Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are asking visitors to John Martin, Adobe Creek and Nee Gronda Reservoirs for help in protecting two rare shorebirds that nest in Colorado.
As in previous years, parks and wildlife managers will be closing access to some shoreline areas to protect the nests of least terns and piping plovers. The closures, which may be several acres in size, will run from early April through mid-August.
“These are little birds that are really good at blending into sandy shorelines,” explained Mike Smith, Conservation Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Lamar area. “We’ll have volunteers and staff biologists marking off the nesting areas, but we also ask visitors to be on the lookout for their hard-to-see nest scrapes and eggs.”
The least tern is a small, swallow-like bird with black outer wing feathers that is sometimes seen diving head-first into the water after fish. The smallest of the North American terns, it can be identified by its distinctive black crown, white forehead and black-tipped yellow bill. Both Colorado and the federal government have designated the least tern as an endangered species.
The piping plover is a tiny shorebird with pale brown plumage and a black bar across the forehead. Piping plovers typically nest on sandy lakeshore beaches or on river sandbars that are free of vegetation, relying on their cryptic coloration as camouflage from predators. The piping plover is listed as a threatened species by the state of Colorado and under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Protecting nesting areas along recreational shorelines is the most effective way to support the recovery of least tern and piping plover populations, biologists say. In Colorado, the least tern and piping plover are found only in the southeast part of the state. They can also be found in other states with adequate shore nesting habitat.
Smith said that closed areas will be marked off with temporary fencing and orange baling twine. Physically disturbing a closed area, allowing dogs to run off leash or violating road closures can result in citations for offenders. Areas around the reservoirs will be patrolled by rangers and wildlife managers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A pamphlet explaining the closure areas is available at the John Martin Reservoir State Park entrance station and volunteers will be working to educate visitors about the protections that are in place.
John Martin Reservoir State Park is located in Bent County, near the town of Las Animas. John Martin Reservoir provides boating, waterskiing and wind watersport activities as well as fishing for walleye, bass, yellow perch, crappie and catfish. A state parks pass is required for entry.
Adobe Creek Reservoir, also known as Blue Lake, straddles the Kiowa-Bent county line and is surrounded by the Adobe Creek Reservoir State Wildlife Area. In addition to boating and camping, Adobe Creek Reservoir offers anglers the opportunity to fish for walleye, crappie, tiger muskie, bass and blue gill.
Nee Gronda Reservoir is one of several small lakes that make up the Queens State Wildlife Area in Kiowa County. Nee Gronda provides some fishing opportunity, but the other reservoirs in the wildlife area are currently dry or unfishable.
Anyone interested in volunteering to protect nesting shorebird sites or to educate summer visitors about the birds is encouraged to contact Jena Sanchez, Volunteer Coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Colorado Springs at 719-227-5204 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.