Sunday, April 06, 2008
I paid a visit to Allenspark yesterday, hoping to shake hands again with rosy-finches. It is still wintry up there but the snow is melting fast. The weather was nice, meaning far fewer rosies then would be expected in bad weather, but in trade the road up was dry and sun was shining on the birds that did visit. The place was overrun with juncos (crazily, every form of Dark-eyed except for the locally breeding Gray-headed), and all three rosies eventually came and went. Most of the pinkies were Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, a species almost endemic to Colorado (although their range spills over a bit into northern New Mexico in the winter and a few breed in southern Wyoming.) They are looking really sharp now- their colors are vibrant and their beaks have gone to the breeding black color (they are yellow for much of the winter.) Usually the birds at the Fawnbrook Inn are hard to photograph well as they stay high in the aspens or fly to a platform feeder up on a deck of the inn where they are hard to see well, but one came down and perched fairly low in front of the restaurant, delighting a tour group with WINGS and giving me a photo opp, sitting on the ground to shoot through a branch-free corridor.When the tour group moved on I chummed a snowy part of the yard with some seed that I keep in the car for such occasions. The gambit worked wonderfully, not only providing boucoup Junco photo opps (more on these later), but several rosies came in to partake. I sat quietly in the muddy parking lot at the edge of the yard to shoot the birds at eye level as they traipsed around in the snow, got drinks from a trickle of snowmelt, or perched on low branches as they came and went. While a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches were up in the trees, most of the birds coming to the ground were Brown-capped Rosies.I noticed that one of the Brown-capped Rosy-finches had color bands on its legs. I know some local banders who work with rosies, and a few inquiries turned up the story of the bird. My friend Nancy Gobris banded it ("PJXY"; P=pink, J=jet (black), X=aluminum, Y=yellow) as a second-year male at her house above Estes Park, Colorado (over the hill from Allenspark) on 14 April 2007. Cool to get a band recovery without re-capturing the bird or finding it dead somewhere...The bird I was most excited to photograph, though, was this immature male Black Rosy-Finch. We don't get many black rosies coming through Boulder County, but it seems like the best bet for them is later in the season. A few spanking dark adult males were around, as were some frosted-looking females, but this guy was the only one to come down right in front of me. Neat bird, but it will get even blacker as an adult, and all of the washed-out areas will get to be a more vivid pink.