[Tweeters] White0tailed ptarmigan, Mt. Rainier: Panorama Pt.

Rob Saecker rsaecker at thurston.com
Mon Jul 18 09:13:28 PDT 2005

My wife and I hiked the Skyline Trail from Paradise to Panorama Pt. 
yesterday. East of Panorama Pt. the trail crosses a snowfield, and 
just past the snowfield my wife commented, "This is the same habitat 
I saw the ptarmigan in last year." So I turn to do a quick scan and 
bingo! "There's one right there." A male ptarmigan, no more than 25 
feet off the trail, which we had walked past. He happened to be 
standing upright at the moment, if he had been foraging, I'd probably 
have missed him. A very nice bird, we hung out and watched him for 
half-an-hour before continuing on.

At one point, I noticed the ptarmigan look up. I've learned that it's 
a god cue when a bird looks up, so I looked too. There was a buteo, 
soaring several hundred feet above us. It was hard to get much in the 
way of field marks; what was most prominent were the flight feathers, 
which were luminously white. You could make a case for juvenile 
red-tail, except that that would be unlikely at that altitude, so 
most likely a ferruginous hawk. Another very nice bird.

And the wildflowers were just stunning. Sheets of lupine interspersed 
with sheets of heather, punctuated by paintbrush. A spectacular day...
Rob Saecker
rsaecker at thurston.com

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