Monday, October 27, 2008

Cryptic Willow Ptarmigan

Willow ptarmigan in Atigun Pass, Brooks range, Alaska.
Canon 1Ds Mark III, 500mm 4L IS, 1/500 sec at f7.1, ISO 800

Willow ptarmigan turn a cryptic pure white in the winter to blend in with the snowy landscapes. Their black beak, rings around their eyes and tips of the tail are the only other distinguishable markings. This bird, photographed along the freshly covered snowy slopes of Atigun pass in the Brooks range is in the final few days of turning completely white. The former rusty brown phase of autumn has just a few remaining feathers. The bird seemed to know this somehow, as it moved quickly between the willow branches while feeding. I took hundreds of photos, each time getting a little closer as the bird became more comfortable with my presence. In the end, it walked so close to me that I could no longer focus on it with my camera lens.

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