7/28/2009

Ptarmigan

Hello all trailbuddies, hope your summer adventures are going well wherever they may lead you. When I lived in another part of the country prior to moving to Alaska, U.P. of upper Michigan, I must admit I didn't even know what a ptarmigan was or knew the word existed. Now living here in rural Alaska continuing my advenutures, watching and monitoring the birds seems to be part of my everyday life style. In my travels over the years up here, I've seen the male ptarmigan both in summer and winter plumage. Back in the spring, driving a dirt road I had some luck on in the past, I came upon both the male and female ptarmigan still in their winter plumage, just starting to show spring changes in their feathers with snow still on the ground. Let me pause for minute, can some please explain to me how the P in ptarmigan even comes in to play. It makes the word Ptarmigan look funny like it's spelled wrong. there's no p sound in this word when you pronounce it. Just seems odd to me. I have spent a lot of time watching the ptarmigans when I could locate them and getting good photographs of them made it all worth while. The more I read about the ptarmigan the more intrigued I seem to be. Here in Alaska the ptarmigan is also a game bird for some; hunted in the fall and well into winter. While I don't have any interest in hunting as you would think of it, I stictly hunt with my camera. I love the end results when I can reflect back on the good memories I have captured. The ptarmigan is the smallest of the grouse family that lives at the sub-alpine level in the mountians. Over the winter months the ptarmigan is pure white with a black beak. In my reading about this bird in my rocking chair, yes by the fireplace, this is the most thermally efficient of all birds. Late spring arrives and the male ptarmigan takes on a whole new apperance. The female ptarmigan on the other hand goes from a pure white in the winter to a disruptive camflauge in the summer.

It displays a jumbled pattern of colors and tones that breaks up its outline to make it simply disappear into its surroundings. And this same pattern is displayed on the ptarmigan chicks as well. I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time to catch both the male and female as well as five ptarmigan chicks and record the summer camflauge.

Thus winter arrives and they turn back to an all white bird matching their winter environment. Truly an amazing bird that requires more in depth reading to fully understand it. Maybe you have a favorite bird that has captured your interest, my suggestion is to pick a detailed book on birds and learn all that you can while enjoying the beauty of birds wherever you may find them.
See you on down the trail,
Buford T. Porcupine





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