Thursday, November 04, 2010

Encountering the ptarmigan in the Cairngorms

Spot the ptarmigan
We startled this ptarmigan and her chicks while out hiking. There was an explosion of feathers and frantic clucking as the chicks scurried to their hidey-holes and mama ptarmigan boldly remained in full view.

She then proceeded to lure us away from her chicks (we humored her, as we were going in the right direction anyways) by dancing in and out of the nooks and crannies of the boulder field, always just ahead of us.

Spot the ptarmigan
When J. made the mistake of detouring around a boulder and thus towards her chicks, she came right up to his feet, flapping her wings and squawking a racket.

Several times, we thought she had left, now that we were clearly moving away from her chicks, but, nope, she would pop up from behind a random boulder, like a mole in the whack-a-mole games at Chuck E. Cheese.  It was quite amusing to be treated as bothersome predators.

Later on, a gentleman gave us a ride into Aviemore. He was an avid birdwatcher, out on a bird-watching expedition around Europe. We told him about the ptarmigan and learned that it is actually quite rare to spot one. Not only are they reclusive, but they blend in so well with their environment--as you can see from the picture above.

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