Rosy

I awake on the morning of December 24, Christmas Eve, thinking of Rosy Finches – what else?! A number of birders have reported a flock of these handsome little birds near a reservoir in the mountains, about 20 miles west of Colorado Springs. Snow in the forecast later in the week persuades me to set out to look for them today. I arrive at the trailhead shortly before eight in the morning, and begin the chilly two-mile trek on the snow-covered path through the forest before the sun has reached the tree tops. Part of my path parallels a creek that will eventually empty itself into the reservoir. Not unexpectedly, but nonetheless surprisingly, it has been transformed into the fascinating ribbon of ice art portrayed in last week’s post.

By the time I reach the reservoir, severely diminished by our ongoing drought, the solar rays peek across the trees and I find a sunny spot on the beach to take in the tranquil scenery. Not a ripple stirs the surface of the lake, not a breeze bends the boughs of the bare aspens and verdant conifers. Two fisherman, the only other humans visible, leave after a few minutes, and I am alone. It is perfectly quiet.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

Too quiet. I hear not a single bird, much less a gathering of two hundred. I do not remember when they were sighted on previous days, but when nothing happens after thirty minutes, I retrace my steps to a bridge that crosses to the opposite side of the creek and reservoir. I choose another spot in the sun and wait, scanning my surroundings. Patience is not one of my virtues, and after another half hour, I “resign” myself to a morning of outdoor exercise and winter beauty. As I stomp back through the snow toward the main trail, I raise my binoculars to my eyes one last time to survey the scene. My heart accelerates when I behold what, in summer, could be a swarm of insects. But not now. It is my hoped-for flock. The only problem: it is flying away from me. I run back to my previous viewing spot and plop down on the ground, trying to blend in, cautiously hopeful.

All of a sudden a trembling of wings is audible above my head. Remarkably, for an estimated 200 birds, their vocalizations are very soft. After circling a few times, they land on the beach – behind me, backlit by the sun. I can barely make out their shapes in the bright glare, but take a few photographs, hoping to be able to modify them sufficiently afterward. They are hyperactive little creatures, and the entire assembly rises repeatedly, only to settle again not far away.

I have nothing to lose, and decide to try to get between them and the sun. Gingerly I take a few steps. The flock takes off, but lands again. After a few repeats, I get the impression that their movements are not in response to my presence, but to some inherent rhythm unknown and unknowable to me. They keep their distance, but I can get in a better position to admire their delightful plumage which shows varying degrees of pink (my favorite color), depending on the species. What makes this charm of finches special is that it contains three different species that have congregated for the winter, whereas they occupy different ranges in summer.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches/Graukopf-Schneegimpel (Leucosticte tephrocotis)

Brown-capped Rosy-Finches/Braunkopf-Schneegimpel ( Leucosticte australis) in the foreground

Black Rosy-Finch/Schwarz-Schneegimpel (Leucosticte atrata) in right lower quadrant

As I marvel at these winged wonders in the solitude of this serene setting, I gratefully realize that I have already received my Christmas present.

42 thoughts on “Rosy

  1. What a beautiful sight. The pink visible in the last image is so pretty too. So glad you had this opportunity to see them and share your sighting. I can’t imagine a better Christmas gift 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “What makes this charm of finches special is that it contains three different species that have congregated for the winter, whereas they occupy different ranges in summer.”

    That’s amazing. And I bet that you’re one of not too many people who know that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMGosh, how wonderful a Christmas gift, Tanja! I am so glad you kept looking around and back when you finally were leaving. I’ve done that so many times and once in a while magic happens! 😊 These three Rosy Finches are such beauties!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Was für ein schönes Weihnachtsgeschenk liebe Tanja! Da hätte ich mich auch wie eine Schneekönigin gefreut, beim Anblick dieser Finkenschwärme 🙂 Zauberhaft und pink ist auch eine meiner Lieblingsfarben 😉 Interessant auch, daß sich auch bei euch die verschiedenen Finkenarten zusammentun. Ich finde zwar, daß unsere Gimpel doch etwas anders aussehen, aber das mag an der Färbung liegen. Wunderschöne Beobachtungen in Wort und Bild! Danke dafür! Dir einen schönen Tag. Liebe Grüße, Almuth

    Liked by 1 person

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