Archive for April 2015

30th March – 1st April 2015 – South Dakota and Wyoming, USA   Leave a comment

Prior to joining the Birdquest tour of Colorado, Margaret and I had a week touring the Mid-West. The last post dealt with the first four days, which we spent in Nebraska. This post features the remaining three days taken in South Dakota and Wyoming.

IMG_3979 Badlands

We spent the night of the 29th in the small town of Kadoka near the I-90 in South Dakota. From here it was just a short hop to the Badlands National Park.

IMG_3926 Badlands

Copied from the National Parks website. ‘A quick look at the Badlands will reveal that they were deposited in layers. The layers are composed of tiny grains of sediments such as sand, silt, and clay that have been cemented together into sedimentary rocks. The sedimentary rock layers of Badlands National Park were deposited during the late Cretaceous Period (67 to 75 million years ago) throughout the Late Eocene (34 to 37 million years ago) and Oligocene Epochs (26 to 34 million years ago). Different environments—sea, tropical land, and open woodland with meandering rivers caused different sediments to accumulate here at different times. The layers similar in character are grouped into units called formations. The oldest formations are at the bottom and the youngest are at the top, illustrating the principal of superposition’.

IMG_3938 Badlands

The various sedimentary layers can clearly be seen in this photo and the next.

IMG_3947 Badlands

As this area was underwater during the Cretaceous period, no fossils of terrestrial dinosaurs have been found only those of marine reptile and fish. Those upper layers corresponding to the Eocene and Oligocene periods have yielded a rich haul of fossil mammals.

IMG_3968 Prairie Dog

Black-tailed Prairie Dog ‘towns’ were a common site. Black-footed Ferrets which prey of Prairie Dogs were once considered extinct, a few were rediscovered in 1981. Following a captive breeding program a population has been reintroduced to the Badlands, but of course we weren’t lucky enough to see any.

IMG_3972 Bighorn Sheep

As well as the stunning geological formations the Badlands preserves the largest area of natural prairie grasslands in the USA and of course was the film location of ‘Dances With Wolves’. Some great mammals occur here, several distant herds of Bison were seen as well as these Bighorn Sheep.

IMG_3974 Bighorn Sheep

The male, with his great enormous horns which are used as a battering ram during conflict in the mating season, was a magnificent sight.

IMG_4077 Pronghorns

The plains of South Dakota held many Pronghorn antelope. This species, made famous in the line ‘home, home on the range where the deet and the antelope play’, is not related to Old World antelope but rather is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae.

IMG_3987 Mt Rushmore

There was still much to fit in so by late morning we were back on I-90 heading west. We came off at Rapid City and entered the winding roads of the Black Hills. Our destination was Mount Rushmore, the famous National Monument where the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln have been carved into the granite.

IMG_3991 George Washington

George Washington in detail. The work was performed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, it took from 1934 – 39 to carve the 60ft high heads. Originally the sculptures were to extend to the waist but Borglum senior’s death in 1941 and shortage of funding due to the War prevented the project being completed. Although, of course, the patriotic symbolism means little to us, it remains an amazing achievement and a wonderful thing to see.

IMG_4014 Crazy Horse

The Native American community have commissioned a huge stature of Crazy Horse which is being carved out of this rock outcrop ‘to show the white-man that the red-man has heroes too’. When complete Crazy Horse will be sitting astride his mount with his arm outstretched. I’m sure it will be magnificent, the entire statue will be nine times higher than the presidential heads at Mount Rushmore. The monument was commissioned in 1948 and as you can see only the head is complete. I doubt if it will be completed in our lifetime. The entry cost was quite high for a project that is still under construction, so we just took a photo from the main highway and moved on.

IMG_4054 Jewel cave

The Black Hills is famous for its cave formations. This one, the Jewel Cave, named after its beautiful mineral deposits on the cave walls, is the third largest in the world. Studies of the airflow in and out of the cave indicate that perhaps only 10% of the cave system has yet to be discovered. However our visit was a disappointing one. We had to wait an hour for the next tour, then found it was only to the first chamber, the longer tours only take place earlier in the day, so we didn’t see any rock formations or mineral deposits.

