Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wind, but no White-tailed Ptarimgan

Mild temps had me thinking I should head to the high country this weekend. I was in hopes of finding some White-tailed Ptarmigan in their winter wear, and headed back to Lefthand Reservoir to see if I could track some down. I had done a snowshoe trip with the DFO last year where we missed, but knew the habitat was right. The wind was noticeable as I drove up beyond Nederland, and even as I started at the bottom of the trail I knew it was going to be an unlikely day to see any up at the lake. Even so, a mild day showshoeing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Just like last year the species count was uninspiring. I had four, two of which - American Crow and Common Raven were seen in the parking area. Mountain Chickadees were around at most stages of the hike, noisy in the trees, but largely invisible. Fortunately a lone Clark's Nutcracker was looking to show off, so I had one subject to photograph. As I had guessed the lake was windy, really windy. I crossed below the dam, which had a moderating influence. I didn't realize the relative shelter until I had reached the south side, and popped up to a level where I was catching the wind coming directly off the continental divide, dropping a few thousand feet and then rushing across a mile of lake ice before hitting me. It is an impressive experience. If I had thought to bring some goggles along I may have tried more of the habitat area to see if I could rack them down, but as it was I had only sunglasses and headed back to the shelter of the trees. I didn't stop while I was in the wind to get pictures of the windblown snow drifts, but they were amazing. As I was looking at their interesting shapes and forms I noticed that some of what I thought was shadowy contrast was really thin layers of rock dust. An in my face reminder that wind is a powerful erosive force, and that on certain days even the massive rocky mountains are broken by its power.
A good afternoon exploring the mountains. I haven't seen any notices yet, but hope that there will be another group trip on 'shoes' this spring.

1 comment:

  1. Nice of the Nutcracker to pose for you! This winter I've seen more of them than ever before. They seem to be everywhere.