A rare bird found at Manitou Lake

By Aaron Driscoll Special to
Posted

Way back in December 1975, we moved to a ranch that is approximately five miles north of Woodland Park on Highway 67. It was called the Ponderosa Ranch. Now it’s called the Tall Pines Ranch. The two years we lived on that ranch provided some of the best memories of my childhood. It was an awesome opportunity to go fishing, hiking, horseback riding, sledding, exploring, and dozens of other activities that my brothers and I would make up. One of the best memories was going to Manitou Lake. I really enjoyed the quiet atmosphere around that lake, and I really enjoyed the wildlife! Even in my adult life, I try to visit this area as much as possible.

Over the years, I have become a member of a group of hobbyists that are called “birders.” We enjoy getting out in the great outdoors to view all the amazing birds that come through and live in our wonderful state. This story is about one of these amazing birds.

On June 27, 2013, Colorado residents Roger and Brenda Linfield were visiting Manitou Lake, enjoying the awesome birds that populate this area. In the middle of the lake, perched on the submerged tree branches, sat a Sandwich Tern.

Most birders keep lists of the different types of birds they are able to see. The list could be the birds seen in a specific county, in a specific state, in the lower 48 states, on the North American continent, or a list of world birds. My list is for North American sightings. In addition to individual lists, our hobby has many blogs that are used to pass along any rare sightings, or even just ordinary sightings. When news of this bird was posted by the Linfield’s, birders from all over the state of Colorado came to see it.

Based on the information that has been collected for many decades, it was determined that this bird is the first state record for this type of tern. This makes sense as this type of tern is usually found on the marine coasts of the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Its primary food supply is obtained from diving for fish. For diving birds, Manitou Lake and the surrounding beaver ponds are a great place to find fish.

On Sunday, June 30th, my family and I made the one hour drive from eastern Colorado Springs to Manitou Lake. We were able to take some decent photographs, but just being at the lake and seeing a new life-list bird really made the day. We are also very fortunate to have made the trip on the 30th of June. The tern moved on apparently, as has not been seen since the 30th of June. We almost missed it! Whew!!!

The one final thought I had when it had been determined that the tern was gone: what was a Sandwich Tern doing at 7,700’ elevation in the middle of the state of Colorado? We’ll never know.