February 5, 2012

2012 Valmont Gullapalooza!

Yesterday, February 4th, was the annual American Birding Association/Boulder Bird Club/Colorado Field Ornithologists/Denver Field Ornithologists/Xcel Energy Valmont “Gullapalooza” field trip, with leaders Ted Floyd, Nick Komar, Bill Kaempfer, Steve Mlodinow, Christian Nunes, Joel Such, and Marcel Such.  For an overview of this event’s history, see my previous blog post here: suchbros.blogspot.com/2011/01/valmont-gullapalooza-2011.html

No doubt due to a recent blizzard and accompanying cold weather for the past two days and right up to the morning of the trip, participation numbers were brought down to a “mere” total of 92 birders (compared to last year’s all-time high of 227).  To reward the courageous folks that came to brave the knee-high snow and slush around the power plant property, good duck diversity was seen on the lakes, including a Tundra Swan, excellent views of Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, and Prairie Falcon.  Additionally, there was an unexpected and very exciting Red-necked Grebe that was a lifer for many (including yours truly).

As the sun dipped below the horizon at the end of the day, the die-hards who were still present in the dropping temperatures were awed to see the thousands of floating gulls flocked on Valmont Reservoir rise up into a “snow globe of gulls*,” and drop back down into adjacent Leggitt Reservoir.  Gull diversity wasn’t the best this year (most likely due to the abnormally warm temperatures in previous weeks that has left most area water completely open), but three California Gulls and five Thayer’s Gulls were good additions to the Ring-billed and Herring Gulls that predominantly made up the flock.

*Bill Schmoker coined this most accurate term.

A dead American Coot

Red-necked Grebe with Common and Red-breasted Mergansers

Bald Eagles

Prairie Falcon

Golden Eagle

A "snow-globe" of gulls.

Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Ring-necked Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Brown Creeper
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
House Sparrow
54 species