White-tailed ptarmigans

February 24, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

For several summer seasons I have searched out the beautiful white-tailed ptarmigan at Guanella Pass. More white-tailed ptarmigans live here than any other area in the U.S., and I am lucky enough to live only a couple of hours from this location in Colorado. But alas, I have not seen these little ground birds. I have tried from the side of the road, scanned with binoculars, walked through willows to try to flush them out. I even sat in the willows and waited for them. Still, no sign of these birds.

Another spot I have looked for them is along the road to Mount Evans. Here I spotted more evidence of their existence - feathers strewn about the rocks, droppings I presume they left behind. But no ptarmigans.

In the winter, the county does not plow the road all the way up to Guanella Pass. So I did a little research to look for other destinations to try to spot the elusive ptarmigans. Loveland Pass, another high-elevation road in Colorado not far from Guanella Pass, was recommended as a good alternative. I traveled up there earlier this week - again with my keen eyes ready to spot them hiding in the snow. They are now in their winter plumage - solid white with just the black eye - so even harder to see if they don't move, which they tend to not do.

Lack of success again. They are there; I know they are. My patience can wait and I'll keep looking.

The joy of photographing wildlife is just this type of experience. The more I research, the more I learn about the animals. And the more I learn about them and the harder they are to spot, the more I appreciate the experience when I do encounter an elusive critter - whether common or not.


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