January 11, 2010

Gull Bonanza at Valmont Power Plant

Gulls, Gulls, and More Gulls - by Joel Such

I, Marcel, had the pleasure of being one of the sub-group leaders for the annual ABA/CFO/DFO/BBC Valmont Reservoir Complex field trip on January 9th. Generally closed to the public and holding some of the only open water in Boulder County in the midst of winter's freezing temperatures, Xcel's Valmont Power Plant opens its gates to birders once a year . . . a special thanks go to plant engineer, Dave Madonna and Ted Floyd for organizing it! The turnout was even better than usual, perhaps because our Jan. 8th scouting trip yielded a second-cycle ICELAND GULL in the local gull roost, along with some other good gulls, including a first-cycle Great Black-backed Gull.

This is one of the few birding events that begins at noon, as one of the real goals is to watch the influx of gulls in the late afternoon. My group started out with great views of the two local breeding Great Horned Owls who were roosting in a large cedar. Almost as soon as we got to the first of the three reservoirs, Leggitt, two adult Black-crowned Night-Herons flew by. These are a winter specialty at Valmont, as most leave for warmer climates during the colder months. For the first couple hours of the trip, we concentrated our efforts on the many ducks and geese which inhabit these reservoirs, plus the passerines in the plentiful Russian-olive trees. But, later in the afternoon we directed our attention to the hordes of gulls, mostly Ring-bills and Herrings, which were now streaming in from their day jobs, i.e. McDonald's parking lot cleaners, quality control at the county dump, and other such jobs. Among one of the first fly-ins, around three o'clock, was the immature Great Black-backed Gull. Birders lined the causeway, watching waves of gulls continue to stream in through the rest of the afternoon. In one of the later flocks was the prize, the second-cycle "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull! Also among the gull count was a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Thayer's Gulls, and a couple of California Gulls. We ended the day with a pending total of over 60 species of which 7 were gulls, a great number for a chilly mid-winter day in Colorado! Other highlights seen were a male Mandarin Duck, a Clark's Grebe, a "Prairie" Merlin, and a Rough-legged Hawk, not to mention great views of Bald and Golden Eagles.


Walter Szeliga, Bill Schmoker, Marcel, Dave, and
Joel Such scout Valmont and lose feeling in their toes.
by Renee Haip

Scouters in Shadow
By Renee Haip

Three of Four Black-crowned Night-Herons
by Joel Such

Ring-billed Gull - by Marcel Such

Iceland Gull (pale gull in rear center, facing camera)
by Joel Such


Birders Invade Valmont - by Renee Haip

Great Horned Owl - by Joel Such

Black-crowned Night-Heron - by Joel Such

Belted Kingfisher - by Joel Such

Belted Kingfisher - by Joel Such

Gull Watchers in the Evening Light - by David Such

Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull - by Joel Such

Distant View of Gull Watchers - by David Such

Black-crowned Night-Heron - by Joel Such


Ali Iyoob said...

Gulls are awesome!

brdpics said...

That was an awesome trip- thanks for your leadership help!! -Bill

Anonymous said...

Hi, Tom and I were pleased to meet you and your family. Good job leading us. I put some of the better photos I took up on flickr. Sorry - I had the ISO setting too high for the great horned owl shot - it's a little grainy. But it's still a nice image.


Thanks, Rob and Tom