Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Headin' on down to South Park

I had the good fortune to have a day off coming on Friday, which set me up for a four day weekend. I started it off in style, with a 2:30 wake-up and drive up over Kenosha Pass and into South Park. I wanted an attempt at my first "Fourteener" of the season, and because the forecast was typically uncertain for Colorado I wanted to be on the trail before daybreak so that if anything nasty rolled in I would be well off before the normal afternoon thunderstorm buildup. BTW, for those who are not familiar, a Fourteener is one of Colorado's mountain peaks that reaches an elevation of over 14,000 feet.
This was the earliest attempt I had made, and true to the worst of the forecast there had already been close to an inch of wet snow when I parked at 11,000 feet. This is an activity that requires forethought and preparation at the best of times, and going solo with snowpack created a need for more gear than I have used in the past. In addition to layers of cold weather clothing I also needed to carry snowshoes, poles, a snow axe, a helmet, a headlamp, and of course water to keep from dehydrating along the way. With all that gear an SLR camera and extended lens was the first thing to go. Much to my chagrin my old reliable Sony P&S seems to have reached its end, so before the trip I picked up a Nikon Coolpix as my new pocket camera.
I have really grown accustom to manually focusing on birds when shooting, and the lack of manual focus really caught me off guard, also the general lack of familiarity with the camera kept this from being a photographic masterpiece.

Unfortunately the weather closed in on me at around 12,300 ft, so I made the decision to head back down. It was a good first start of the season and I did not want to be a story on the news.
I did, however, get three new species on the day. I saw a single White-Tailed Ptarmigan near the top of my climb. I completely missed it when trying to get a photograph. I would have kept at it, but it popped over a ridge just as the weather was closing in on me.

I also saw the Hermit Thrush immediately above, and a cool looking Wilson's Warbler from a greater distance, top.

I even managed to get this Mountain Bluebird decently captured in wing beat. After a great morning playing in the snow I drove back down home and settled in for a wet and dreary holiday weekend. I got to enjoy time with friends, good food, and some up and down Nuggets Basketball games - so even if the birding fizzled I still had a good time.
2009 Count: 146
Lifetime: 159

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