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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)


Plenty of migration this week with one or two species turning up way west of their usual, more easterly ranges.

Hammond’s, Cordilleran, and Gray Flycatcher showed up this week, as did a handful of Western Wood-pewee on the 21st. Western Kingbirds also increased in numbers along the fence of the pivot field.

Warblers were dominated by 10 -15 Yellow Warblers around the HQ, several flocks of c15 Yellow-rumped Warblers could be seen roaming the low cover about the ranch. Last week’s Black and White Warbler is still present in the same area.
An immaculate male Indigo Bunting was at the drip on the evening of the 22nd.

The 23rd saw and new arrival of birds. The first Western Tanagers were seen, with 8-10 birds seen in various locations. Most unexpected were 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks present for most of the day. Also sharing the feeders were 8 Black-headed Grosbeaks, the first Lesser and American Goldfinches of the season, 60+ Pine Siskin, 3 Cassin’s Finch, 8 White-crowned Sparrow and a smart male Lazuli Bunting. The first Nighthawk arrived too.

Posted by Bird D. on 05/25/2013

Black-headed Grosbeak. 
Posted by Bird D. on 05/25/2013

The 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak together, an unprecedented record for
the San Luis Valley! 
Posted by Bird D. on 05/25/2013

American Goldfinch.
Not so rare but a fine bird in anyone's book! 
Posted by Bird D. on 05/25/2013

Medano HQ
 This is the old Medano headquarters. An impressively large spread where the majority of the ranch crew lived. Most of the little houses were where the ranch hands lived. All of the buildings were also connected by a walkway you can see around the edge of the buildings. See the large wood pile in the middle and blackened chimneys? Subzero winters probably burned through the whole pile.
Posted by David L. on 05/24/2013

Big Baby
Yesterday I went out with Jeff and Duke to check on the heifers and their newborns. One of the calves of the day was this beast. Even though he was big and stout and showed a lot of strength when we moved him, he wasn't wanting to bound around and try out his new hooves. We took him to the sick pens with his mama and hopefully he'll be feeling a little more lively in a few days and will become a big strong steer.  
Posted by David L. on 05/23/2013

Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
Many Hummingbirds have been passing through including Black-chinned. 
Posted by Bird D. on 05/21/2013

 Barn Swallow around the ranch HQ.
Posted by Bird D. on 05/21/2013

Audubon's Warbler. 
Posted by Bird D. on 05/21/2013

Zapata Birding 10th – 17th May.

May is a busy month for birds! All kinds of migrants are pouring into North America from Central and South America.
Here at Zapata, the number and variety species is increasing daily. The rising temperature brings about a huge emergence of insect and invertebrate life, which in turn provides food for newly arrived migrant birds looking to feed up and continue their journey north, some of which will still be 1000’s miles from the final breeding destination. So it’s no surprise that the “oasis” of trees and cover on the ranch provide an excellent stop over as birds pass through the San Luis Valley.

Warblers added splashes of colour to the bare trees including Audubon’s, Myrtle, Orange-crowned, Virginia’s, Townsend’s and Yellow Warblers. Scarce species turned up too with 2 Nashville Warblers on the 14th, single Black and White Warblers recorded on the 14th and 16th and a Black-throated Grey Warbler on the 11th. By the middle of the week many Yellow Warblers were in song and defending territories amongst the HQ cottonwoods.

Swallow numbers went from a few Barn Swallows on the 10th to many hundreds of Cliff Swallow, Violet-green Swallow by the weeks end. Single Tree Swallows and Bank Swallows on the 16th. As I write all the Cliff Swallow colonies on the workshop and abandoned properties have been reoccupied with birds busily repairing nests, and Violet-greens prospecting tree cavities for potential nest sites.

Bullock’s Orioles begun to arrive from 15th with up to 5 birds emptying the hummingbird feeders of their “nectar” on the 16th. Black-headed Grosbeaks arrived from that date too. A pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers were around at the beginning of the week but not subsequently, in keeping with their nomadic habits.

Hummingbirds have buzzed through the ranch with Broad-tailed and Black-chinned being seen with regularity on from the 13th.
The first Warbling Vireo and Western Kingbirds recorded on the 14th.

