Gallery of Gulls

It was tempting to entitle this series “Seagulls of Somers Beach,” for its alliterative flair, but after more thought, are gulls really seagulls if they are not on the shores of a sea? Following this train of logic, these are lakegulls, but that neither flows as neatly, nor is “lakegulls” technically a word, so “Gallery of Gulls” it is. While over a dozen species of gull are known to live in or transit Montana, the California gull is one of the most prevalent types found on prime Flathead Lake waterfront — perhaps reflective of human migration trends. Other frequently spotted gull species in the Flathead Valley include the ring billed gull and the herring gull. Gulls are an adaptable avian genus. So adaptable, it’s unclear if the gulls of Flathead Lake are primarily urbanites on a beach outing, or if the winged parking lot loiterers are countryside birds on interminable trash bin benders, as one is just as likely to find them dumpster diving in a Kalispell strip mall as they are to see them feeding along the valley’s most pristine waterbodies. In the former sense, Nigel the pelican from the Pixar animated classic "Finding Nemo" was dead-on when he declared a group of gulls obnoxiously begging for his fish "rats with wings." In traditional Montana spring fashion, the April afternoon’s brilliant sunshine and azure sky give way to walls of driving gray snow and back again in a matter of 20 minutes. Lens fog and a wet gear bag aside, such mercurial weather is a photographer’s delight; the filtering effect of so many clouds in motion compresses a huge range of natural lighting conditions into a couple of hours. The gulls, for their part, are unruffled by the capricious elements. They're content to scuttle across the expansive sands of Somer’s Beach State Park and beyond, before the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ dam in Polson is closed up, and the lake surface rises 8 or so feet, re-submerging dock pilings and bringing the waters to “recreational level” for the summer. Words and photos by Hunter D'Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Hunter D'Antuono

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