Tuesday, January 7, 2014

White-tailed Ptarmigan; Love and Hate Them

January 3, 2014

Richard Stevens:

I joined Chris Summers and we headed to Loveland Pass (Clear Creek County).  A quick stop at Red Rocks Park (Jefferson) found the wintering Golden-crowned Sparrow.  The previously reported White-throated Sparrow did not appear for us.

Today may have been the longest and most strenuous White-tailed Ptarmigan search which I was ever involved.  Not finding any Ptarmigan from highway 6, we put on snowshoes and made several treks.

Eventually we would walk the eastern side of Loveland Pass down to the first pullover on the west side of the road (a steep traverse of about a mile in deep snow).  Then we zigzagged back 1.6 miles on the east and west sides of the highway back to the top of the pass (again missing any of the elusive white birds on the white snow).

A hike about 0.5 miles up the western trail along the continental divide also was unsuccessful (this trail is quite steep and starting at 11,990 feet).  It is quite a trek for anyone and especially flatlander Chris and tired old me. 

The break for a late lunch was welcomed for both of us.  With an hour before sunset, we again set up the western trail.  According to my GPS, we pulled ourselves 0.755 miles up the trail before I spotted a pair of Ptarmigan perhaps 12 feet south of the trail.

(Shouts of exhausted joy!).  The trip back to our car was arduous in spite of joyfully being mostly downhill.

Our depleted legs made the decision not to hike several miles around Montezuma for owls an easy choice.

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