Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch Survey

by Sophie Osborn
Black-capped Rosy-Finch. Photo © Shawn Billerman.

Hello Auduboners!

Please join Laramie Audubon for a day of hiking and bird surveying in the beautiful Snowy Mountains! We will be conducting the Laramie Audubon Society’s annual Brown-capped Rosy-Finch survey on Saturday, July 12, 2014 this year.

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is a species of concern because it breeds only in the Snowy Mountains and on mountain peaks in Colorado and northern New Mexico. If the current global warming trend continues, its mountain habitat islands are likely to shrink and to be invaded by other avian species that are currently excluded by the harsh conditions. Documenting how many Brown-capped Rosy-Finches are in the area and where they are feeding and nesting can help us to monitor this population and determine how the birds are faring.

Last year, the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database helped Laramie Audubon develop additional survey routes so we can get a more complete picture of where rosy-finches occur and are nesting in the Snowies. So we have lots of routes to cover! Some of these routes are off-trail and involve rigorous hiking. We hope to GPS our observation points and any nest locations that we find to make our surveys more useful, so if you have a GPS and are willing to use it, please bring it.

Please let Sophie know if you plan to join us on the survey and if you can supply your own GPS unit at sophie_osborn@hotmail.com

We will meet on July 12, 2014 at 7:30am at the Forest Service Visitor Center, on WY 130, approximately 1-2 miles west of Centennial WY. After an orientation session, we will divide the group into teams and will divide up the survey routes (orientation and route assignments may take as long as an hour).

What to expect:  Be prepared to spend the day hiking and looking for rosy-finches. The birds are difficult to find and are not in predictable locations so considerable hiking may be required. Some of the trails have fairly steep portions and the elevation can be challenging for some people. You may also spend time sitting in certain areas to search for or observe birds. Some survey routes are along established trails; some routes are off-trail and may be challenging.

What to look for: In spring and summer, Brown-capped Rosy-Finches often feed at the edge of snowdrifts, where seeds that were blown onto the snowpack during winter emerge from the melting snow cover. Spring winds also blow insects from lower elevations that settle onto the snow where they can be found by birds that are gathering food for their nestlings. Nests are well hidden in talus and in shallow crevices in rock faces. When seen feeding on bright snow, rosy-finches may appear to be a solid dark color. In better light, their light-pink flanks and rumps are visible and they show a flash of pink in their wings when in flight. 

What to bring:  Binoculars and/or spotting scope, a field guide, a GPS unit if you have one, warm clothes and rain gear, good hiking shoes, lunch and snacks, water, and sunblock. We will provide route maps.