Archive for June 7th, 2011
WC had a chance to take a Indiana University of Pennsylvania geology professor birding around interior Alaska recently. It was a very quick trip, far less time than those gorgeous birds deserve, but there are a few good photos that may be worth sharing.
The Willow Ptarmigan were moulting from winter white to summer brown. There was a very moderate amount of courtship singing – if ptarmigan calls can be called “singing” – but because we didn’t see any females at all, it seems likely most if not all of the females were on eggs.
The Rock Ptarmigan is just starting to moult; you can see the tan color starting to appear under the white. Because Rocks are usually in higher terrain than Willows, they hold their white color a bit longer.
This species breeds in the subarctic, but not a lot is known about them. They are a medium sized bird, about the same size as a Swainson’s and Hermit Thrush, but smaller than an American Robin. They winter in South America east of the Andes: Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad, Guyana, and northwest Brazil. The limits of distribution in South America are poorly known.
This species is dramatically different in non-breeding plumage. And its song is almost too high-pitched for WC’s aging ears. This male was working hard at calling in a lady and warning off other males. It was an especially impressive effort because he was competing with a noisy creek and fairly high wind.
The chance to hear and see these lovely birds it brief, but wonderful while it happens. WC urges you to get out and look around.