IMG_4026 WB Nuthatch

Whilst waiting for our cave tour I photographed this White-breasted Nuthatch. These montane birds could be a different species from those of the eastern lowlands. Everybody agrees that more than one species is involved but can’t decide if it should be split into two, three or four. The split has been pended pending further research, in the mean time note exactly where you saw them and try to remember what they sounded like.

IMG_4084 Welcome to Upton

Just over the border in Wyoming we passed through the town of Upton. Living as we do in Upton, Dorset in the UK, I couldn’t resist stopping for a photo.

IMG_4094 Pronghorns

Pronghorns were once threatened with extinction but fortunately were saved from over hunting and habitat destruction in the 30’s and now number up to a million individuals. We saw good numbers in South Dakota, Wyoming and even on our short visit to Montana, smaller numbers were later seen in Colorado. Away from protected areas they are quite nervous and run off at amazing speed (said to reach 45 mph). Wire fences can cause problems but they usually seem to find a way under them.

IMG_4108 Wild Turkey

The following day we drove northwards through Wyoming. Whilst exploring Keyhole State Park we drove through a holiday village that had Wild Turkeys all over the lawns.

IMG_4117 Wild Turkey

Fancy having one of these visiting your bird feeder?

IMG_4126 Devil's Tower

Our destination was the Devil’s Tower, a huge igneous intrusion soaring 1,267 ft above the surrounding plain. It is a very dramatic sight, no the less so for featuring in the epic 70s movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

IMG_4161 Devil's Tower

Closer to the Tower we took a circular walk around the base ….

IMG_4128 Prairie Dogs

…. and saw plenty of wildlife; more Prairie Dogs ….

IMG_4170 American Red Squirrel

…. American Red Squirrel ….

IMG_4191 Least Chipmunk

…. Least Chipmunk ….

IMG_4157 Townsend's Solitaire

…. and a species of thrush restricted to the west of North America, Townsend’s Solitaire.

IMG_4182 Devil's Tower climbers

Devil’s Tower is a popular spot for climbers, however it is considered a sacred site by certain Native American people who consider climbing it a desecration.

IMG_4186 Devil's Tower

Notice boards told about the geological processes that formed this remarkable structure but also about the native legend which tells of seven young girls being chased by a giant bear, fearing for their lives they climbed a big rock and prayed to the rock to save them. The rock rose quickly into the air, the bear scratched at the side to try to get at the girls, leaving the marks that can still be seen on the Tower’s flanks, the girls however rose so quickly that they were propelled into the heavens where today they can be seen as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters group of stars. A fanciful story perhaps, but none less so than some believed by those who take a literal approach to mainstream religions.

IMG_4195 Montana sign

The Montana border was only about 15 miles to the north and being a Frank Zappa fan I couldn’t resist visiting, singing as I drove ‘I might be moving to Montana soon, to raise me up a crop of dental floss, waxing it up and waxing it down, in a little white box that I can sell up town’. FZ was once asked if his salacious lyrics in certain songs were contributing to the nation’s moral decay – he replied ‘I wrote a song about dental floss once, nobody’s teeth got any cleaner’.

IMG_4197 Cheap drinks lousy food

OK, we didn’t see any ‘dental floss bushes’, ‘pygmy ponies’ or ‘zircon encrusted tweezers’ but we did find this bar with the sign ‘cheap drinks, lousy food’.

IMG_4201 Montana bar

The bar had a sign saying ‘welcome to Montana, put back your watches 20 years’. The centrepiece of the bar dated back to the mid 1800s, there was sawdust on the floor, saucy photos in the loo ….

IMG_4206 Barmaid

…. and a heavily tattooed barmaid.

IMG_4098 Long Train

We returned to Wyoming and started the long drive south. We wanted to be somewhere were we could go birding the following morning yet still have time to reach Denver by late afternoon. We settled on the small town of Glendo in the middle of a coal mining area which had a nearby State Park, but there was only one motel still open and that was right next to the railroad. There was nowhere to eat either, so we bought microwavable burgers from the gas station and I have to say they were the worst burgers I’ve ever tasted.  Although the room was comfortable enough, the proximity of the railroad, the continual procession of coal-bearing trains through the nightand the habit of American train drivers of sounding their horns all the time meant that we had little chance of sleep. I counted 130 wagons being pulled by this train.

