Saturday, June 21, 2008

Willow Ptarmigans

June 20
'fire-lookout mountain'
Or Whatever Wildland Fire calls this mountain, I climbed it for the second time this year. See post 'snowflurries and summer heat'. And the picture where I stand on my head was taken there by Jane Vincent. Reaching the first peak, 'nipple mountain' I am greeted by fields of Mountain Avens (Dryas) on its flat top. Darting from flower to flower is a Swallowtail. Not mistaken, it is the Old World Swallowtail. There are only two species in the Yukon (as far as I know) And this is definitely the one I had never seen before.
Reaching the second peak(which has 2 tops), I am greeted by a Willow Ptarmigan, Its a male and he poses for me quite nicely. To reach the ridge to the north, I have to go through a valley of buck brush, willow and dwarf birch, but mainly blueberry bushes, which are blooming profusely. The bell-shaped flowers make a nice trail snack, but I really can't wait till they all turn to blueberries! A good reason to come back in the fall. With Jane last month we went straight towards the tower, but today I hike due north, to the lowest spot in the ridge, so I can walk on the ridge, I aim for a flattened Spruce tree. This is above the tree line, and some trees will grow upward, but this one grows side ways. Looking from below it looks fairly big, reaching it, it is rather small and not even on top of the ridge.

The ridge is full of Mountain Avens too, and walking on, here and there is the tiny Blackish Oxytrope (nigrescens).Its such a cutey and it even has fragrance. Then I am surprised by a beautiful big purple /pink Lousewort.(Pedicularis verticillata?). The farther I go the more abundant it gets. And one more flower that needs mentioning because of it bright yellow beauty in a gravelly landscape; The Potentilla uniflora.
The ridge is an arm coming of the bigger peak where the fire-lookout is. on this ridge there are 'erratics', big boulders that I think are left by the glacier. (see photo; 'rock') there is no higher mountain they could have rolled off. They just sit there, some floating as you see, on top of the ridge.
Following the ridge I don't dip down to go to the fire-lookout, but go north west, to look into the valley in front of a big giant of a mountain, And that's where I have my end-point picnic.

The whole day birds have been singing to me, these mountain birds hardly ever show themselves to me. The one I get to see is a Horned Lark, what a treat!From here The 'Red Fox' story is to start. I was telling you about the scares I got, well it all started, with this eerie, shrill, high pitched bird song. And after the fox I was startled one more time; thunder! It was awesome though, in the valley where I live, was this big black cloud. Lighting coming down, seemingly in front of 'nipple mountain'. I wasn't in it, but made sure, I walked in low laying areas and away from tall trees. When I got down off the mountain, Dionne asked if I had gotten wet, "no not one bit." And at home Alexander told me about the torrential down pour it had been.

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