Thursday, 15 April 2010

Rocky Mountain high

Pine Grosbeak (above) and Cassin's Finch (below): two Rockies target birds in the bag.

I am lucky to be here. Having just seen the news on the BBC website that all air traffic over Britain is grounded today because of the volcanic ash cloud drifting in from Iceland, I'm delighted that in the end the logistics of this trip meant I had to be in Colorado a day early; otherwise, an act of God would have wiped out my participation - and investment - in it. Taking that as a good omen, I headed back to the airport this morning and met up with the rest of the group and the two leaders. We are four Brits and six Americans, with a strong Connecticut influence, and everyone was itching to get out in the field.

It's late so I'll keep it short, but what a day. We began near Denver and via Rocky Mountain National Park ended up in the wonderfully named town of Golden. The good news: almost everything, from hitting three of my target species - Cassin's Finch, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Red-naped Sapsucker - to a supporting cast which included Golden Eagle, Townsend's Solitaire, Cassin's Finch, Pygmy, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Grosbeak and a host of different 'Dark-eyed' Junco forms (why aren't they split?). Oh, and the mammals too, from Elk (many dozen) and Mule Deer to Coyote and assorted ground-squirrels. The only bad news: the weather is superb, which is of course good, but we could do with a little of the white stuff to push down the otherwise absent rosy-finches from the peaks. Maybe tomorrow ...

Northern Saw-whet Owl: one of two we saw today at the nest (thanks Scott).

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