Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tales of Ptarmigan

Back in 1997, during my first summer in Alaska, I spent a lot of time exploring the Chugach Mountains above town. One afternoon I struggled to reach the top of a nearby peak. When I finally made it to the top, I sat on the rocks while I enjoyed the magnificent scenery, and tried to catch my breath. After a time I heard a very soft clucking, similar to a chicken. I looked all around me until I noticed some subtly moving rocks.
They were not rocks, they were Rock Ptarmigan. They were actually all around me. I photographed some of them as they foraged within about 10 feet, (3 meters) of me. I was delighted with them.
Since then I have seen them, and the other 2 species, Willow, and White-tailed Ptarmigan on a number of occasions.
This is one of the first Rock Ptarmigans I saw in the Chugach Mountains above Eagle River.
Another moving rock.
These Rock Ptarmigan are in their fall plummage. They were photographed in Denali Nat. Park.
The Willow Ptarmigan is the state bird of Alaska. This bird is also in Denali Nat. Park.
The main reason for this blog post is to show my latest painting. Living Snowballs, 9x12". These are White-tailed Ptarmigan, and they were painted in only a day and a half. The thing that distinguishes ptarmigan from grouse is that ptarmigan turn white in the winter, while grouse do not.

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