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Eagle viewing, gulling heats up at Lake Ogallala

Last week our Communications staff put out this news release stating that now is a good time for eagle viewing.  It is.  A portion of my trek to twitch the Brown Pelican last Saturday included a stop at Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area.  The recent cold snap froze Lake McConaughy and almost all of Lake Ogallala.  However, this can be positive because limited open water will concentrate birds.  Since open water (and very importantly food) is present immediately in the spillway at Lake Ogalalla, it provides a great opportunity to see Bald Eagles and several species of gulls and waterfowl at close range.   Central Nebraska Public Power District provides a great set-up for eagle viewing at Lake O (as well as at the J-2 Plant near Lexington).

While the masses love to see eagles (and eagles are, indeed, cool), most hardcore birders like me get a little more excited about gulls.  Several species of gulls can be present at sites such as Lake Ogalala.  Gulls, in general, are an identification challenge.   Furthermore, there is always the allure that rare gulls or even a mega-rarity might be found.  Early in the new year, an Ivory Gull discovered in Quincy, Illinois, sent shock waves of excitement through the birding community.  If you head to Lake Ogallala to watch eagles, be sure to also notice the gulls and waterfowl.  Even though there were only about 50 gulls present total, there were six species.   Below, I provide a few photos from my brief stop.

Bald Eagles at Lake Ogallala's spillway
Several Bald Eagles were present immediately in the spillway.
A Herring (left), Ring-billed (center) and Glaucous Gull at Lake Ogallala on Saturday, 10 January.
A Herring (left), Ring-billed (center) and Glaucous Gull at Lake Ogallala on Saturday, 10 January.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a European species, were not recorded in Nebraska until 1992. They have increased in Nebraska over the past two decades and now occur annually. An Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull is the bird with the darker mantle (back) in the middle of this photo. Also pictured are Herring Gulls and a Common Goldeneye.
Kumyer's Gull
This first-year gull looks reasonbly good for a “Kumlien’s” Iceland Gull, but separating Kumlien’s Gull from Thayer’s Gull is tricky.
Thaylien's Gull
Another photo of the “Kumlien’s Gull” that is also pictured above.

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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