Monday, May 24, 2010

John Martin State Park & Plover Patrol (5/19/2010)

I left the Denver metro area Tuesday morning and headed for southeast Colorado. John Martin State Park to be exact. The park is about 20 miles east of Las Animas, CO and what that means is that I don’t have a whole lot further to drive to get to Kansas, if I want to.

plov1I arrived in early afternoon and was told that I could take the Camp Host site which is nice because it’s the only site with both electric and water in the entire campground. The Host has not taken up residence yet for the summer season. The campground sits right below the dam for the reservoir and it’s an eerie feeling to look up from a camping spot and realize that there is almost 100 feet of water just on the other side of that wall…over your head.

More eerie things happened as the evening approached. First the wind started absolutely ripping through the campground. My trailer was really rockin & rollin! At about 6:30 pm one of the park rangers came by and said that there was a storm 20 miles to the west with a potential tornado in it and everyone in the campground needed to go to the restroom/shower building for safety. For the next two hours the few campers in the campground stood around the restrooms looking at the sky and listening to the park ranger’s radio. Luck was with us as we got wind but nothing else. We could see that about a half mile north of the campground they were getting rain/hail/lightning but fortunately the tornado did not appear. The wind continued until after 9 pm before it finally quieted down for the evening.

At about 5 am this morning the wind started again and it rained…..poured, for about four hours. My Plover Patrol was not starting out very well! At about 10 am the local Division of Wildlife biologist showed up at my trailer and without much ado we headed out to survey the Plover Nesting sites.

Before I go any further I need to clarify exactly which Plover I’ll be patrolling this week. In previous posts I have called it the Mountain Plover…Wrong. On arriving here I was informed that the bird of interest is the Piping Plover. This bird is classified in The Sibley Field Guide to Birds as “rare” and listed by both the Federal Government and Colorado as “Threatened”.

As we drove to the first site, the biologist told me that there are only 12 confirmed Piping Plovers in Colorado. The total US population of this species is only about 2500 birds.  All of the Colorado Piping Plovers are right here in this small area of the state. Of the twelve that are known to be in Colorado, I saw six this morning in between rain showers. I wasn’t able to get a picture of one of them this morning because of the weather but hopefully sometime in the next couple of days I’ll get a good picture to post.

All of the nesting sites have been cordoned off by the biologist but “fun seekers” plying the waters of the reservoir have been disregarding the signs and ropes and have picnicked and camped in these areas. My job over the next few days will be to visit these sites several times a day. If I see any human activity I’m supposed to contact the local DOW enforcement officer by phone and not approach or even speak to the people violating the restricted area. In between my visit times I’m free to do whatever I want and I have a list of some local places I’d like to visit so hopefully there’s more adventure to come.

Thanks for visiting.

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