Thousands of birds, some rarely seen along Colorado's northern Front Range, have been visiting Platte River Power Authority's Rawhide Energy Station.
More than 6,000 birds representing sixty-seven species were observed during the twenty-ninth annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count held at Rawhide on January 3. The Purple Finch (an eastern species) and the Brown-Capped Rosy Finch (a mountain species) were counted for the first time. Also notable because of their rarity to the area were the Snow Bunting and the Canyon Wren.
The Rawhide Energy Station is located ten miles north of the Town of Wellington, Colorado. “Rawhide provides a unique habitat–a large water body open year-round–that is highly attractive to many species of birds,” said Doug Kibbe, the count’s organizer.
The Christmas Bird Count at Rawhide centers on Hamilton Reservoir. Hamilton Reservoir contains treated effluent pumped from the City of Fort Collins, Drake Water Reclamation Facility, used for cooling purposes at the power plant. Following its use within the plant, the water retains some of the heat extracted from the electricity generation process and is returned to the reservoir. As a result, the reservoir remains relatively warm and ice-free during the winter.
“Utilizing reclaimed wastewater to maintain the level of the reservoir is a great example of natural resource conservation and a demonstration of Platte River’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Platte River Power Authority General Manager and CEO, Jackie Sargent. “Each year, we look forward to seeing species that are visiting us for the first time."
A visitors’ overlook is open to the public at the south end of Hamilton Reservoir. The overlook is normally open from sunrise to sunset, but may be closed without notice due to inclement weather or other circumstances. Platte River recommends calling 970-229-1776 ahead of time to make sure the overlook is open. To reach the overlook, visitors should travel on I-25 to exit 288. Rawhide and the overlook are located about three miles west of exit 288 on Buckeye Road (Larimer County Road 82).
The Rawhide Energy Station is one of over 2,200 sites used for the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count--an international event that provides critical data on bird population trends. Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas took part in the 115th Christmas Bird Count held December 14, 2014 through January 5, 2015. More information about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count can be found at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count. A complete record of birds counted at the Rawhide site since 1986 can be found at https://www.prpa.org/environment/birds-at-rawhide.