Just a couple days after winter solstice and I’m wending my way up a foothill trail on the east flank of the Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, AZ. My guide, Dodie, leads the way. We are looking for birds, but at a deeper level I am looking for immersion. To connect to a healthy landscape is healing, revitalizing.
As we hike through thick grasses, bushes and trees the landscape is animated by birds. A glossy, blue-black Phainopepla perches atop a nearby tree looking at us with crimson eyes. Pyrrhuloxia, gray cardinals with red accents, move through the landscape along with southwest sparrows like the Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned. Whispered calls clue us in to the presence of a Crissal’s Thrasher that Dodie expertly identifies before I even am aware of the sound. This is a healthy landscape for wintering birds and for those of us lucky enough to walk the trails and I relish every minute.
Back home in Colorado, my thoughts turn to Pinello Ranch and Venetucci Farm, where I work as the Education Coordinator. There are trails going through healthy landscapes there as well. With the help of a cadre of dedicated volunteers we have been exploring the wild corners of both properties for the last several years. Even on a busy farm, there are places where you can feel that same connection that I recently experienced in Portal. 2016 is going to see dramatic changes at both Venetucci and Pinello in how we share these places with the public.
For starters, at Venetucci Farm we are going to begin the process to create a self-guided birding trail where people can explore the many hidden and not so hidden areas of this 250 acre urban farm. Brown Thrashers, Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Yellow-breasted Chats and Dickcissels are some of the birds singing from Coyote Willow’s thick vegetation. In the open areas, alongside fields of grain and pumpkins, Western and Eastern Kingbirds and Vesper Sparrows perch on fence lines while Red-tailed and Swainson’s Hawks patrol the skies.
Pinello Ranch is also going through dramatic changes as Colorado Springs Utilities begins a Master Planning process for this 100+ year old iconic ranch of the Pikes Peak Region. This is perhaps the most dramatic turn of events since Italian immigrant brothers Alphonso and Angelo Pinello bought the, then named, Skinner Ranch in 1912.
It is the hope of the farm and ranch staff and of our parent organization, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, that local agriculture and wildlife conservation will be important aspects of Pinello Ranch’s future. The Master Planning process will include opportunities for public input and I will make sure that those who have visited and are interested in Pinello Ranch are kept apprised of these opportunities as the information becomes public.
We are looking forward to an exciting 2016 and hope to see you “down on the farm”. Please let me know if you would like to be added to our email list so we can keep you up to date on new outings as well as the Pinello Ranch Master Planning process.
With your help we plan on keeping wild landscapes wild for future generations to immerse themselves in.
Happy New Year,
Education Coordinator, Venetucci Farm and Pinello Ranch