By JoLee Wingerson
On Saturday, July 20, at the Boulder Reservoir a number of people approached an adult gull who sat unmoving on the shore as they stood very near to him. He seemed vulnerable and ill. Before long, the lethargic gull was transported to Greenwood Wildlife Center, one of only a small handful of professional wildlife rehabilitation centers in Colorado that care for water birds. The gull received a
thorough medical examination. The intake team was initially so concerned with the bird’s condition that they weren’t sure he would make it.
To help the gull recuperate, he was moved to the waterfowl ICU area. Much to everyone’s relief, within a couple of days he was eating fresh and frozen minnows on his own. All animals at Greenwood receive a name. “We decided to name him CeCe because everyone kept calling him a ‘sea’ gull,” said Jenny Bryant, Volunteer and Outreach Manager. He’s actually a Ring-billed Gull; a black ring circles the tip of his bright yellow beak, and is one of the most common inland gulls in the U.S.
Soon CeCe’s emaciated body filled out and he began to walk. He preened his feathers. He flapped his wings. After being at the wildlife center for ten days, he was moved to a much larger outdoor enclosure. There, CeCe sometimes sat contentedly near a 4’ x 20’ pool of water at the center of his new home, his soft grey wings folded around his plump, white body, black feathers extended behind him, which appeared to be his tail. However, these feathers were actually the tips of his long, powerful wings. A motion camera that took still photos confirmed that the healthy gull was flying effortlessly.
After seventeen days at Greenwood, CeCe was placed in a plastic carrier with screens on the lid and holes in the sides for his return to Boulder Reservoir. At the Reservoir, Lea Peshock, Animal Care Supervisor, paused before sliding his carrier from the car. She pointed to the sky in the distance and said, “Oh look, there’s a group of gulls over there.” Lea and another animal care worker released CeCe from a dock. As he took off flying, his enormous grey wings with black tips lifted him gracefully higher and higher. He headed toward the group of gulls and disappeared above the trees.
“He obviously knows where he is,” Lea said. “We always try to release adults back to their original habitat. And it’s better to release him now before the weekend when there are fewer people around the lake, fewer boats.” As Lea walked back to the car, she turned to her co-worker and asked, “Who else are we going to release today?”
Greenwood, a nonprofit organization, rehabilitates sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals for release into appropriate habitats. The Center’s dedicated employees, interns and volunteers treat more than 2,300 animals in a year, on average, which includes about 1,200 birds. “The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County has been a great support to Greenwood over many, many years,” said Linda Tyler, Executive Director. “They have been very helpful in allowing us to fulfill our mission of saving as many orphaned and injured animals as possible and returning them to the wild.”