[Source: Beth Lucas, Tribune] -- The long-billed dowitcher travels 6,400 miles every winter from the northern shores of Alaska to Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch (pictured). The migratory bird is one of the many shore birds that have earned the town’s two riparian preserves the national designation of “Important Bird Area” by the Audubon Society’s science committee. Bob Witzeman, conservation chairman for the Maricopa Audubon Society, said the success of the Gilbert preserve parks is because of the town’s decision to create a preserve using recycled water, and funds from the Heritage Fund used to provide lush, attractive plants.
“It’s the perfect wintering place,” he said. “This is an important kudos to the East Valley.” Led by Cynthia Donald, the Maricopa Audubon Society spent two years studying Gilbert’s Water Ranch preserve at Greenfield and Guadalupe roads, as well as the Riparian Preserve at Neely Ranch at Guadalupe and Cooper roads. The two preserves are among about 30 important bird areas in Arizona. Gilbert park ranger Scott Cleaves said the Water Ranch facility has seen a doubling in visitors in the last year. The Neely Ranch facility is closed to the public, but has a bird-viewing area. “It’s important to have a safe haven for these birds,” Cleaves said. “They’re running out of areas as they lose their natural habitat.”
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo by Bob Glen.]