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Hello Dolly!
Category: Live from the Ranch
 Meet Dolly! Dolly has just joined our herd and will be discovering her new home of Zapata all this week. Dolly came from some friends of ours a few hours away and is a pretty special Paint. She's settling in well and will be headed to check out the Bison on a ride this morning. 

Posted by Kate M. on 07/01/2013

Category: Live from the Ranch
 This week we had a new member of the crew join us, 14 year old Jaden from Alamosa came to Zapata on a work experience day. Whilst the bitter wind blew and snow fell from the overcast sky Jaden jumped right in and helped sort over 50 pairs from the Pivot to the Blanca pasture. Jaden ran the gate, ensuring only the pairs passed through and making sure none turned back. Later tht day he helped J.R trim and clear tree branches from around the lodge before meeting Gordon the baby bison and his relatives in larger herd on the Medano. Jaden left for the day with an invite to return anytime, a fun member of the crew and a hard worker. 
Posted by Kate M. on 04/25/2013

Spring has Sprung!
Category: Live from the Ranch
Spring is officially here. The cows are being sorted off daily and those that are about to drop are moved to the pivot ready to give birth. The pivot is right outside the lodge window so we can keep a close eye on the newborns. Two riders are out each day checking, riding through and helping out any cows that are having trouble with their birth. This little guy was helped out this morning and it didn't take long for him to be looking around for his mama and trying to stand up.
Posted by Kate M. on 03/19/2013

Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
We were due to sort heifers today out in the pasture but Jeff predicted a snow storm coming through and wisely had us all out on horseback yesterday. A beautiful day warm enough to peel off the outside layer of winter clothing. We trotted out to the Dixie, Elk and Antelope pastures. The riders split up and each gathered a corner or area. The heifers moved really nicely and we didn't need to push them at all which makes for a nice ride. We held them at the tri tanks and as a few riders held the herd, others rode in, selected a cow and worked her out of the group. As well as getting the job done everyone had fun. We tested our horses, how well they locked on to cows and how fast they could turn back a running cow. These are working horses and when you ride them you can tell they love it as much as we do. The cattle that we pulled off were trailed to the Shedwell pasture, here they will be fed some hay for the coming weeks to help them through the tail end of winter. The snow storm came in last night, the mountains are nowhere to be seen and fresh snow is layering the ground. [ read more ]
Posted by Kate M. on 02/20/2013

Busy Days at the Corrals
Category: Live from the Ranch
Yesterday the temperatures were rising in their 40's and it makes working in the corrals that little more pleasant. I am hoping to get quite a few rides on my horse Black Friday before the season gets in full swing, it just take 20 minutes at the end of the day to stay consistent with him. I've been using Rockey to help work him and get him used to someone above him.
Today we will be gathering the heifers and sorting them in the corrals, it's a full day and the whole team will be involved.

Posted by Kate M. on 02/19/2013

Live Zapata Bird Diary - September 15th, 16th and 17th.
Category: Live from the Ranch

15th September


Calm fine conditions with no real wind continue, the number and passage of birds seems to have reduced slightly. Certainly less Robins and Chipping Sparrows around.

 The first Western Tanager for me this morning, a species I found to be quite wide spread here in late June. An immaculate male Williamson’s Sapsucker followed yesterday’s imm. female. And a Gray Flycatcher allowed close and prolonged views mid afternoon.


SS Hawk 3

RT Hawk 3

Peregrine 1 juv.

American Kestrel 3

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 2

Black-chinned Hummingbird 1

Flicker 20

Red-napped Sapsucker 4

Williamson’s Sapsucker 1male.

Say’s Phoebe 2

Western Kingbird            5

W. Wood-pewee 4

Grey Flycatcher 1

Warbling Vireo 1

Clarke’s Nutcracker 4-6

Barn Swallow 12

Juniper Titmouse 2

Mountain Bluebird 10

W. Bluebird 25

Catbird 2

Audubon’s Warbler c60

MacGillivary’s Warbler 1

Wilson’s Warbler            5

Western Tanager 1

WC Sparrow 2

Lincoln’s Sparrow 5

Savannah Sparrow 1

Vesper Sparrow 2

Chipping Sparrow 40

Pine Siskin 12

Lesser Goldfinch 25

Spotted Towhee 2

Green-tailed Towhee 4

[ read more ]

Posted by Kate M. on 09/22/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 6 - September 14th
Category: Live from the Ranch

The weather remains in the same vain with still conditions and the on set of night frosts. The Hummer feeder still has at least 3 individuals hanging on despite the frosty starts to the day. Williamson’s Sapsucker was a nice addition. Also my first Townsend’s Warbler; a bird I expected to be commoner. I think the group of Pinyon Jay may be the same birds doing the rounds in the mornings.


