Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

High Country Critters

A while back I went on a hike in the hills around Independence Mine State Park with my friend Brody and his sons. Independence Mine is well above timberline, near Hatcher's Pass above Palmer, Alaska.
I forget the particulars about when the mine closed and what was mined there. Some of the buildings are still in good condition, while others lie in ruins.

I know from experience that this abandoned mine complex is a supreme location for telling ghost stories. We had Brodie's sons trembling with fear even in the daytime. Even I would probably be scared to hear horror stories there at night inside those creaky old buildings.
There are a lot of crumbling structures on the hillsides above the main buildings.
Brodie takes in the view from a vantage above the mine.
We saw this very cute, Collared Pika.
Although I have seen many Pikas over the years, this is the only one I was able to photograph. Pikas do not hibernate. They gather grasses, and other edible plants all summer which they store in rocky crevasses. This is what sustains them through the long winters.
Pikas are about the size of guinea pigs, and have a very loud squeak.
We left the mine behind, and climbed up across the Alpine terrain. These are Brodie's three sons, Ethan, Keaton, and Tate.
Arctic Ground Squirrels are common in the high country. They do hibernate, and put on a great deal of weight in the fall that helps them survive long months underground.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are one of the most common birds found above timberline.
All three ptarmigan species occupy these high slopes. The Rock Ptarmigan above is the most commonly seen species.
I believe that Rock Ptarmigan also occur in alpine areas in Europe. It is my favorite Alaska bird.


tess stieben said...

Pika! they are zoo cute, we saw some in Jasper last week but I did not have my 300m lens on the camera so did not get a good shot.

Kay Baughman said...

Nice photos, John, and an interesting blog. I especially like the Merlin protecting its prey from the photographer. We'll see them back here in October. I've never seen a ptarmigan of any kind. The pattern on the breast of the Rock Ptarmigan is lovely.