Shorebirds on the Move to Colorado

Hello there, everyone! It’s your Environment for the Americas (EFTA) intern, Ricky Martinez. I am back with some action-packed information on what’s going on in terms of shorebird migration at my field site, the Blanca Wetlands located in the beautiful San Luis Valley in Alamosa, Colorado.

Before I jump into what is exactly going on with the shorebird migrations, let me back track a few weeks. I recently (March 12, 2018, was my exact start date) started working with the San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management (BLM). One part of my many tasks is to do shorebird surveys at the Blanca Wetlands. What are the Blanca Wetlands, you may ask? The Blanca Wetlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern, or Blanca Wildlife Habitat Area, is an area of the San Luis Valley in Colorado that serves as a refuge for birds, fish, and other wildlife. The BLM is trying to expand the wetlands from about 10,000 acres to 100,000 acres.  In order for that to happen you need proof that the habitat is in fact being used by wildlife, thus why it is important that we collect bird data year in and year out to show proof that the birds are coming here to use this habitat during spring migration (also breeding season).

So every Monday and every Wednesday I do my shorebird surveys at the Blanca Wetlands. The first week I went out, which was on Monday March 19, 2018 and Wednesday March 21, 2018, we saw zero shorebirds. The reason I assumed was because temperatures were still a bit too cold, the mornings and nights were below 20 degrees F, and the water was still sometimes freezing at the surface. However, I didn’t lose hope the next week we went out for surveys on Monday March 26, 2018 and Wednesday March 28, 2018…and we saw our first shorebirds, including the gorgeous American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana). I bet you can guess what happened after that! Yes, you’re right, we discovered SHOREBIRDS ARE ON THE MOVE TO COLORADO (and north in general to wherever they breed)! Now we are not just seeing the American Avocet but we are seeing Yellowlegs species (Tringa melanoleuca/flavipes) and Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus), and more are sure to come.

For those who have never seen any of these species I don’t have any personal photos, but I will upload these images that are from the iBird Pro phone app. They have the copyright names below; these photos do not belong to me, but I believe it is important for you to see some of these species. From left to right is the American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, and Snowy Plover.

Overall it is great to see that the shorebirds are showing up, positive signs that strengthen the BLM’s case that we need even more protected land for the plenty of species that use it. Migration is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately in some species we are seeing declines in arriving populations. However the trend I’ve seen so far here in Colorado has gone from zero shorebirds to 20 shorebirds to 300 shorebirds, which is amazing. Stay tuned to my blogs for more insight and make sure you spread the word about the importance and significance of migration to others. Thanks, everyone, see you soon.

Me (Ricky Martinez) using my binoculars at the Blanca Wetlands to spot shorebirds.

Me (Ricky Martinez) using the scope to count shorebirds at the Blanca Wetlands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My survey/research partner, Alex Mullins, doing a shorebird count at the Blanca Wetlands.

Ricky Martinez
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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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