A Frigid Morning at Red Rocks

Red Rocks Park, in the foothills west of Denver, is best known for its outdoor, rock-walled amphitheater, which, over the years, has hosted a wide variety of concerts and other forms of entertainment.  To birders and naturalists, the Park is also known as an excellent place to explore the flora and fauna of the Front Range shrub zone.

Today, my friend and I arrived at the snow-laden landscape of Red Rocks Park by mid morning; the air was calm but the temperature was 8 degrees F.  Since he is a wildlife photographer, we headed straight for the feeder area behind the Trading Post, well known as a magnet for resident birds, migrants, wintering species and rare vagrants.  Though recent reports indicated sightings of golden-crowned sparrows at the Park, we failed to observe them today; neither did we see rosy finches, which often invade Red Rocks after winter storms rake the mountains.  At the feeders, four races of dark-eyed juncos were the most numerous visitors, followed by black-capped chickadees, house finches, scrub jays, black-billed magpies, song sparrows and spotted towhees.  Throughout the remainder of the Park, birds were rather sparse, represented primarily by magpies and red-tailed hawks; despite expectations, no Townsend's solitaires were found.  Mule deer, on the other hand, were abundant, prancing through the snow or foraging on the yucca-studded meadows.

Wildlife observation in frigid weather is always a challenge but it gives one a better appreciation for the hardiness and adaptability of our wild neighbors.  Of course, handouts are welcomed by many species of wildlife and concentrate their activity for the benefit of human observers; then again, they concentrate victims for predators as well!