Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sinton Pond Open Space

Wetlands here in El Paso County, Colorado are few and far between. Consequently, a handful of artificial lakes have been created for recreation and wildlife. One of the more interesting of these is Sinton Pond Open Space in Colorado Springs

At only thirteen acres, the property actually consists of two ponds. The larger, an impoundment of a natural spring, is full of small freshwater sunfish, and possibly other species as well. Above the big pond is a smaller one, likewise with a few fish, but with more emergent vegetation and better shaded by large cottonwood trees. Here’s a view of that smaller pond. The property abuts Sinton Dairy, which is what you see in the background.

Sinton Pond is pretty much surrounded by industrial enterprises and at least one office park , yet it is a magnet for birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. You also get a nice view of Pikes Peak during the winter months when foliage on the cottonwoods doesn’t hide the mountain.

Since I could find next to nothing on the history of Sinton Pond, I’ll concentrate on the diversity of animal life you can find there. Birdwatchers won’t be disappointed as there are many birds that utilize the pond and the surrounding landscape for feeding and nesting. We found this family of Mallard ducks on one trip there.

With the help of a crow or raven I managed to spy a Great Horned Owl on my most recent visit. One of my scenic shots has a falcon in the distance, too….

Reptiles and amphibians are pretty prolific, too. I nearly stepped on this Western Terrestrial Garter Snake as it sunned beside the trail near Monument Creek, which flows right by the pond.

Both the native Painted Turtle and the non-native Red-eared Slider can be seen basking on logs or other debris in the big pond, especially in the morning.

I was thrilled to find a Northern Leopard Frog on my latest trip, seeking refuge from the hot sun beneath a tangle of brush along the margin of the big pond. Leopard frogs have not fared very well because of drought and the increasing populations of the Bullfrog.

Naturally, I am looking mostly for insects, and there is no shortage. Many butterflies find abundant flower nectar and larval foodplants in the area. I was surprised to find a Questionmark butterfly on June 8, and even more surprised to find it was still there as of July 20! I was downright shocked to glimpse a Giant Swallowtail, also on June 8, though I don’t have a picture to prove it.

The Monarch finds plenty of milkweed here, and a variety of skippers can be seen on almost any visit. There are open areas of varying quality in terms of vegetation, and shady groves of spruce and other trees, and different butterflies prefer different degrees of sun and cover.

Any wetland is likely to attract dragonflies and damselflies, and there is indeed a good variety of odonates here. Big darners (family Aeschnidae) are constantly on the wing, while skimmers (family Libellulidae) of all sorts perch and patrol the shore and adjacent fields. Vivid Dancers, bluets, and forktail damselflies can be found by the score.

I recommend Sinton Pond Open Space to both residents of Colorado Springs and visitors as a place to enjoy hiking, walking, biking, fishing, or just plain relaxing. The site gets a fair amount of traffic (no pun intended, despite the fact that Interstate 25 is about one block to the west and a major rail line about a block to the south), but it is still a relatively quiet place for contemplation and peaceful enjoyment.

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