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Banding Together for Waterfowl

A Model for Private Lands Conservation

The Rancho Esquon property in California’s Central Valley showcases a number of conservation-friendly management practices

Claude Grillo helps to oversee habitat management on the ranch. "I work with many other landowners throughout the Central Valley, and we use Mr. Hofmann's ranch as an example of how a profitable, working farm can also support large numbers of waterfowl and exceptional hunting. We have a great relationship with conservation groups, government agencies, and our farm tenants, who work with us to conserve and manage the habitat."

In addition to waterfowl, many other migratory bird species visit the ranch throughout the year. Claude's wife, Karin, is an avid bird watcher who has traveled to South Africa, Malaysia, Borneo, and throughout North and South America on birding tours. She organized an extensive ornithological survey of the ranch, involving expert birders and biologists from Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association, Audubon Society, University of California-Davis, California Fish and Game Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In total, they observed more than 175 bird species—including 25 species of waterfowl and 22 species of shorebirds—during four surveys conducted in one year.

Says Karin, "Although we undoubtedly missed some birds that we could have seen, the list is pretty comprehensive. The habitat on the ranch is quite diverse, which attracts a wide variety of species."

Greg James, president and CEO of Topics Entertainment, is a good friend of Hofmann's and has hunted on the ranch during the past two years. "During my last trip to the ranch, I was really struck by both the abundance and diversity of birds. In two days, we saw at least 10 bald eagles, several other raptor species, and all kinds of herons, shorebirds, and songbirds."

James was also impressed by the intensive habitat management activities on the ranch. "As a Ducks Unlimited member and contributor, it was great to see a large habitat project firsthand, and it really reinforced to me that preserving wetlands is about much more than ducks. While visiting Ken's ranch, I clearly saw how many species of birds and other wildlife benefit from wetlands restoration," he said.


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