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!