Sparrows. The question has been raised that I’m possibly missing a few here and there. I’m only specifically listing numbers of particular species that I have had a visual on; I find the flight calls (remember I’m here on holiday from the UK!) far to subtle to take on board in such a short time span.

So there may well be some under recording of Brewer’s Sparrow for example.


Cooper’s Hawk 1 large immature.

SS Hawk            4

Peregrine            2

American Kestrel            4

Common Nighthawk            c30

Flicker             c20

Red-napped Sapsucker            2

Williamson’s Sapsucker            1 imm. Female

Western Wood-pewee                        3

Say’s Phoebe                         1

Loggerhead Shrike            1

Pinyon Jay            c30

Clarke’s Nutcracker           ...

Posted by Kate M. on 09/18/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 4 and 5 - NEW ARRIVALS!
Category: Live from the Ranch

Day 5

Overnight rain clearing by dawn to leave a clear bright day with a moderate northerly wind.

 The cooler weather seemed to produce some new arrivals despite the early part of the previous night being quite wet. I try to only list species that are probably migrants rather than every Scrub Jay I encounter. It’s also been pointed out to me that the birds I’ve been recording as Indigo Buntings (I’ve been picking these birds up on call) are almost certainly Lazuli, Indigo Bunting’s western incarnation.

A few new additions to the autumn’s list of birds. Totals below.

American Kestrel                        3

SS Hawk             3

RT Hawk            4

Northern Harrier            1

Common Nighthawk            c60


Posted by Kate M. on 09/16/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 3
Category: Live from the Ranch

Overcast with a stiff southerly wind developing that brought a few showers.

Scrub Jays, Robins and Audubon’s Warblers have discovered the feeding station and drip I set up yesterday. Hopefully there’ll be a few more unusual visitors over the coming weeks.

The Common Nighthawks put on an amazing display at dusk coming within inches of me as I stood at the edge of the field, just beyond the HQ buildings. With a Coyotes calling in the distance, it made an atmospheric end to the day.

 A much-anticipated change in the weather is due over the next 48hrs with a northerly airflow and a drop in temperatures, which hopefully should bring more birds.


Audubon’s Warbler            c80

Virginia’s Warbler            2

Wilson’s Warbler                        6

Chipping Sparrow            100

White-crowned Sparrow            2

Green-tailed Towhee            5

Spotted Towhee                        1

Western Wood-pewee            2


Posted by Kate M. on 09/13/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary Day 2
Category: Live from the Ranch

Another warm, calm day with a light southerly wind at dusk.

Covered most of the wooded areas of the ranch, the northern most fringe by the pivot being particularly lively, perhaps this is because this is the first stand of trees encountered by south bound migrants coming in off the plains.

Chipping Sparrows and Audubon’s Warblers continue to be the most numerous passerines. There’s still an apparent SE track to the direction in which the birds are travelling. An immature Summer Tanager, near the corrals early afternoon, was probably the most note worthy bird of the day. The evening concentration of approximately 200 Common Nighthawks at dusk made for quite a spectacle.

 Below are some migrant day totals.
Chipping Sparrow  110

Audubon’s Warbler  100

Wilson’s Warbler  3

McGillivray’s Warbler  2

Red-napped Sapsucker  1

Mountain Bluebird   18

Common Nighthawk   c240

American Kestrel   2

Red-tailed Hawk   4                       

Northern Harrier   1

Summer Tanager    1

Posted by Kate M. on 09/12/2012

Live Zapata Bird Diary
Category: Live from the Ranch

This is first of a series of posts recounting fall bird migration through Zapata ranch and surrounding areas.

I’m hoping to see some really exciting bird migration over the next 3 weeks whilst at Zapata ranch. This is all a leap of faith, as the ranch itself has had no continuous monitoring during this period so fingers crossed! Check back regularly as I’ll be posting reports as things happen.

Most of the day spent on the ranch itself. A relatively quite but very enjoyable day, with the bulk of passerine numbers made up by Chipping Sparrows and Audubon’s Warblers with both species tipping the 100 mark. 14 Common Nighthawks were dancing in the in the pre-dawn sky as I left the cabin. A Great-horned Owl was a pleasant surprise in the mature cottonwoods.

A good 200 American Robins and another 80 Western Bluebirds rose up out of the cover surrounding the ranch HQ and headed in a SE direction, it’ll be interesting to see if birds here continue to head in that direction rather than the expected due south. Singles each of Evening Grosbeak and Black-headed Grosbeak flew over. A small group of Pine Siskins and a single Lesser Goldfinch were hanging around the head office, and a small flowering tree held 5 Wilson’s Warblers and a Virginia’s Warbler.

