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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Counting Birds

Today Mark, Matt and I participated in the Audubon Christmas bird count. We were one of the Kodiak ptarmigan SWAT teams, and it was our job to find a ptarmigan or bust. Ptarmigan are an alpine species and for the Xmas bird count teams need to climb up the mountains to find them and so add them onto the total species count. The Kodiak count generally totals around 80 species of birds total and the ptarmigan is an important addition.

We decided that we would use guns and collect the ptarmigan in hand sample so that we could see if they were rock or willow ptarmigan - for species identification purposes. Actually to be totally honest we wanted ptarmigan for dinner. And so, soon after dawn we headed up the mountain. It was brutal - a total blizzard.

We reached the alpine in a whiteout and right away saw 2 ptarmigan. I waited until the 2 were lined up so I could get 2 with one shot and then promptly shot low. They flew away unharmed and we did not see another ptarmigan. We wandered around in a total whiteout and got blown down by severe gusts. I am sure that all the ptarmigan had burrowed down into the snow to avoid the storm.

Three hours later, back at the car it was raining and we were totally soaked. Once home I took a half hour hot shower - ahhhhhh. But we did get the ptarmigan for the count. Our total was 12 Pine Grosbeaks and 2 Rock Ptarmigan and not another bird seen at all. Patrick

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