A Gull of a Day

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Just a bunch of gulls, hanging out on the ice. For the first couple weeks of December, we had an arctic front hovering over us. Nightly temperatures dropped to an average of 0°F, and were frequently below, sometimes well below (-20°F).

Cherry Creek lake has frozen solid for at least a foot deep, so I was able to hike out quite a ways to where the very few birds that still remain at Cherry Creek were hanging out. I’ve never been that far out on the ice before…but it was hard as a rock all the way out (which was about 80% to the center of the lake!)

The Gulls, of course, are everpresent. They hang out in little pods all over the ice, and periodically congregate in this circle of ice where it is thinnest. They are kind of cute, huddled and fluffed up against the cold.

It’s a little sad, though…birds here in Colorado are so wary of humanity. Even though I was a VERY long way from this huddling little group of gulls (I had to crop considerably, despite using a 600mm lens), they one by one flew off, not even able to withstand my distant, mediocre presence. Apologies for this, but it this all just kind of comes to mind now, and I feel I have to say something.

I know exactly why birds are so wary, on far too many occasions, people, kids & dogs run after them to purposely scare them away. I’ve had the unfortunate experience on several occasions of spending 45-60 minutes slowly inching my way towards a group of birds only to have a kid or a dog, trailed by a lazy parent, run right through them. I’ve even waved at people, pointed at the birds then at myself and my giant camera, and made a “no” sign…lazy parents just wave back and then happily laugh as their minion plows through… *sigh*

Crazy wackos on jet skis violate the no wake zone in the southern part of the lake which shores along the wetland, and I’ve seen at least five people on jet skis this year alone ride strait for the large groups of gulls, pelicans, herons, egrets, and cormorants with the apparent express intention of scaring them all away. On two occasions, two riders on jet skis kept violating the no wake zone, moving at high speed, down from one side of the lake, all along the wetland shore where the birds hang out, regularly kicking up huge spray right onto the flocks of birds, then they would turn around and go right back through, scaring them up from where they landed after the first onslaught. After that, the birds would entirely disappear for hours.

I’ve complained about the problem, and there are plenty of signs and posts and buoys that clearly denote no-wake zones, wetland zones, no dog/horse zones, etc. but people seem all too willing to violate them and run their jet skis or their dogs through protected lands. It’s to the great detriment of Colorado, that birds are so afraid of humans that they fly off at the first sight. It’s sad that so many people are unwilling to show even a minimal amount of respect for nature.

In addition to the problems above, the southern shore of Cherry Creek is increasingly riddled with trash. Primarily from fishermen…tangled fishing line is everywhere, hooks snagged on driftwood and broken bobbers are prevalent. I’ve seen a number of dead birds caught in fishing line, and there was one pelican that appeared to have fishing line tangled around its throat. This summer, the saddeningly common sight of beer cans, soda cans, broken glass bottles, styrofoam cups, missing sandals and shoes, belts, plastic visors, baseball caps, and a whole assortment of other JUNK was littered all over the shores where Cherry Creek lake joins the wetlands. The concentrations of this junk were always at fishermen hotspots. I even found an entire tackle box full of hooks and lures along one part of the shore.

Anyway…thinking about how scared these gulls were of me, when I had to have been over 60 feet away, kind of made me remember how much disrespect they experience from human beings. How much this tiny nature reserve is disrespected by how much trash and junk people leave behind, instead of taking it out with them and throwing it away in a proper trashcan (which are everywhere in Cherry Creek State Park.)