IMG_1732 Glendo SP

The gas station served breakfast and we were regaled with stories from the elderly storekeeper on how he should have taken up the place in the House of Lords that was promised to him by his aristocratic English grandfather! The rest of the morning was spent at Glendo State Park where we saw several Townsend’s Solitaires, Western Grebes ….

IMG_4234 Mule Deer

as well as numerous Mule Deer and Margaret added a mammal to the trip list in the form of two tiny mice that were taking shelter in the ladies loo. We later identified them as Deer Mice.

IMG_4254 Slavonian Grebe best

The final good birds of our private trip were a group of Horned Grebes. Known as Slavonian Grebes in the UK, they are a regular winter visitor to Dorset in small numbers but we usually see them as some distance on the sea and never in their gorgeous breeding plumage.

From here it was a three-hour drive to Denver where we dropped the car off before meeting the others on the Birdquest tour. The next two weeks was taken up with the tour of Colorado, one of the best commercial tours I have ever been on, full of great birds and great scenery. Unfortunately I haven’t edited any of those photos yet and Margaret and I have been invited to a wedding in Austria in the near future, so it might be a little while before I get a chance to post them here.

25th – 29th March 2015 – Nebraska, USA   Leave a comment

After several trips to the east, south and west of the ABA area most of my life birds are restricted to the centre of the continent, so a visit to Colorado seemed a good idea. As a trip to Colorado involves booking slots in various hides for grouse leks and benefits from contacts with locals for up to date news, we decided to join an organised tour, but prior to the tour Margaret and I opted to spend a week exploring on our own.

Whilst life birds remain the main focus for foreign birding, sometimes the draw of an avian spectacle can be just as alluring and there is no greater avian spectacle in the world than the spring gathering of over half a million Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska. So we booked three nights in a motel at Kearney, leaving the other three nights free so we could decide ‘on the hoof’ what to do whilst we were there.

Here are some photos from our four days in Nebraska, perhaps not the most scenic of the States but one full of bird life, especially along the Platte River.

IMG_1692 Arctic Ice

One of the nice things about flying to the western USA is that the flight takes you north over Iceland, Greenland and Arctic Canada and at this time of year the entire flight is in daylight. Although cloudy over most of Greenland we did get a good view of pack ice between Baffin Island and northern Hudson’s Bay.

IMG_3369 Bufflehead

After a night in Denver, Colorado we set off on the 350 mile journey to Kearney, Nebraska. We broke the journey at Lake McConaughy just over the border in Nebraska. There was a strong westerly wind blowing and all that we could see on the lake itself were some distant ducks, but there were many waterfowl on a series of small lakes below the dam wall where it was much more sheltered. This is a male Bufflehead.

IMG_3338 Glaucous Gull

I had expected some ducks and perhaps some gulls but I did not expect to see a first winter Glaucous Gull, a visitor from the high Arctic. The robust structure and bicoloured bill distinguish it from an Iceland Gull of similar age.

IMG_3302 Glaucous Gull

I have seen over a thousand Glaucous Gulls, mainly in Arctic Siberia and in Japan in winter. Surprisingly this might not be the southernmost Glaucous I have ever seen, Nebraska is on a similar latitude to Hokaido in northern Japan and I recorded one off a pelagic boat out of Monterey, California in 2003, however some on board thought the Californian bird might have been a hybrid (what with they didn’t say).

IMG_3711 Sandhills

We carried on to Kearney, the self-styled ‘Sandhill Crane capital of the world’ arriving in the late afternoon. After checking in we immediately went out to Fort Kearney State Park, a good site to see the Sandhills coming into roost.

IMG_3385 Sandhills

We didn’t have to go far before we found the fields and the sky above the fields to be full of Sandhill Cranes.

IMG_3474 Sandhills

Once the Platte River was a mile wide but a mere foot deep. The conditions provided an ideal refueling stop for the cranes between their wintering grounds in southern USA and northern Mexico and their breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and even eastern Siberia. Dams on the river such as the one we saw at Lake McConaughy have tamed the river which now runs in just two channels, but waste corn from the surrounding fields has provided the food that river can no longer supply, so the skies above the central Platte River still resounds to the sound of over half a million cranes every spring.

