the story of the Ross's Gull at Cherry Creek

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Nov 19, 2010, 5:43:56 PM11/19/10
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To fill out the story of the Ross's Gull at Cherry Creek a bit,
I first saw a small gull at a distance and noticed the dark underwings, and ID'd
the bird (incorrectly) as an adult winter Little Gull. The upper wings were white, without
black tips like the other gulls around it. Naturally I was pretty jazzed.
I was puzzled and commented that the underwings were dark gray, not black.
I also noted that it did not seem small enough to be a Little Gull. There were other
problems with that ID too.
Glenn Walbek noted that the wings were pointed, not rounded like a
Little Gull. Finally Cole Wild and Glenn saw that the tail was wedge-shaped
and at times when the light was right, that the body had a pinkish tone.
Cole asked, "Why isn't it a Ross's Gull?"  So it was a team effort at seeing it
and noting the different field marks. I am so glad that Glenn and Cole were there, as otherwise
I would have driven home, basking in the glow of seeing an adult Little Gull.

We were very excited, made a lot of phone calls and people began showing
up in growing numbers. By 2 PM or so folks had reached the spot from Fort Collins,
Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
After initially finding the bird from the Lake Loop on the 
west side, we drove clear around to the far northeast corner, by the dam "tower" structure.
From there we were seeing the bird less well than from the west side, looking right 
into the sun. About ten of us rapidly walked west along the base of the dam and got better 
looks, but it was still far out on the water (that is a big lake). Glenn, Cole and I shouted out to a nearby
fishing boat, explaining that we wanted to hire them for a mini-pelagic trip. The boat
came near enough that we could wade out to it. The two fishers were very nice,
slightly amused, and steered us toward the gull. We travelled a few hundred yards and got 
photos of the Ross's Gull on the water and in the air, from perhaps 30 yards away. The day was overcast,
and we were still looking toward the sun, but got photos. I am sure that
Glenn's photos will be the best. When we were that close we could see the faint spot
behind the eye and other details. It caught a fish. The wings were very long for the size of the bird.

The gull was still present when I left about 2:45 PM, but was far from shore.
When it alighted on the water it was difficult to ID it at that distance, but it frequently
flew a short distance and showed off all its charms to viewers on the Lake Loop. Everyone who tried saw it adequately.
We are hopeful that it will be seen again Saturday, perhaps flying closer to the shore. 
If you go tomorrow, I suggest starting from the northeast side, near the long row of picnic
shelters and look west. I will be there and may have calmed down a little.

Joe Roller, Denver

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