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Although the Spanish word playa translates to beach in English, the word also refers to undrained, flat desert areas that seasonally fill with water. Taking this a step further, a playa lake is a high plains feature that goes through periods of dry and wet cycles. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies conducted a multiple year study to indentify where Colorado playa lakes are located. Why? Shorebirds and dabbling ducks frequently stop at these temporary shallow water areas during migration to refuel. In Texas, their numerous playa lakes have recorded 30 species of shorebirds in addition to filtering and recharging the local aquifers.

Solitary Sandpipers refueling at a Chico playa lake — how many birds do you see?

Although Chico Basin Ranch’s playa lakes are small and ephemeral, this one hosted multiple birds including a Killdeer, multiple Solitary Sandpipers, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a small flock of Baird’s Sandpipers. In addition, two Great Blue Herons and small numbers of migrant sparrows were also present and last week two Upland Sandpipers flew over. At the end of the monsoon season, this playa lake will revert back to appearing like a typical low area in Chico’s dominant shortgrass prairie.

Playa Lakes county map by state from Playa Lake Joint Venture.

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