Dazzling sunlight on distant peaks


Dazzling sunlight on distant peaks

A friend invited me to go with him to search for White-tailed Ptarmigan eight days ago, on 27 November 2017, with plans to meet four other mutual friends out there. What a great day we had, with amazing scenery, beautiful weather until we got into the mountains and closer to our destination, and a wonderful sighting of 11 of these fascinating birds.

I know for sure that I would never have found them on my own, especially as I don’t own a pair of snowshoes, just my warm, winter boots. Out there, one absolutely has to have snowshoes, as the snow is knee- or thigh-deep, and walking is impossible without them. Mind you, last year, I did do the walk without snowshoes, but it was brutal and I was dragged uphill by a very kind friend, with help from others along the way! I was so grateful to everyone, as that was my very first sighting of these Ptarmigan, that I had longed to see for quite a few years. What a thrill it was! I had seen photos of them against the snow, and I longed to have the chance to try and take photos like that.

So, eight days ago, my friends had snowshoes and went off searching in all directions, while I searched close to where we were parked, and also enjoyed myself taking photos of the winter wonderland that surrounded us and that I so rarely see, especially in winter. From 1 December each year, the winter gates in Kananaskis close for months, partly for safety reasons, but also to allow the wildlife some peaceful time, especially when their young are born. Towards the end of our time out there, guess what my friends found. If these birds had a sense of humour, I can just picture them laughing at all the effort that everyone was putting into looking for them. At first, they flew just a short distance – actually in my direction! – but only one of them landed within my sight, and far, far away. It took me a while to see it, as especially from a distance, a white bird on white snow just isn’t seen, except for the black beak and the little, shiny, black eyes.

Friend, Lyn, called out to me and was waving her arms, telling me that there were four birds near where she was standing. When I reached the spot, one had taken off, but three remained. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one against a darker background of bushes, along with two others near it, but completely against a snowy background. Sun would have been most welcome, but unfortunately, we had to make the best of the low light. Unlike last year, my photos of these newest birds have practically no detail in their feathers – but I will very gladly take whatever I can get. Just as big a thrill to see them again as it was to see them for the very first time a year ago.

Thanks, everyone, for walking so far in difficult surroundings. The gusts of fine, blowing snow didn’t exactly make it more pleasant, but actually were quite refreshing in a strange way. Lovely to spend time with you all, and you did such a great job of finding our target birds and making sure that each one of us was able to see them. Thanks so much, Tony, for inviting me and for the ride, including that extra stretch of magnificent scenery that we unexpectedly drove through after we missed a turn : ) Also, it was nice to see a Shrike perched on a fence post along the back way home. My photos were pretty bad, very blurry, but I tried to rescue the ‘best’ one with a touch of filter in post-processing, just so that I could add it to the album for this trip. Such a great day!

"The smallest grouse in North America, the White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabits alpine regions from Alaska to New Mexico. It has numerous adaptations to its severe habitat, including feathered toes, highly cryptic plumage, and an energy-conserving daily regime." From AllAboutBirds.

www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-tailed_Ptarmigan/id

"The white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), also known as the snow quail, is the smallest bird in the grouse family. It is a permanent resident of high altitudes on or above the tree line and is native to Alaska and the mountainous parts of Canada and the western United States. It has also been introduced into the Sierra Nevada in California, the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon and the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Its plumage is cryptic and varies at different times of the year. In the summer it is speckled in gray, brown and white whereas in winter it is wholly white. At all times of year the wings, belly and tail are white. The white-tailed ptarmigan has a diet of buds, leaves, flowers and seeds. The nest is a simple depression in the ground in which up to eight eggs are laid. After hatching, the chicks soon leave the nest. At first they eat insects but later move on to an adult diet, their mother using vocalisations to help them find suitable plant food. The population seems to be stable and the IUCN lists this species as being of "Least Concern". From Wikipedia.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_ptarmigan

Posted by annkelliott on 2017-12-05 16:01:12

Tagged: , Alberta , Canada , Rocky Mountains , Canadian Rockies , Kananaskis , K-Country , nature , scenery , landscape , mountain , mountains , mountainside , peak , sunlit , tree , trees , forest , coniferous , snow , snow-covered , very deep snow , winter wonderland , road , sky , cloud , low light , like winter , outdoor , fall , autumn , 27 November 2017 , FZ1000 , Panasonic , Lumix , annkelliott , Anne Elliott , © Anne Elliott 2017 , © All Rights Reserved

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