Willow Ptarmigan

On our last morning at Denali National Park last month, we decided to hike Savage River Canyon Trail before leaving for Anchorage. As soon as we got on the trail, we saw a male Willow Ptarmigan under a low bush. It was initially walking away from the trail, as seen in photo below.

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Canon EOS 7D (275mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec, ISO500) Male Willow Ptarmigan near Savage River Canyon Trail

I was about to leave when the ptarmigan turned around for a moment, allowing me to take the next photo.

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Canon EOS 7D (360mm, f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO800) Quick pose

It then turned around and continued deeper into the grass. Thinking I may have bothered the bird too much at this point, Donnette strongly suggested I move on, and I complied.

The Willow Ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird, is certainly an elusive creature. During our visit to Denali National Park in 2008, we observed a few ptarmigans, but they were always either moving into the tall grass below bushes or were already hiding there. I could never get clear photographs of them. As you see, it was no different at Denali last month.

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The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.


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