Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trail Ridge Road Birding

There are two species that draw birders up where the air is thin more than others. They are the White-Tailed Ptarmagin and the Rosy Finch. I was, of course, hoping for good looks at each.
Unfortunately, finding their habitat doesn't automatically translate into locating the species themselves - but then if it did there wouldn't really be a thrill of discovery.
In my previous post I described the great experience I had at sunrise, and the good fortune I had to see a Ptarmagin just as I was coming down off the rock. Like most birds, I heard it before I saw anything. There was a throaty call, not quite a cluck, but much closer to that than a songbird tweet. Then I saw a large shape rise several feet above the ground before settling back into the rock field.

I was lucky to have seen the motion. Their summer camo pattern perfectly matches the lichen covered rocks in the area. Unfortunately, the distance and lack of a tripod kept me from getting remarkable shots, but these are the first I have gotten of the species, so I'll take what I can get, for now....

Having a White-Tailed Ptarmagin as my first bird of the day seemed a good omen, and I envisioned that soon I would be snapping frames of Rosy Finches on snow fields, but it was not to be. Ironically, the two birds that I feel were most likely that target species landed behind me on the trail as I was approaching the three Elk just after sunrise. They were blindingly back lit however, and with walking restricted to the developed trail I couldn't make an attempt to circle them for better light. Oh well, there will be other chances.

As mentioned previously I made stops at the Alpine Visitor Center and Medicine Bow Curve looking for the finches and additional species. While no finches or ptarmagin were about, I did get great looks at Mountain Bluebirds who seem habituated to humans - probably getting used to the late day crowds.

Later, as I descended I pulled off at Lake Irene, where I watched Gray Jays moving through the treetops.

If you live in the area, or can arrange a visit be sure to make it a priority to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and drive Trail Ridge Road. Getting up in the middle of the night to do so may earn you some funny looks, but just think, you can give some funny looks right back as you drive by the lines of cars as you are leaving. I promise the experience is worth it.

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