Back in January while attending a Ducks Unlimited banquet in Sheridan I had the pleasure of meeting a couple from Colstrip, Steve and Kathy Christian.
One thing that I have preached for many years is that wildlife need secure habitat, and that Ducks Unlimited has been a tremendous guarantor of wetland habitat throughout North and Central America. Many of the ducks we see each year are a direct result of DU’s efforts. Thanks to committed volunteers such as the Christians, our crucial wetlands will be preserved.
The Christians are active in DU and told me about some of the accomplishments they had witnessed by DU in Mexico. They mentioned how the preservation and enhancement of wetlands in Mexico was a top priority. However, they were most excited about a research facility in Mexico.
The facility was named after a former DU president, John Walker, and is called The Natural Resources Research and Training Center. It is located in Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico. According to the Christians, the center has some unique advantages.
According to the website for the center, “The center is located on the shore of the Ria Celestun, a 22.7 square kilometer coastal lagoon. This wetland is part of a system of Protected Natural Areas with a surface of approximately 175,000 hectares. It contains a diversity of environments — mangroves, swamp forests, dunes and coastal lagoons — where singular plant communities can be found. These include the lowland swamp forests and the “Petenes,” arboreal plant communities that protrude from an environment of lower vegetation and are usually formed around an upwelling of groundwater.
The station is specifically located within the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, which adjoins El Palmar State Reserve to the north with Los Petenes de Campeche Biosphere Reserve to the south to form a continuous corridor of wetlands. The reserves contain a large diversity of environments in a relatively small area.
“Another important attribute of the Ria Celestun Coastal Lagoon, and of the area in general, is the presence of a large number of freshwater springs that make the area so biologically productive and which, in turn, attracts huge flocks of pink flamingos. Their population reaches up to 32,000, of which 80 percent feed in this area.”
With such a diverse area it’s no wonder that there are a multitude of animal species that live there. Nearly 80 species of amphibians and reptiles reside in the area. Of note are crocodiles and sea turtles. The turtles use the coastal zone as a nesting area, while the crocodiles inhabit the marshes and lagoons.
There is quite a variety of birds. At least 271 species have been identified in the reserves. Of course, for DU members the ducks that winter there are of most interest. The list runs from puddle ducks to divers: northern shoveler, American widgeon, northern pintail, blue-winged teal and lesser scaup. Blue-winged teal are the most abundant inhabitant of the area.
Of note are four species of predatory cats that call the reserves home. They are jaguar, puma, ocelot and oncilla.
The Christians mentioned that the research center and DUMAC help train Latin American biologists, ranchers, farmers and educators in the fundamentals of basic and advanced wetlands environmental principles.
On their last trip in February the Christians attended meetings and workshops dealing with coastal and tidal estuaries along the Yucatan Peninsula. Steve mentioned that they spent a lot of time working in the mud and muck on a mangrove restoration project.
He said one of the highlights of the trip was seeing a flock of more than 1,000 American flamingos. He even sent a photo of the gaudy birds, which I am sharing with you.