Showing posts from August, 2018

The Ptarmigan Myth.

Over the years since I began birding I have heard many a story about the mythical White-tailed Ptarmigan that are said to inhabit Mount Rainier National Park.  I believed the tales I heard of birders snowshoeing for days before finally finding the blinding white bird against the blinding white snow, of hikers spotting a rock-colored bird amid a field of rocks.  After this week I feel confident in saying that despite the grand stories I have heard and the eBird checklists I have read and the photos I have seen, the White-tailed Ptarmigan of Mount Rainier (WTPMR) are a myth.*

How could this happen, you ask?  Let me offer a few ideas.

1. Ptarmigan look-alikes could easily be built out of snow.

2. A lot of rocks look like birds.

(From this website)

3. White-tailed Ptarmigan exist in other places and folks get their photos mixed up.

(Borrowed without permission from Steve's blog, ptarmigan in CO)

4. Birders want to believe in this myth, and so they do.

I get it.  I wanted to believe …

Haystack Rock and Nehalem Bay State Park

To celebrate Jacob returning from school in Texas we decided to head to the coast for some tide pools, year birds, and a break from the hot sun.  Low tide at Haystack Rock was scheduled for sometime between 6 and 7 a.m. which was perfect to beat the crowds.  Our first wildlife in Cannon Beach was a couple of not-so-wild bunnies hanging out near the public parking.

We got out to Haystack Rock and quickly became absorbed in tide pool action, alongside the Western Gulls and a raccoon.

Raccoon on the go

 Chiton belly

Good ochre sea star action

The real tide pool highlight came when Jacob called me over saying he found a nudibranch!  We had never seen them before so we were psyched.  After finding a couple more one of the Haystack Rock Awareness volunteers came over and pointed out a ton more.  SO GOOD.

Opalescent nudibranch (the first one Jacob found)

Jacob vs. nudibranch

Another opalescent nudi

Sea clown nudibranch

Sea clown out of the water

White-and-orange-tipped nudibranch

Danger danger, I have…