21 February 2012

Newest Nebraska IBA in Garden County

The 4-D Rush Lake Reserve -- a portion of the Dietlein Ranch - has been designated as the newest Important Bird Area in Nebraska.

The 2000 acres is part of the larger Dietlein family ranch, Four D Ranch Co., in central Garden county, and on the north edge of the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The ranch has been in the Dietlein family for nearly 100 years and is owned and operated by Ev and Marge Dietlein, along with their son Tim and his wife Ellen.

"We have a great diversity of birds," said Ellen Dietlein. The reserve includes a diversity of habitat including wet meadows, alkali lakes, freshwater lakes and upland grasslands.

The locale was especially recognized for its breeding population of Long-billed Curlew, said Kevin Poague of the Nebraska chapter of the National Audubon Society. The Important Bird Area program has thus far identified 26 other sites in Nebraska - including the Crescent Lake NWR - with similar places designated in other states.

A study during two recent years on the biology of the curlew by a graduate student from Iowa State included this ranch area, which was found to support a notable population of this iconic species.

"Numbers of American bitterns, black-crowned night-herons, white-faced ibis, Forster's tern and yellow-headed blackbirds," are known to occur, said Poague. Many of the birds present on the adjacent refuge are expected to also be present on the ranch reserve.

A range management plan prepared by scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was an important part of the application for designation submitted by the Dietlein's.

A guest house business - from April to October - has also being established, centered around the notable features associated with the 4-D Rush Lake Reserve and its particular setting amidst the Sand Hills.

The Dietleins are "looking to develop educational and research programming to learn more about long-term management to improve bird habitats," Poague said. "They are committed to conservation and education."