Subject: ptarmigan Date: Sep 30 08:59:11 1994 From: Eugene Hunn - hunn at u.washington.edu
MORE WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN SIGHTINGS
Howard Armstrong's account in _Washington Birder_ of his experiences birding the high peaks of the Cascades motivated me to review my records likewise. I can't claim to have seem ptarmigans at 20 locations, but have over a dozen sightings from eight locations. Curiously, there is no overlap between Howard's list and mine. I add records from King, Pierce, and Lewis Counties to his more northerly spots.
I can't add much to Howard's habitat characterization, except that ptarmigans in summer at least are restricted to a narrow elevational range at and above the upper margin of timber, occasional lower where an adjacent glacier "lowers" the upper timberline, as along the Nisqually moraine. They seem to require fairly extensive alpine flats where sufficient sedges and other low alpine herbs grow. I found a family group virtually every year between 1985 and 1990 above Paradise on the flats between the Golden Gate trail junction and below Panorama Pt. I believe in late snow years the resident pair may not have nested making them particularly difficult to find. The Slate Peak birds likewise could be predictably found just below or east along the ridge from the lookout, though some years I was unable to locate them there. They were reported there again this past summer. Other locations seem more marginal, as near the summit of Tiffany Mtn. (8200') northeast of Winthrop. There is an extensive area of ideal habitat here, but they have only rarely been reported despite frequent visits by birders.