A single Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler flicked through the cottonwoods. 3 Indigo Bunting were picked up on call as they flew over.

Whilst at the feeder 2-3 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were joined by a single Black-chinned. Several more groups of Nighthawk were seen during the day bringing the total for the day to over 50. Below is a sample of some migrant totals to give some idea of numbers.

 American Kestrel  2

Sharp-shinned Hawk   3

Red-tailed Hawk   2

Turkey Vulture   12

Common Nighthawk   56

Posted by Kate M. on 09/11/2012

Gordon has new friends
Category: Live from the Ranch
For a while now we have been wanting to get Gordon the orphan some friends, it's taken a  while to find the right ones and here we are, 3 pygmy goats. He's not too sure about them right now but hopefully he'll warm up and they will be the best of buds in no long as he doesn't distract the goats from getting their job done.....weed eating! 
They just need names now.....any ideas?

Posted by Kate M. on 08/26/2012

Banana and Nut Muffins for breakfast!
Category: Live from the Ranch
As well as eggs, potatoes, sausages and fruit of course! 
Posted by Kate M. on 07/22/2012

Connor tells us the impact Zapata-Medano has made on him in only a couple of short weeks.
Category: Live from the Ranch

For some reason or another I have this innate desire to find one word that best describes a person, place, or thing and the other day while I was out working on the new bison fence under construction on the Medano I started thinking about what one word best describes the Medano-Zapata Ranch.  Several words came to mind but the one that I settled on was dynamic
(marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change).  You see, every day at the M-Z is different, whether it be the tasks that the staff must attend to, the guests that are visiting, the weather, or even just your perspective, nothing here is static. 


As I traverse the 50,000 acre bison pasture I am constantly taking a moment or two to look up and enjoy the beautiful landscape that surrounds me, and every time I look up I see something different.  The moving clouds cast shadows on parts of a meadow or the mountains while allowing sunlight to illuminate a ridge, forest grove, or grassy knoll that I had not noticed before.  The passing rains of the summer monsoons dampen the sand dunes highlighting the changes in their form dictated by the ever-blowing wind. The elusive bison are always on the move searching for the next patch of luscious grass to sustain their never-ending appetite, like pawns on this chessboard like countryside.


But it is not just the landscape that is dynamic; the people that are such an integral part of it are just as so.  This is evident in the little girl that over the course of a day overcame her fear or riding a horse, or the group of guests that wake up in the morning never before having moved cattle but go to bed that night with the experience of rounding up and moving an entire herd several miles.  It can be seen in actions as minute as an intern learning how to hitch a...

Posted by Kate M. on 07/10/2012

Bird Life at Zapata and the surrounding areas by Laurence Pitcher
Category: Live from the Ranch

I didn’t really know what exactly to expect in terms of Bird watching at Zapata as it is not often mentioned in the bird guides, especially as I arrived after the bulk of spring migrants had moved through. But I left truly enlightened to what this “oasis” in the plains produced.


Upon arrival I was immediately struck by how much bird activity there was around the Ranch HQ, Yellow Warblers sang from the Cottonwoods, Mountain Chickadees could be heard and family parties of American Robins and Northern Flickers fed fully fledged young amongst the lawn sprinklers. Barn, Cliff and Violet-green Swallows were everywhere utilizing the cabins and outhouses as nest sites.

 Over the coming days it became clear the birds of prey were much in evidence, a pair of American Kestrels that were breeding near the corrals announced the presence of any other bird of prey as they noisily harassed any intruder, Coopers Hawk, Red-tailed and Swainson’s Hawks were all mobbed as they passed through HQ airspace. High flying Peregrine, Golden Eagle and daily sightings of the Turkey Vultures were also note worthy. Both Mountain and Western Bluebirds added splashes of color. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds buzzed through the air whilst a large group of approximately 40 Pinyon Jays could be heard if not seen methodically working their way around the ranch finding food for their constantly begging young, who trailed the adults everywhere. Also a pair of Clarke's Nutcracker put in an appearance one afternoon.

 A real surprise for me was the appearance, on two mornings, of a pair of Evening Grosbeak. I’m unsure of their exact status in this area but I really didn’t expect to see this bird here and having missed them on numerous attempts to see them in North America, it was a treat. As I was watching the Grosbeaks 2 Black Swift passed high overhead, another species that had eluded me on multiple attempts to catch up with them! All of a sudden both were in front of me at the same time!


The Black Swift is North Americas largest and most sparsely distribut...

Posted by Kate M. on 07/08/2012

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