Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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6 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | August 2018 Valle de Oro NWR: Providing Playas for Peeps and People ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– New Mexico's Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, "VdO" as the locals call it, has had many important milestones in its short five years of existence—from its beginning as a grassroots community project, to becoming the first urban na- tional wildlife refuge in the Southwest region, to breaking ground on the first phase of habitat restoration on the 570- acre former dairy farm. The site restora - tion plan began development in 2012, shortly after the refuge was estab - lished. Refuge staff, volunteers, and the Friends of Valle de Oro engaged the local community and partners to develop a shared vision for refuge restoration. In early 2018, construction began on the first of five planned wetlands to mimic the seasonal wetlands that historically occurred along the mid - dle Rio Grande Valley. More than 80% of the wetlands along the mid- dle Rio Grande Valley have been lost in recent times, so the opportunity to place five surface water features back on the landscape, the first of which will mimic a naturally occurring pla - ya, is a huge win for wildlife and the community. But wait, what's a playa, you ask? While it is, in fact, the Spanish word for a beach, that's not exactly what we're talking about in this context. Playas (pronounced PLY-ahs) are shallow, tem - porary lakes that collect and clean run- off from the surrounding environment during large rain events, providing im- portant stopover habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl along the way. These ephemeral lakes serve many im- portant functions beyond providing sur- face water for wildlife: native grasses on the playa's perimeter filter sediment from runoff, thus cleaning the water destined for the basin, while the large cracks that form on its surface during dry spells al- low for the recently cleaned water to eas- Conservation Milestones are published in the Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community to recognize efforts toward building a better future for birds and for birders. If you have a con- servation milestone to share, or know someone who deserves to be lauded for conservation and community activities, please contact Conservation Milestones Editor, Raymond VanBuskirk . We are especially enthusiastic about stories that include photos and contact information or other resources that inspire others to make their own contributions. Conservation Milestones ily seep down through a dense clay lin- ing, providing a second level of dissolved contaminant filtration, before recharging the aquifer below. After enough rainfall, these large cracks become completely saturated and close, creating a watertight lake bottom. Evaporation starts the pla - ya's life cycle over again. Many partners have joined the refuge for this habitat restoration project. The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation completed the wetland construction, while the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps, WildEarth Guardians, and Rio Grande Return helped with the initial planting of native saltgrass. Additional planting will happen this summer with the help of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the Youth Conservation Corps, Audubon, Coca-Cola, the Friends of VdO, Albuquerque Young Naturalists, and many other groups. Once the pe - rimeter vegetation is established, this wetland unit will be managed as a pla- ya, which hopefully means that natural forces will do most of the work, and the n Valle de Oro refuge biologist Ariel Elliott wan- ders along the edge of the new playa, admiring the hard work of the community and dreaming of the wildlife to come. Photo © Katie McVey n Volunteers work hard to transplant saltgrass along the edge of the newly created playa. Photo © Katie McVey

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