A couple of years ago during my first summer of adult birding, I spent some time in Albuquerque, NM on business. I was lucky to have some time between meetings to do some birding, and even luckier to have Saturday morning free allowing me to tag along with a local Audubon Society field trip up to Sandia Crest in the Sandia Mountains.
I learned from the locals that Sandia Crest is one of the few places that you can find all three species of Rosy Finches in the Winter. A great article about the finches and some young boys that study them had just been included in the latest Audubon Magazine and the local Audubon Society president had a box full of copies to give to each of the field trip participants.
I found these birds and the story to be fascinating, but unfortunately it was June and the birds where off in other parts of the world. I've considered returning to Albuquerque just see them, but until a week ago, I was left to hoping that I would happen upon them elsewhere.
That elsewhere turned out to be Mount Hood, just northwest of Timberline Lodge. I like to hike around Timberline Lodge this time of year as there is still snow, but the ground is beginning to be exposed and the temperatures more tolerable. There is a thin grove of mountain pines that I find to be quite birdie this time of year and a week ago this past Sunday was no different. There were Cassin's Finches along with a few Pine Siskins and Yellow-rumped Warblers throughout, singing up a storm.
When I reached the end of the grove, I found a rock to sit on to take a breather. After a few minutes I heard a family approaching so I decided to start moving again. As I gathered my gear, I realized that I was missing my cellphone. It had been in its case, clipped to my belt, but must have fallen off somewhere earlier. It was then that I saw a bird land not far from the family and their dog. My heart started to pound because I was fairly sure it was a Rosy Finch. I tried to get my camera ready to take a picture, but between worrying about my cellphone and the dog that was approaching the bird, I was too slow and the bird flew off.
I was bummed! I was pretty sure it was a Rosy Finch, but I only had a distant view and I certainly didn't think I would be able to determine which species. I searched the area in the general direction it had flown, but I could not refind it, so I continued back down the mountain, retracing my tracks in search of my cellphone. Luckily, there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground, so I was able to follow my wondering tracks and eventually found the phone on the ground.
That minor catastrophe averted, I ventured back up the mountain and sat back on that same rock. After about five minutes I heard a chirp behind me. I turned and there, not more than ten feet away, was a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch perched at the top of broken stump. I carefully gathered my lens, twisted around and started taking pictures. It stuck around long enough to get three nice poses.
One down, two to go. :-)