IMG_3483 Sandhills

Many of the birds were performing their courtship dances. Over the next couple of days we visited two sites at both dusk and dawn as well as watching thousands of birds in the fields. In the Platte River valley there was never a time when we couldn’t either see or hear Sandhill Cranes.

IMG_3524 Downy Woodpecker

As well as watching the cranes I was searching for American Tree Sparrow, one of two North American sparrows that I have yet to see. In spite of a few tip offs I failed in my quest, but here are a few other birds that I saw in the Platte River valley: North America’s smallest woodpecker – Downy Woodpecker.

IMG_3459 Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier, still considered con-specific with our Hen Harrier by some, but recent research has shown it to be more closely related to Cinereous Harrier of South America than the Palearctic Hen Harrier.

IMG_3393 Cedar Waxwings

Several hundred Cedar Waxwings were seen in the Fort Kearney area.

IMG_3470 Harris' Sparrow

Like American Tree Sparrow, Harris’ Sparrow is an Arctic breeder and occurs in the Lower 48 as a winter visitor, however it departs for the north a little later than the Tree Sparrow allowing us to catch up with this flock of seven birds near Kearney and again later in Colorado.

IMG_3510 Trumpeter Swans

At a small reserve to the west of Kearney I finally caught up with Trumpeter Swans. This species was one of just five waterfowl that I had yet to see. Two of the other four as effectively impossible, I must make plans to see the other two Freckled Duck (Australia) and Andaman Teal some time in the future. These Trumpeter Swans were much more rewarding than the presumed escapes we saw in Suffolk earlier in the year.

IMG_3406 Bald Eagle

At least six Bald Eagles were seen along the river, four immatures (as seen above) and two adults. Some crane watchers thought these all brown birds were Golden Eagles but the proportions and jizz are totally different.

IMG_3621 Sandhills

On our first evening along the river the presence of the eagles wouldn’t allow the cranes to settle and the huge flocks kept taking off and landing elsewhere.

IMG_3580 sunset at Platte River

On our second evening we positioned ourselves at a lookout platform further east. Here the cranes came in over a one hour period and quickly settled on the river. You can, if you book far enough in advance, go to a series of hides right on the river’s edge and watch the birds at close quarters but we didn’t find out about that in time.

IMG_3578 sunset

It was a glorious sunset ….

IMG_3641 Sandhills

…. and the cranes kept arriving long after the sun had gone down.

IMG_3590 dawn on the Platte

We were keen to return to the same spot for dawn, indeed Margaret was so keen that we arrived there when it was still pitch black on the observation deck. Even so the birds were active, calling loudly and as our eyes adjusted to the dark we could see that thousands were already taking off into the gloom.

IMG_3665 Sandhills

As the sun rose we realised that many more birds must have arrived after it got dark, as the river was even fuller with cranes than the night before. Also many must have come down to roost to the east of us, as vast flocks numbering tens of thousands were lifting off ….

IMG_3448 Sandhills

…. beautifully lit by the breaking dawn. As with the night before it was a thrilling and deeply moving (yet bitterly cold) experience ….

IMG_3447 sunrise

…. and the camera shutter worked overtime in an attempt to save the experience for posterity (ie this blog).

IMG_3695 Sandhills

Looking back to the west, a vast grey carpet of birds extended as far as the houses in the distance, even though many had already departed. Indeed many stayed on the river until mid-morning. These birds had probably fed enough to be able to continue their migration north and were waiting for thermals to develop.

IMG_1700 Sandhill migration map

At the Crane Foundation near Grand Island some interesting displays and a very helpful member of staff explained that 80% of the world’s Sandhills stop on the 50 mile stretch of the Platte River between Kearney and Grand Island each spring. The spectacle which starts on Valentine’s Day, peaks on St Patrick’s Day and is over by Tax Day (April 15th) involves some 650,000 birds. The peak number at any one time is 350,000. It is impossible to estimate just how many we saw in our two and a half days there but somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 i.e. between a third and a half of the birds present seems reasonable. The map shows the migration route of the 80% of the population that converges on the Platte River each spring. The red dots show the breeding and wintering range of the very rare Whooping Crane and the orange dots the breeding and wintering range of the artificially managed Whooping Crane population (the truly wild Whooping Crane population now number some 310 birds, up from 16 in 1941).

