Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Arapaho Lakes - Feathers

When hiking, birders will stop at the snap of a twig or the next grove of trees, just to make sure there isn't a goody hiding somewhere that could be coaxed out with a few well timed 'pish's. Other folks aren't as inclined to search for the unseen, so when hiking with non-birders the diversity of the bird list can take a big hit.

On the way to and from Arapaho Lakes most of my sightings were White-crowned Sparrows. They were calling from every clump of vegetation, and would occasionally perch to get a better look at the bipeds moving through their turf. Even when I was birding a bit more actively at the lake, (above), the White-crowneds were the most conspicuous bird around.
Notably absent, and quickly reaching a frustrating level of elusiveness for me, were the three species of Rosy Finches. Though rather than wasting time on what wasn't there, lets take a look at what was, the White-tailed Ptarmigan.

This is a bird that approaches iconic status for the alpine tundra environment. They spend their entire lives in thin air, extreme weather, and a barren landscape - yet they have adapted to do just that. I can honestly say that my eye had swept past this hen in summer plumage several times before she jumped out of the background like Waldo.

She wasn't alone though, this mom was busy leading her chicks on what must have been one of their first tours away from the nest.

The downy chicks seemed to blend better with the vegetation patterns, while mom would disappear when she moved to the rocks.

Check out the size of those feet! They will grow into proportion, but those feet will always stay large, helping the birds to float when snow drifts cover the area.

I always wish for something a bit better in the photographic department, but looking into mid-day sun and a headwind wasn't really helping the sharpness factor. Oh well, watching a mother and her chicks explore their brand new world is a memory I won't soon forget. Although - next weekend may require one of those birding dedicated early morning wake-ups to see if I can do better!


  1. Oh how very FAB and to just happen upon her....!!!

  2. That was great for you to see Mom and her chicks! There's something very special about them!