Story by Kortny Rolston-Duce and Photography by Kort Duce, Colorado Exposure
Tucked along the eastern edge of Longmont and Boulder County sits a quiet pond shrouded from view by berms, trees, and marshy grasses.
From the road, the 24-acre parcel appears to be little more than an undeveloped field. But enter by foot and walk along the trail and the area hums with the sounds of nature. Frogs croak in shallow water, insects swarm the air, and chirping birds flit between cattails, shrubs and trees.
The Jim Hamm Nature Area acts as an oasis from modern life and a stopping point or nesting site for more than 200 species of birds.
“It’s a unique place,” said Scott Severs, a wildlife technician with the city of Longmont. “The pond attracts birds traveling between it and Union Reservoir. Because of that, you get to see birds you wouldn’t otherwise see in the city.”
“It’s a unique place. The pond attracts birds traveling between it and Union Reservoir. Because of that, you get to see birds you wouldn’t otherwise see in the city.” said Scott Severs, a wildlife technician with the city of Longmont.
The parcel was donated to the city of Longmont in 1974 by the Hamm family in honor of Captain Jim Hamm, a U.S. Air Force pilot who was shot down in Vietnam in 1968 and other St. Vrain Valley veterans who fought in that war. According to the city’s website, Hamm “spent his youth exploring and appreciating the wild environment that once was part of his grandfather’s farm.”
The city’s priority is to maintain the natural state of the property and keep invasive weeds and species from taking over the native vegetation. The marshy grasses, cattails, and canopy of trees provides an ideal environment for birds that are migrating, stopping for fuel, or building nests.
“The water-based insects and vegetation really draws the birds and we want to maintain that,” Severs said. “Birds stop there for these food resources.”
While there are other natural areas in the city – such as Golden Ponds – and places to identify birds, the Jim Hamm Nature Area’s proximity to Union Reservoir makes it special.
Among the 205 species that have been identified at Jim Hamm by visitors logging sightings on eBird, which is run by Cornell University, are several water birds, including double-crested cormorants that sit high above in trees and flap their wings dry and great blue herons. Yellow-headed blackbirds make their nests in the cattails in the 100 percent flooded water.
Each season attracts different species. In the late winter and early spring, the parcel is filled with waterfowl and all sorts of colorful ducks, including redheads and blue-winged teals. In late April and May, migratory songbirds such as warblers, tanagers, and buntings arrive.
And in the fall, it is a staging area for Red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, and yellow-headed blackbirds before they head south for the winter.
“It will almost seem overrun with blackbirds and grackles in the fall,” Severs said. “It’s quite a sight.”