Text by Marcel Such
Birding the Nature Conservancy’s Medano-Zapata Ranch – by Renee Haip
Each year, bird enthusiasts from across Colorado and beyond convene for a long weekend of early mornings, late nights, and lots of birds. This past weekend we met in the San Luis Valley for this annual Colorado Field Ornithologists’ convention. There are lots of activities from field trips to presentations, as well as an evening banquet. Below is a daily summary of the convention events that we attended.
[Day 1] Friday, May 22, 2009
While some people took arrival trips to the convention, we birded through the car windows at 65 MPH between Lyons and Alamosa to arrive in time for the evening activities. The main event was “Stump the Chumps,” where the moderator (Mark Peterson this year) projects photos of generally hard to identify birds – or parts of birds or just a nest with eggs – onto a screen. A panel of bird ID experts (the “chumps”) attempt to identify the bird(s). At the last minute, Joel and I were both asked to join Peter Gent and Ted Floyd on the chumps panel. It was tons of fun!
[Day 2] Saturday, May 23, 2009
Bison at Medano-Zapata Ranch – by Renee Haip
We went on a field trip with Bill Schmoker and Ted Floyd to the Nature Conservancy’s approximately 40,000 acre Medano-Zapata Ranch, a working bison ranch, just south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There were lots of neat birds around! Among the rarities found were a male Northern Parula, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a Least Flycatcher. Joel found an active Yellow Warbler nest, as well as six Evening Grosbeaks … not particularly rare, but an unexpected surprise. Also found were Sage Sparrows and Sage Thrashers out on the sage-covered rangeland, and a Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest with young owlets. In the mid-afternoon, I went back to the hotel to listen to presentations, while Joel and most of the group continued to bird at San Luis Lakes State Park.
Great Plains Toad, San Luis Lakes – by Joel Such
[Day 3] Sunday, May 24, 2009
Blanca Wetlands – by Renee Haip
Today we went on Nathan Pieplow’s field trip to the Blanca Wetlands. Home to Colorado’s largest breeding Snowy Plover population, numbering in the hundreds, the Blanca Wetlands is closed six months out of the year to protect the breeding water birds. Normally closed to the public at this time of year, this trip was definitely a treat for us. Our group found many of the expected birds. We also found a White-rumped Sandpiper, which is very rare for the San Luis Valley and was the only lifer Joel and I got the whole weekend. Our cousin Victor, on the other hand, racked up the largest number of lifers of anyone at the convention … listing 48 new species!
American Avocet, Blanca Wetlands – by Joel Such