Sunday, February 13, 2011

I worry about the ptarmigan

Why did the ptarmigan cross the road?

To get away from Cathy, of course.

About this time of year we see a lot of ptarmigan in Yellowknife. They're cute little gaffers. Well, large gaffers as far as birds go, seeing as how they're part of the grouse family and chubby, to boot. In winter their feathers are white, so they look like good-sized snowballs as they wander around.

And it's the wandering around part that's the problem.

You see, ptarmigan can fly, if they choose to. They just don't seem inclined to most of the time. Couple that with a tendency towards mental laziness, and you have disaster in the making. I walk to work every day, and there's a stretch of willow along Franklin Avenue portion of the route. For the past week, there have been a bunch of ptarmies in these bushes, munching on buds. Alarmed at my approach, they leap out of the willows (where they're fairly safe) and plop down onto the path in front of me. They then scurry along in a panic, trying to out-run me. Given that I have long legs and am in pretty good shape, I'll let you guess how well that works.

Some of the smarter ones eventually head back into the bushes. But there's always one or two who run into the road, unaware that a vehicle making its way along Franklin in the semi-dark poses a far greater danger than I ever would. So far, the terrified birds take to the wing before they're run over. But I really don't need this stress first thing in the morning -- witnessing ptarmigan carnage is not a good start to the day.

A couple of times, as I wander home in the evening, I've seen evidence that not all ptarmigan make it across the road safely. Poor little bird-brains. I worry about them.