Wednesday, February 2

Flushing a Ptarmigan and Other Rambling


Prognosticating rodents aside, here in the Yukon we know there'll be at least six more weeks of winter, because it'd take at least six weeks for all this snow to melt. Yes, we have snow, nearly record amounts of snow. So much snow that we've been having a hard time keeping up with the shoveling, and it's getting harder and harder to find a place to put the snow we remove from the driveway. Youngest son does most of the snow removal, and he's tired.

Yesterday, the dog and I trudged through a trail in the bush on our walk. Even though it's a well-traveled trail, we were the first hikers to pass since the last snowfall. Trailblazing is hard work. Well, it's hard work for me. Taffy leaps through the snow like a ballerina, while even the word "trudge" sounds too graceful for what I do.

So there we were, Taffy flying, and me stumbling along on the virgin trails, when a big bird whooshed up from inside the snowdrift right beside us and flew into the trees alongside the trail. Ptarmigan hide right down in little hollows in the snow and just stay there, impossible to spot with their white feathers. They even swoop down into the snow so that they leave no tell-tale footprints to give their location away. But we'd come too close and that spooked her (or him--a real birder could probably spot the difference), so she flew off, leaving only a depression in the snow.

Ptarmigan are more reserved than ravens. A raven doesn't see a dog and a woman hiking by as a threat, but rather as an afternoon's entertainment. Nothing is more fun for an idle raven bird brain than tagging along as we hike, flying from tree to tree beside the trail, spying on us as we walk by, and swooping down toward the dog just often enough to keep her on her toes. (If you've been around ravens much, you're not surprised by this scientific news.) Yesterday afternoon, one followed along for almost the entire walk, leaving us only as we came back through the city street. Something more interesting came up, and he left us for a new distraction. Yes, even a raven eventually found our rambling boring.
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