Nature’s Classroom: Observing Pueblo’s Ecological Diversity – Lifestyle – The Pueblo Chieftain
This is the fourth in a series of articles from the staff of the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center that will provide resources, ideas and suggestions for families during the safer home phase of the pandemic. COVID-19. Watch for future articles with ideas for outdoor activities for students and families. The public can help the nonprofit NWDC through this difficult time by donating at walkandlearn.org/donate-covid-19-pandemic-relief.
Pueblo is a place renowned for its diversity; its culture, people and history all stem from a mixture of different influences. Having lived both further west and east, it is evident that Pueblo also stands at a unique ecological confluence. Located at the western end of the great plains which stretch far to the east, there are no geographic barriers to the migrations of plants and animals from this direction. However, Pueblo is located high up and at 4,700 feet above sea level also presents an ecological opportunity for mountain species.
When I moved to Pueblo, I was shocked to hear cicadas, a familiar insect from the east. What are they doing in dry Colorado? Create an ecological niche, following opportunities in the Arkansas River Corridor to the highest elevations at which they can survive. I was also surprised to learn that black bears occasionally visit the plains, as they usually inhabit the mountains where heavy rainfall is watering the plants that make up most of their diet consisting of fruits, roots, bulbs. and berries. Although they are not regular visitors to Pueblo, they can make their way along stream corridors to lower elevations, even as far east as Bent and Otero counties. , especially when conditions are difficult during drought years.
Due to its location between these mountain and grassland ecosystems, as well as abundant water in an otherwise arid landscape, Pueblo has a surprising variety of wildlife, even within the city limits.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen the following animals in town: mule deer, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, beavers, prairie lizards, garter snakes, little brown bats, mayflies, bees, brown trout, wild turkeys , ospreys, turkeys vultures, bald eagles, various water birds and countless small birds. They respond to spring in the same way as humans with increased activity.
Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say that we humans are responding to this spring with less activity, due to our efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. An interesting effect of this slowdown has been an increase in animal activity, making it a prime time to observe wildlife. Many species are adapting their behavior to avoid human activity, and with this decrease in recent times, they are finding more ecological “space” to move, eat, reproduce, nest and survive. This makes it a great opportunity to get out into our parks (in complete safety), and especially along our waterways, to enjoy the other creatures that have made Pueblo their home.
Spring is also a great time to get a feel for where wildlife will be found throughout the seasons. In a brazen law of botany, where there are flowers, there will be fruit. And where there is fruit, there will be fruit eaters. Pueblo is on its way to full bloom, with many plants in bloom now. Look for the bright yellow blossoms of the golden currant, the fragrant white blossoms of the wild plum tree, and the familiar river vine with its understated green flower clusters. All of these are important food sources for wildlife.
When the weather warms up, keep your eyes peeled for the Virginia Cherry with its white flower clusters, the New Mexico locust with bright pink pea-like flowers, and the Russian olive with cream-colored flowers. on large thorny trees. Habitats rich in these species will be good places to view wildlife during the summer.
So take the time this spring, especially for those of you who have suddenly received more, to visit the source of Pueblo’s original prosperity – our waterways, melting pots of ecosystems and people. A walk along one of them is an adventure in the diversity of Pueblo and a fun way to get out as the weather warms.
Wildlife Viewing Spots: Runyon Lake, Arkansas River Trail, Fountain Creek Trail, NWDC River Campus, Minnequa Lake, Pueblo Lake State Park, NWDC Mountain Park, Wildhorse Creek, and San Isabel National Forest.
Best times to observe: Early morning or evening; most species have a lull in the middle of the day, especially when summer temperatures warm.
Michael Hazel moved to Pueblo last year but has a long history in the area. He is an environmental educator for NWDC and has worked for years to foster an appreciation for the wonders of nature and in particular the amazing landscapes of southern Colorado. He can be contacted at [email protected]