My second-favorite Rosy-Finch flavor is the Hepburn's Gray-crowned Rosy Finch. A full-on male Black Rosy is tops in my book, but none showed up on my visit to the Fawnbrook Inn in Allenspark, Colorado last weekend. I was more than happy with the looks this Hepburn's gave me, though. While I really like the Fawnbrook, photography there is tough because the rosies tend to either hang out in the tops of tall aspen trees or sit on the feeders on the distant, shady side of the building- both are fine for studying the birds but they are less than desirable for aesthetic photography. The best situation to have there is a big swarm of 100s or even 1000's of birds. During those incredible events, they end up kind of everywhere- tops, middles, and bottoms of trees, on feeders, on benches, on railings, on the snow, on rocks, and on one memorable occasion even on my foot (as I sat quietly on a bench, a bird walked up and over my foot instead of taking the trouble to go around.)
Last weekend there were only a few dozen birds coming and going, but about 4 times a sub-group came down to feeders (well, actually sunflower-filled wooden salad bowls) on the ground in front of the restaurant. Birds coming down to eat are amazingly tolerant of people as long as you move slowly. I settled in on a snowbank nearby with the sun at my back and just enjoyed the proximity of these stunning birds- a mix of about 3/4 Brown-capped and 1/4 Gray-crowned. While the looks and lighting were much better for these birds than the ones on the shady side of the house, a photo of a bird wallowing around in a bowl of seed doesn't quite conjure the feelings of tundra and winter stoicism that I associate with these birds. But the male Hepburn's had the decency to pause on the edge of an interesting rock, surrounded by snow. Part of the bowl is still in the background, but the focus on it is real soft and if you want to believe the myth, you can imagine it is just a brown boulder in the snow-covered background.
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