Monday, March 22, 2010

Snowshoeing in Search of Birds

A hardy crew of birders made like ducks on Saturday and artificially webbed their feet. I was glad to be one of them. A miserable, windy, snowy day on Friday had kept me indoors on my day off; but left a worthwhile reward in the form of a foot plus of fresh powder. Birders being birders, we were the early ones at the trailhead, and had a fairly fresh track to follow as we headed up to our destination, Left Hand Reservoir.
As is so often the case, the journey is often as meaningful as the destination, and Saturday was no exception. On our way up we reached our lofty species tally of "three". While the numbers weren't staggering - mostly Mountain Chickadees - it was a significant list for me. A bit to my own surprise I added Golden-crowned Kinglet to my life list. Here is my best picture of the little guy, (I was carrying my new camera body for the first time, and had yet to have read the manual or fired a test shot....):

A really cool part of that sighting was that I had been taught a bit about Kinglet vocalizations on my CBC trip in Boulder County last December. At the time a Brown Creeper was making noise and a fellow birder explained that the two had similar high, single note calls. Well, even before I had spotted the bird I had picked out its call from the group of Mountain Chickadees. I'm not saying that had I been solo and heard the call that I would have gotten the ID, but I was pleased to have the memory and live sound associated with one another.
Having gotten our fill of the Chickadees, the Kinglet, and a lone Red-breasted Nuthatch we headed on up, in pursuit of the White-tailed Ptarmigan. Up we went, to the lake and the treeline. There, we traded in the warmth of a climb through the shelter of the trees for a chilling wind rolling down off the continental divide and screaming across the expanse of the lake at us...

Feeling a bit like arctic explorers we made a good showing and gave a thorough check to the drifts building over the willow clumps where our target species makes its home. Unfortunately for us, the Ptarmigan wanted no part of the wind, or our group, and stayed burrowed while we were around. Despite not being what anyone would call birdy, the trip was so worth it for views like this of Longs Peak.

I really enjoyed what may end up being a last venture into challenging winter conditions for the season. There will hopefully be a few more visits to the ski resorts in Summit County, but those are just as likely to be sun soaked tailgating style affairs featuring light layers and sunscreen than a chance to watch fresh laid tracks filling in moments after they had been made. Fun memories and raw beauty, truly things earned from a good climb on a snowy morning. Soon enough those thoughts will have to do their best to keep us cool, now that spring has arrived! I can't think of a better way to welcome it than by returning to lower elevations, where clear skies and no wind made layers unnecessary and the snows from the day before but a passing memory.

2010 Count: 83
Lifetime: 209

1 comment:

  1. I sure envy your snow! That shot of Long's Peak is killer!