LandTrust is the recreation access network that connects landowners to outdoor enthusiasts looking for higher quality experiences. In the process, we are working on opening millions of acres of private land for people to explore. Our recreators range from hunters/sportsmen and fishermen to wildlife photographers and mushroom foragers. Most recently, we have introduced birding to our network.
Last month LandTrust recreator, Nolan Bunting, took a visit to the Lovejoy Ranch in Valentine, NE to explore all that the 10,000 acres had to offer. Nolan first became interested in birding at the age of 13 years old, when his parents took him on his first tour at the Shorebird Festival. The annual event takes place in Homer, Alaska and displays the state’s largest wildlife viewing festival, honoring the return of spring and the breathtaking migration of shorebirds through Kachemak Bay. Nolan had always been interested in nature, but when he saw the huge bird cameras and binoculars in Alaska, he was immediately intrigued by what was going on. After braving a self-introduction to the other birders, Nolan learned more about what they were doing and was instantly hooked on birding.
Today, Nolan is a Colorado resident, leading bird trips anywhere from the local level up to regional, often traveling to other states like Texas to see new species. “We pack cameras, scopes, batteries and warm clothes, since we are out early looking for birds from 5:30am-10:30am. Then we go out again at sunset to search for owls and other nocturnal species.” In a short, two hour trip, Nolan explains that he will typically see about 20 species of birds. Although every scenario presents it’s own challenges.
“I once went looking for a spotted owl, slept in the car for four days and then gave up.”
Although not always deemed successful, this tenacious motivation and willpower has led Nolan to thousands of bird species since he first started birding 8 years ago.
Nolan admits that getting into birding isn’t as easy as one would assume. You often need to know when and where to go if you have goals to see a specific bird. Even as an expert, there is always more to learn about a new species. Fortunately, there are apps like eBird that can bring this community together. eBird is used to find hotspots and see what other people are finding in any given area. You can get alerts when people see a species you’re interested in and then others will follow to try to see the same bird.
“The Gunnison Sage Grouse is a critically endangered bird in the US. It is very well protected and there is only one public spot to see it!”
Despite some frustration when a birding trip doesn’t go according to plan, Nolan shares the giddy feeling he experiences when he does find something he’s been looking for.
“Man, I get to see something so rare and unique, sometimes I have to stop and let it sink in. Wow, I actually saw that! Once, I saw one bird kill another bird and found it oddly fascinating.”
Public land offers a gateway into the world of birding, with trails scattered like a spider web into the forest and protected land. These trails are usually in place to prevent people from disturbing birds and other wildlife, but they can also be limiting. Without being welcomed to go off-trail, as most public land networks prohibit, birders aren’t able to fully explore an area or observe the birds they want. Not to mention, the crowds on some public lands can be enough to scare off bird activity, often those species that are most unique and endangered.
Birders do not want to bring any harm to the aerial species, rather the opposite. Birders want to study a bird’s traits and behaviors so that they can help protect their environment and promote the growth of the species population. They are stewards of the land, frequently picking up trash while scavenging or performing general upkeep to the land that they are accessing. However, in order for birders to really protect the species they care so much about, they need access to more than just public land.
LandTrust helps make sharing easy, enjoyable, and safe. We verify personal profiles and listings, maintain a smart messaging system so Landowners and Recreators can communicate with certainty, and manage a trusted platform to collect and transfer payments.