IMG_3316 RT Hawk

Later that day we drove south as far as the Kansas border. We saw many hawks, including this pale ‘Krider’s’ type Red-tailed Hawk and two hovering Rough-legged Hawks.

IMG_3740 White Pelican

At Hanlon County Reservoir we encountered flocks of American White Pelicans, numbering some 200 in total.

IMG_3745 White Pelican

Note the knob on the bill which develops during the breeding season.

IMG_1705 Archway Monument

Back near Kearney we paid a short visit to the Archway Monument, an exhibition which features the history of the area housed in an arch that spans the Interstate Highway (Margaret took the photo, my hands were firmly on the wheel!).

IMG_1716 Platte River Road map

What I hadn’t realised and the exhibition explained, was that the three routes that pioneers took from 1841 until the arrival of the railroad in the 1860’s; the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City and the 1849 gold-rush trail to California, all followed the Platte River valley and diverged just west of Kearney. The route of the Mormon Trail is shown above.

IMG_1708 covered wagon diaorama

When the railroad opened as many settlers went west in a year as had gone by covered wagon in the previous twenty, given the hardships endured by those early pioneers, it is hardly surprising that relatively few chose to go.

IMG_1726 Sandhill country

Our time at Kearney was over, so on the 29th we left early and headed north from North Platte to South Dakota. On route we travelled for hours through the sandhill country, mile after mile of rolling dunes, the habitat that gives the cranes its name.

IMG_3896 Western Meadowlark

Along the road Western Meadowlarks were abundant.

IMG_3766 Canvasback

Roadside lakess held many wildfowl including Trumpeter Swans, Cackling Geese, Hooded Mergansers and these Canvasbacks.

IMG_3850 Turkeys

We broke our journey at Fort Niobara National Wildlife Refuge where these Wild Turkeys provided some entertainment ….

IMG_3869 bison

…. but it was here that I caught up with a mammal I have been wanting to see since I was a nipper. Of course like all my generation I was brought up on tales of Cowboys and Indians, but I was more fascinated by the wildlife, none more so than the mighty Bison.

IMG_3892 bison

The sight of herds numbering tens of thousands covering the prairies must have been absolutely magnificent as the small herd of 50 or so we saw at Niobrara looked pretty amazing. Even so I doubt if they (or most others for that matter) are truly wild as the refuge was fenced and the Bison didn’t appear to be free to roam at will, but seeing them was still one of the highlights of the entire trip.

 

From here we continued into South Dakota into the Badlands where ‘Dances With Wolves’ was filmed, the presidents heads at Mount Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, the site of another epic movie, ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’. That will be the subject of the next post.

 

April 15th – 19th 2015 – Dipping at Portland and Radipole – but a few nice birds were seen!   Leave a comment

Caspian Gull, Glaucous Gull, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow even a Puffin. All quality birds that were seen Portland or Radipole, Weymouth on the morning of 19th April, but Margaret and I managed to miss them all ! We arrived at Portland Bird Observatory about 0730 to hear that a Caspian Gull had been seen, but had now gone from Radipole. We soon went down to the Bill where we arrived seconds after a Puffin had drifted by on the ‘race’. One observer on the East Cliffs saw a Red-rumped Swallow fly by but although we were on the Obs patio at the time we saw nothing. A Hoopoe that had been seen the day before was refound in Suckthumb Quarry, but an hour or so of searching failed to deliver the goods and when we got to Radipole we found that a Glaucous Gull outside the visitor centre had just flown off. Further insult to injury occurred when the Hoopoe was relocated on Portland in the afternoon and the Red-rumped Swallow was found at Radipole, both after we were on our way home. The point of all of this is, birding (as is so often stated) is unpredictable by nature and would soon become boring if it wasn’t. Just because a rare or unusual bird is present in an area doesn’t mean you will see it. The key factor is not luck, but skill and persistence. If I had been out birding every day, birded from dawn to dusk or been prepared to turn round on my way home and revisit places I had just left, then the success rate would have been higher, I might even have had found a good bird of my own! Due to my current preoccupation with ringing and foreign birding, I am making birding in the UK a lower priority than I once did and this low rate of success is a direct consequence of that. Margaret takes a much more relaxed attitude than I do, whenever we miss a bird she will point out that ‘the sun is shining, the birds are singing and that Robin over there is every bit as beautiful as any rarity’. Indeed, she calls my pager ‘the disappointment box’ due to my reaction to much of the news that it brings.

