Home: Scrying: Powerful birds of prey in Colorado

Powerful birds of prey in Colorado

March 26, 2006

The other day, in her always delightful series Birds In the News, GrrlScientist pointed out some Bird Cams run by Xcel Energy. We may not think of power stations as wildlife sanctuaries for birds of prey, but it turns out, they can be. A few of these roosts are even located in Colorado. 

The mother owl, nesting at the Valmont Power Station in Boulder, wearily eyes the camera at about a quarter to midnight, Saturday nightFor my nearest neighbor, check out this Great Horned Owl in Boulder. If you catch her in the day, she will probably be sleeping. But if you tune in during the middle of the night (visible thanks to infrared) you might find she’s out hunting for her two newly-hatched owlets. They poked their tiny little beaks out from the eggs early last week, on March 20th and 21st. For the time being, the two owlets look rather like over-sized cotton balls, until they turn toward the camera. When they look up, you can make out tiny a tiny beak and the outline of closed eyes. I think they have a little ways to grow before they are as alert as the adorable little owlet gracing the top of GrrlScientist’s post (a must-see for comparison.) Of course, if you aren’t around at midnight to catch feeding time, run by the daily pic archive, which goes back only 24 hours.

The St. Vrain eagles and their egg (and hatchling?) at 8:10am on Saturday morningThe owl isn’t the only one starting a family. Over at the Fort St. Vrain facility, a pair of Bald Eagles have a couple of eggs that are ready to hatch any day now. (In fact, I’m not certain, as I’m no expert, but I think one of the eggs had just hatched when I captured this picture from the camera… don’t they seem to be admiring their new child?)(Update 3/27/05: The egg indeed hatched, but the day before. A second eaglet emerged today!)  

If you consider their home, you might realize that these birds never heard of NIMBY… They live in the only place in Colorado to ever house a nuclear power plant. The plant was built beginning in the late 60s, and began producing power in 1976.Wilbur Franklin working at the St. Vrain Power Plant, sometime in the late 1960s It never ran too smoothly, however. As soon as the first updates on the plant were complete, seals began to leak, amidst other problems, leading the reactor to be shut down a few times. By 1988, they decided to shut the whole thing down. Less than a decade later, the plant was fully decommissioned.

Rather than being abandoned, in 1996, the plant was given a makeover. The Fort St. Vrain site now produces power from natural gas and wind turbines. They now produce 720 megawatts, in part powering my computer, allowing me to write this blog, or to watch the eagle cam. (For all of those who object to wind farms, saying they harm small birds, think of it this way: it’s a free Cuisinart for the opportunistic eagles.)

A proud bald eagle guards his nestThe sun is setting behind the Colorado Rockies right now, and the eagles are closing up shop for the night. One is incubating the eggs. The other eagle appeared about a half hour ago, pecked at what seems to be half a rabbit carcass, and took off. I assume he’ll (she’ll? …anyone know how to identify the sex of bald eagles?) be back soon. If you catch the archive soon, you can recap the action.

Note: A special thanks to GrrlScientist for her ever-informative and artistic bird news, and to the Fort St. Vrain Power Plant for an informative history, and for the picture of Wilbur Franklin, power plant operator. (As far as I know, he’s not a relative.)