebirds, like the American Avocet, Willets, stilts, and yellowlegs, love the shore also but can accept higher levels of water because they are much bigger and taller than the Snowy Plover. So we must regulate the water levels at all the different ponds to ensure that there are areas that are habitable for all the different species. If we are getting lots of precipitation or none at all that has an affect on all of the levels at each pond, so we are constantly focusing on the regulation and levels of each pond.

This pond is a great example of good habitat for the Snowy Plover as it has lots of shoreline for nesting.

This pond is not a good habitat for the Snowy Plover as the water levels are extremely high and have no shoreline, however you will see some of the larger shorebirds feeding here and many duck species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about why water is important to manage and how it comes into play in so many different but dramatic ways, sometimes in ways that are unimaginable. When it rains most people probably don’t think about how that effects wetland water levels which ultimately effect shorebird habitat. Thanks for reading, stay tuned for the next one, and enjoy these fun photos below showing some of the beautiful landscapes of Colorado as well as wild things you run into.

Installing a rain gauge we found a beautiful Bobcat, unfortunately not alive but these are sometimes things you come across working in natural lands.

The beautiful landscapes of Colorado particularly San Luis Valley.

Installing rain gauges we came across herds of Elk, Antelope and, in this photo, Mule Deer.

A group of Avocets in silhouette with the sun rising over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Notice Avocets can be in ponds with deeper / higher shoreline levels.

Ricky Martinez
[email protected]

Im Ricky Martinez Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni (BS Biology). Also I am a SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps Alumni (2016-2017). I currently am interning with the San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management. I consider myself an ornithologist and I love birds.

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