Birding by Habitat Alpine Birds Species List
Thursday, July 23, 2020, 7 AM - 2 PM
Weather: Partly to mostly cloudy
Location: Independence Pass and Lost Man Trail
The alpine life zone is always a wondrous place to spend the day, especially in late July when many birds are fledging and wildflowers are peaking. Our birding field trip began in the parking area where several pine grosbeaks flew down to eat grit on the gravel surface of the pullout. These birds were taking in minerals to supplement their mineral-poor diet of conifer seeds, and the grit helps them grind seeds for digestion. As we hiked up into the valley, we enjoyed up-close views of many fledgling white-crowned sparrows being fed by parents. Independence Pass Foundation Director Karin Teague joined the hike and shared lots of great wildflower identifications along the way, and at the end of the hike we were able to meet IPF's intern who was working on wildflower phenology transects with Karin. It was wonderful to gain familiarity with the specialized plants that vegetate the alpine life zone and be able to put birds into the context of their breeding habitats. Robins were active in the lower portion of the valley below treeline and two orange-crowned warblers in the willows were a surprise sighting. We also had two long-tailed weasel sightings among the willows. Pipits were abundant higher in the valley on the tundra near water where adults were feeding fledglings. Although we spent the day in prime ptarmigan habitat, we were not lucky enough to spot any of these cryptically camouflaged birds today - at least not to our knowledge. It was very likely that ptarmigans were in the Upper Lost Man Valley today, but their cryptic coloration conceals them so well that unless they flush it is easy to miss them. We learned about ptarmigan life history over lunch, and then birded our way back down the trail, happy with the experience of a day exploring in this very special place! Join us for the next Birding By Habitat hike in Snowmass Village on August 13th.
~ Rebecca Weiss, ACES Bird Guide
Photo by Dale Armstrong