Friday, July 23, 2010

Blue Grouse & White-tailed Ptarmigan, Mt. Elbert

Perhaps I need to rename my blog, because this is the second consecutive post that I am including pics other than birds.

Another upland game bird that resides in the Western mountains is the Blue Grouse. While hiking down from a 9 mile hike from Bear Lake to the Fern Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park (it is cool that we can start a hike in one area and end it in another area, then catch a free shuttle bus to our car), we witnessed a mother Blue Grouse with her brood of a dozen chicks. While none of our chick pics were very noteworthy, I did get a decent snapshot of the mother (Above, 7-9-10) before they all scurried out of sight. Our first thought was that it was a Ptarmigan, but upon further research I believe it to be a Blue Grouse (if anyone thinks it may be another type of bird, let me know - I strive to be accurate).

Another Blue Grouse (Below, June, '06) Val photographed in Mt. Ranier National Park, Washington. At the time we also thought we were seeing a Ptarmigan.

I photographed an actual Ptarmigan (Below, 7/27/'05)  on our climb up Mt. Elbert (Colorado's highest Peak at 14,433' above sea level).  We were about half way up the mountainside when I heard a soft cooing sound. I looked around to locate its origin when I heard it again and saw a slight movement near my feet. The Ptarmigan was sitting no more than a couple of feet off the trail. If it hadn't made any noise, I would have likely trouped right past it as it blended perfectly into its surroundings. I couldn't have been luckier to get such a great shot (especially with my old Sony DSC-H1) of a White-tailed Ptarmigan which is not a common sight. The White-tailed Ptarmigan is the only Ptarmigan species that resides south of Alaska and the Northern regions of Canada. If you are as lucky as I was, you might see one in the highest Colorado Rockies or in the very highest parts of California's Sierras.

Val thinks this photo of the White-tailed Ptarmigan might be an early plant into my subconscious of attempting to become a bird photograper.

We left Val's then Colorado home at 5 AM to get to the base of the mountain to be able to start our hike by 6 AM so we could reach the summit before noon.  As we turned into the dirt road leading to the trailhead, the sun had just peaked over the horizon lighting up Mt. Elbert perfectly for us. How could we not stop to get a picture. An early morning sunlit Mt. Elbert (Below, 7-27-05) is majestically showing itself between a layer of clouds and the rising mist from the valley below - daring us to climb it.

We summited by 11 AM. Photos (Below, 7-27-05) we took of eachother to prove it! We couldn't believe that there was no wind, which is almost unheard of at the top of a Colorado 14'er, and the sun was shining with no sign of the typical mountain storm brewing. If my memory serves correctly, it took us 5 hours to climb up, hung around the summit for about 30 minutes, and only 3 1/2  hours to get back down. So we were back to our car by 3:30 PM.

Jon on top of Colorado's Mt. Elbert.

Val on top of Colorado's Mt. Elbert.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a climb and what beauty on the top of that mountain! What great finds...all of those birds blend so well into their background they would be hard to spot!

Thanks for the info on the snipes, I'm gonna go find me a snipe...leaving this morning! :)