O.K., an elk is not a bird—but I’m gonna lead with the species anyway.
In particular the Rocky Mountain Elk subspecies of one of the largest mammals on the continent. I’d heard that in winter they come down from the higher altitudes to browse within sight of the hiking trails, and I’d been scanning the high bare patches every day for weeks, but did not catch sight of any—until today.
(To be forthright, a fellow-hiker friend saw me and dog arrive at the trailhead and called me over to point out the elk on the ridge. Although I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed ’em anyway, I was grateful.)
There were fifteen elk in all, among them likely a bull or two shed of antlers (and a couple with small ones). When I first caught sight of them, they were mostly lying in the snow, soaking up the sun, but soon enough they began to mosey along, single file, like camels in the desert. Very cool sight to see.
In bird news, the second species on my list this morning was one of my favorites here, aTownsend’s Solitaire, I heard its plain, repeated territorial note, a subtle but thrilling sound.
Grandeur Peak Area List
Beginning at 10:15 a.m., I hiked a few hundred feet up the mountain.
1. Black-billed Magpie*
2. Townsend’s Solitaire (v)
3. Black-capped Chickadee**
4. House Finch* (v)
5. Northern Flicker* (v)
6. Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay (v)
7. Dark-eyed Junco
8. American Robin (v)
9. Rock Pigeon
(v) Voice only
**Voice only elsewhere