Sunday, April 22, 2012

Farewell to the ptarmigan

To all things there is a season, and one of the sad parts of the spring season in Yellowknife is bidding farewell to the ptarmigan.

It's been a great winter for ptarmis in these parts - thirty or forty have been making the rounds of the neighbourhood, going from bird feeder to bird feeder. In our backyard they've been grazing cheek by jowl with the LBBs (little brown birds), who are a fraction of their size. Sometimes they swoop in on the wing (a rare occurrence, given their preference for walking); more often they scurry across the street for a quick nosh at our place (see photo below of ptarmi in mid-scurry) before scuttling up the hill in our backyard, heading for their next port of call. They can really pound down the snow - it's like there's a ptarmigan superhighway along the side of our house.

I've spent hours watching them in the backyard, listening to their honks and squawks, tsk-tsking when the mean ones chase their compatriots away from patches of prime bird seed. I've hit the brakes while whipping around the corner in the vehicle, to find a flock of them nonchalantly gravelling in the middle of the road. Last Tuesday I walked out of the house for my morning hike to the office, and there was a row of them on the little hill across the street. One of them honked at me. I smiled and continued on my way. It was the last I saw of them.