Friday, February 17, 2017

Everything is White

We discovered a new winter loop route in one of our summer hiking spots, one which gave us uninterrupted and incredible views of the Sierra front range from Mt. Emerson to Mt. Tom, and down into the valley below. Along the way we found a Sooty Grouse, extremely difficult to find on the east side in winter. A little while later a snowshoe hare bounded by as if he had no care. It was a bluebird day between the series of monster storms that just keep coming.

Sooty Grouse poop below a large Jeffery Pine. These grouse can
survive by eating nothing but pine needles in the winter.

Snowshoe Hare prints

Two recent snowshoe hikes into the Sierra also turned up a large group of wintering White-tailed Ptarmigan. This alpine species prefers to winter as high in elevation as possible, but when deep snow covers their food of emergent willow or aspen buds they move to lower elevation. It is always a treat to find them in their winter white feathers. We also enjoy watching their antics as they burrow down in the soft snow to stay out of the open and away from potential predators. Often the only way to spot one is to see it's head poking our of the snow!


  1. Forgot to mention that I'm amazed by the breadth of the hare's footprint.
    Looks like the rest of my previous comments got lost.... (didn't "publish")
    Here goes again.
    Thank you for the photos of that wonderland. I especially love the white topped rocks at the stream. The video and the photos of the Ptarmigan are really special (for non-hiker me). White on white is truly amazing. And how they nestle into the snow....
    Blue sky and snow-white covered mountains are so gorgeous.
    thank you, Thank you.

  2. Spectacular images of places most birders don't get to, especially in winter. Cassin's Finches about? Their winter whereabouts are very sketchy.

    1. Thanks Steve. There are a few Cassin's Finches at our feeder in Aspendell which is typical. The numbers will pick up as winter advances toward spring. Pine Siskins have completely vanished this winter.