A Trip to Silverton, Colorado to photograph Rosy Finches

On Monday, 22 February 2016, Dwight Frankfather and I traveled to Silverton, Colorado (elevation 9,318 feet, 2,836 m) to look for and photograph the three species of Rosy Finches that inhabit North America. Below are my photographs of all three species including two subspecies of the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch.

The Following information is taken from these websites: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds, rosyfinch.com, Nature’s Blog – Rosy Finches of Colorado and Wikipedia.

Rosy Finches are songbirds of extreme environments. Due to their remote and rocky habitat above tree-line rosy finches are rarely seen during the summer. Rosy Finches nest at higher elevations than all other birds in North America. During winter and early spring, all three species form large, mixed flocks and often appear in mountain towns and at ski resorts.

Like the other rosy-finches, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte australis) is a bird of the high mountains, breeding above timberline. It has the smallest range of the three American species, being found primarily in Colorado.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch 7961W!WM


Brown-capped Rosy-Finch7991W!WM

Black forehead blends into dark brownish crown. Gray head patch usually absent, but some show a light area on the sides of crown that does not extend to the back of head. Males usually have noticeably brighter underparts than Gray-crowned.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch 7909W!WM

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Interior race, Leucosticte tephrocotis tephrocotis) There is a sharp demarcation between the black forehead and the light gray crown which does not extend very far down the back of head. While plumage is usually a rich cinnamon-brown, some are darker and may be confused with Black Rosy-Finches. Considerably less pink on belly, wings and rump. The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is the species most likely to be confused with other rosy-finches. Black Rosy-Finch lacks brown back and breast. Brown-capped lacks gray on head. The amount of gray on the head is variable. Young birds may be especially difficult to separate from Brown-capped in the field.

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7882W1WM


Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7986W!WM


Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7883W!WM


Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Coastal or Hepburns race, Leucosticte tephrocotis littoralis) Differs from the Interior race in having more extensive gray areas on the crown and cheeks. Note contrast between the black chin and light cheeks. Some individuals, possibly first winter birds, may be quite dark on upper back. Like Interior race, the pink on belly, wings and rump is quite subdued.

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7931W!WM


Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7976W!WM

Perhaps because of its remote breeding sites, which allow little contact with humans, the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch seems almost fearless. On its breeding grounds, foraging birds can be approached to within 1-2 meters (3-6 feet).

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch 7928W!WM

The Black Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte atrata) is a bird of the high Rocky Mountains. It nests above treeline, among alpine rocks and cliffs and is often the bird that nests at the highest elevation on a particular mountain. Because of this it is one of the least studied birds in North America.

Black Rosy-Finch, Leucosticte atrata, Silverton, Colorado, USA, North America


Black Rosy-Finch, Leucosticte atrata, Silverton, Colorado, USA, North America

Black forehead strongly contrasts with light gray on crown, which extends to back of head. Black back, throat and upper breast contrast with extensive pink on belly, rump and edges of wing and tail feathers. Pink under-tail coverts. Generally has little brown in plumage.

Black Rosy-Finch, Leucosticte atrata, Silverton, Colorado, USA, North America


We also saw flocks of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrows,  Passer domesticus, Silverton, Colorado, USA, North America


And a trio of fur balls that were interested in anything Avian.

Three Cats in a Window in Silverton; Colorado; USA; North America


Visitors on a Cold Snowy Winter Afternoon

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another Winter storm has arrived and so have the big bucks. They haven’t been here is several weeks. The snow is chest deep for them and I thought they had all gone to lower elevations and the South facing slopes. The does and last year’s fawns haven’t been around for months. The snows are too deep and the food too scarce.

I worry about these guys. It has been a hard Winter for them. Its been cold and the snows are deep. All they are eating are old oak sticks and the low branches of the junipers. I was focused on shoveling the East stairs and around the hot tub making the usual shoveling sounds. When I looked up one of these guys was watching me from about 10 yards away in the shallow snow under Grandmother Tree. “Oh, hello,” I offered and all three took off in explosive bounding leaps.

Shortly, the job done, I was back in the house. Within ten minutes big antlers appeared through a window and the first buck had reappeared under Grandmother Tree. They were after bird seed.

I know that it is wrong to feed wild animals. It is illegal.  And harmful if they become dependent on handouts from humans, but I let them eat anyway. Like I said they haven’t been around in several weeks and the Winter is a hard one. Only one buck really ate anything at all and there was still plenty of bird seed remaining when they spooked again. This time they didn’t come back and wandered off to the North pushing through the deep drifts.

Three Bucks in Winter 7184W8WM

Can you see the third deer?

Here he is under another large juniper tree in the background.  The snow is not too deep beneath the umbrella of these trees.

Mule Deer Buck in Winter 7179W8WM

I’d much rather see this through my window than have his head mounted on my wall.

Male Mule Deer Looking in Window in Winter 7189W8WM