Being at such elevation some species are yet to arrive such as Nighthawks, Tanagers, more vireos and Flycatchers, not forgetting of course the local Black Swifts. With snow still on the surrounding peaks and their waterfall nesting sites still partially frozen, it’s as if they know there’s no point in rushing back just yet.

Posted by Bird D. on 05/21/2013

Ranch Rodeo
Last weekend a few of the crew participated in a local ranch rodeo in Monte Vista - Duke, Jeff, Stuart, and me.

This picture is from the trailer loading contest. The most hilarious part was that the clock stops once everyone piles in the cab of the truck - normal capacity of 3 - and all of the doors shut. The Z fans said it looked like something from a circus with clowns racing around a car and Jeff sailing over the top of the trailer after taking the rope off of the steer.

I believe it was the first ranch rodeo for all of us. We might do another one near Saguache in June now that we have a feel for the events - trailer loading, branding, doctoring, and sorting - and the rules, timing, etc.
Posted by David L. on 05/20/2013

Berry Galette
Mike's dessert is one of the highlights of any meal at the lodge. This Berry Galette that he whips up is one of our favorites! Here's how to make it:

1 pie crust (Mike makes his from scratch, but the store bought kind work well)
1 cup of your favorite jam-- raspberry is great!
3 cups of assorted berries
2 TBS of raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Sprinkle sugar across the bottom of a cookie tray. Roll the pie crust into a rough circle and press down onto the sugar. Poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork-- not too many! Spread the jam across the bottom leaving the about 1 inch around the edge bare. Evenly distribute the berries across the top of the jam, again leaving about an inch around the edges bare. Fold the edges in over the berries. Bake at 350 for :30 minutes, or until just brown. Drizzle with chocolate if you'd like or just enjoy!  
Posted by Tess L. on 05/15/2013

Horny Toads
While riding out last week to the branding (see Jeff's post for more details on that!) I spotted 4 Horned Lizards, which we usually call Horny Toads. We grew up scouring the ground for them while we were riding, as they're slow enough for you to get off your horse and catch.  In reading up on them today, I learned that if scared enough, they can shoot an aimed stream of blood from the corners of their eyes!

Luckily this little guy wasn't scared....
Posted by Tess L. on 05/13/2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013
Calving is starting to get a lot slower now although it could be toward the end of June before we are completely done. After two months of checking several times a day, assisting numerous heifers in a day, sorting pairs, dry’s, and heavies twice a week, and all the other details that kept up us completely absorbed, we are finally reaching a point where we can breath and tend to other things. Riding through the calving pasture now, it’s completely different from a month ago. The weather is warm regularly now, the grass is trying to green up, and the number of calves in a day is sometimes 0. This week we will be changing our routine, which still involves checking heifers twice a day, but structured more towards other projects such as irrigation since the snow on the mountains will be melting soon! 
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/12/2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013
We kicked the branding season off yesterday with a big crew and perfect weather. There were scattered clouds and a freshness in the air from the rain showers the evening before. There were nine guests and six friends to go along with an already large group of staff. I hope (and I do believe) everyone had as good a time as I did.
Posted by Jeff G. on 05/08/2013

Baby Bison Becomes a Babysitter
 Since we found him last season, Gordon has become quite a personable little fellow.  Whether helping us tack our horses, grunting a welcome to guests, or being led around by an 8 year old, he always wants to be a part of the action.

More recently, he has become the welcoming committee/babysitter for new horses.  He kept Kate’s horse Black Friday company when he first arrived, and now he’s palling around with my new horse Booker.  Gordon will help Booker get settled in during these next few days before I turn him out with the herd.  He also provides an extra service-- getting a horse that has never seen bison before accustomed to these new animals he’ll be seeing a lot more of!

Posted by Kathleen M. on 05/04/2013

The Heart of the World
 “As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can." – John Muir


Zapata Falls is particularly magical this time of year.  After hiking up through the pinyon and juniper woodland, birds chirping, sun shining, you enter the cool recesses of a slot canyon, round a bend and come face to face with a massive wall of ice—a piece of art sculpted by nature herself.  The sun shines down through the frozen falls, leaving the canyon awash in cool blue light, and it feels as if you’ve entered a different world.

Posted by Kathleen M. on 05/03/2013

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