Winter Morning at Red Rocks

Red Rocks Park, in the foothills west of Denver, is famous for its rock-walled amphitheater, scenic sandstone formations and outdoor concerts.  Naturalists know that it is also a good place to explore the shrub zone ecosystem of the lower foothills and is an excellent site for birding throughout the year.  Since rosy finches often winter at the Park and were recently sighted there, I decided to pay a visit with the hope of encountering those attractive birds.

On this sunny, mild morning, the most conspicuous birds at Red Rocks Park were the ravens, magpies, rock pigeons and scrub jays.  Most numerous were the dark-eyed juncos, represented by all four subspecies that can be found along the Front Range.  Other sightings included Townsend's solitaires, house finches, canyon wrens, black-capped and mountain chickadees, northern flickers, downy woodpeckers and rufous-sided towhees.  Alas, no rosy finches were observed, even at the feeders behind the Trading Post;  I'll try a late day visit within the next week and hope for better luck.

Of course, veteran birders know that their quarry is often unpredictable; this seems to be especially true when one ventures out to find a specific species.  It is better to visit natural ecosystems with general expectations in mind and enjoy whatever turns up.  Indeed, on some excursions, several rare species may be sighted while common, widespread birds seem to have vanished.  In the end, it is the joy of the hunt that sends birders into the countryside; discoveries, expected or not, are welcome but not guaranteed.