IMG_6826 Suckthumb Quarry

Suckthumb Quarry, Portland. Away from the area that is being actively quarried there are many nooks and crannies where a Hoopoe could hide.

In spite of the dips, the visit to Portland and Weymouth was not without its rewards, we saw Common Redstart and Garden Warbler in the hand at the Observatory, had close up views of several common seabirds at the Bill, including Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter, saw a male Garganey at Radipole and this beauty in the photo below:

IMG_6830 GWE Radipole

This Great White Egret gave us the run around at Radipole. Originally at the North Hide, it had flown to the inaccessible north end of the reserve by the time we had arrived. It was later reported back at the North Hide but in spite of a rapid return there we failed to find it. Eventually it was discovered that it could be seen through a gap in the trees from the adjacent by-pass. This is the first time I have seen a Great White Egret in the UK in breeding plumage. The bill is black with green lores and there are filamentous plumes or aigrettes hanging from the breast and upper tail and (although hardly visible in this photo) reddish legs.

GWW are now placed in the genus Ardea, the same as the Grey Heron in this photo. All other white egrets are placed in Egretta.

Compare with this photo taken at Sutton Bingham in February 2012. In non-breeding condition the bill is yellow, the legs black and the aigrettes are absent.

In fact the migrant birds we have seen over the past few days are the first of the year for us, the reason we have been in the mid-west of the USA since 25th March. Here are a few photos of the best birds we have seen since our return.

IMG_6761 Garganey

On 15th April, we visited nearby Longham Lakes to look for a drake Garganey. Initially it proved to be a bit elusive but soon flew in from behind an island ….

IMG_6799 Garganey

and gave wonderful views.

IMG_6805 Tuftie & Scaup

Longham Lakes has hosted a female Scaup since New Year. Rather than fly off and find a mate it has decided to shack-up with a male Tufted Duck. This species, more correctly called Greater Scaup, provided an interesting comparison with the many Lesser Scaup that we have been seeing in the USA.

IMG_6815 Wryneck LB

On 16th we had a message to say that a Wryneck had been found at Lytchett Heath, a part of Lytchett Bay just a half a mile or so from home. The finder Dave Jones is new to the area and did well to find and identify this often skulking bird. Wrynecks, a species of woodpecker was once common in the UK but is now only seen as a scarce passage migrant, mainly recorded at coastal locations like Portland or Durlston during the autumn. This was the first record for Lytchett Bay.

P4090292-Wryneck

As the photo above, taken near dusk and at some distance, is of necessity rather poor, I have included a photo of one in the hand taken during my ringing trip to Israel in 2013.

On 17th I made my first visit of 2015 to Durlston and commenced ringing activities, with a brisk north-easterly wind success was low but we did have a few migrants such as Common and Lesser Whitethroat and unusually saw a flock of 8 Greylag Geese fly out to sea. As well as birding with me, Margaret has been busy with her allotment adjacent to Lytchett Bay. I find growing vegetables as enthralling as watching paint dry so, although I have no problem with eating the end results, I normally leave her to it, but here is a photo of her in her element.

IMG_6834

Using old shelving to partition the plots Margaret is slowly removing the wild grass that has colonised this abandoned plot and is planting a nice variety of vegetables.

Our trip to the USA was in two parts, a private tour round Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming on our own, mainly focussing on the enormous gathering of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River but also visiting the Badlands, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower to the north and also the Birdquest tour of Colorado. Both parts were outstandingly successful and it was one of the most enjoyable trips I have done for some time. I went overboard with photos and have about 3000 to work through so it will be some time before I can post the best on the blog, however here is one to start with.

IMG_4439 WT Ptarmigan

The whitest birds in the world? White-tailed Ptarmigan at 12000 ft asl, Loveland Pass, Colorado.