This past weekend my family and I made a trip out to Terrenceville, NL to visit Jenelle’s parents. Heading into the trip I had no real set plans for photography other then scouting out a new location for the spring/summer bird photography. Upon our arrival I was surprised to see so much snow down since when we left our home in Conception Bay South we had nothing but grass on our front lawn.
Quickly my plans changed; Anthony (my father in-law) and I decided to head out over the back country on skidoo in search of Rock Ptarmigan. This is something I have wanted to do for years since I had only ever photographed one Ptarmigan back in 2013 but it was during Oct. So I was hoping to finally see and photograph one in winter when they are pure white.
So we woke at 6:00 am, grabbed a quick bite of food, gassed up the 20 year old Bravos and off we went over the hills. Within a short time we were met by light precipitation which we were fearing would be the heavy rain hitting us earlier then expected (weather station called for 10-15mm of rain that evening). Luckily for us it just turned out to be a light snow squall.
15 mins into our trip we reached the base of Southern Hill where we had hoped to find our subject but it was not looking promising. We searched up and down the hill with not even one sign so we decided to head further into the back country. Up one ridge and down another; across pond after pond and our efforts seemed hopeless. The terrain was rough and often times found us scrapping along bare rocks on the higher ridges. During one occasion Anthony and his machine ended up falling through a snow covered brook that took a bit of effort to get out of but we continued pushing on.
As we descended off the side of a small hill something white flashed over the hill side to my left. I quickly sped up to Anthony waving my arm, he slowed to stop and I yelled out Ptarmigan as I pointed to my left. We inched forward down the hill and there in the midst of the blowing snow was a white fluffy dot.
By this time conditions had clearly changed and we were faced with high winds and blowing snow as you can see in the photo above.
Belly crawling I made my way closer to the Ptarmigan grabbing images after each movement I made. Until I was close enough to grab this image between snow squalls.
Smiling from ear to ear I knew I had captured the shot I was after. The Ptarmigan didn’t stay long so it was time to make our way back home as we had been on the move for at least 2 hours.
Conditions were getting worse as we continually got hit by snow squalls and high wind but we entertained ourselves by tracking down a bull moose along the way; unfortunately for me it took off running before I could grab my camera out of my bag. It is amazing how fast these large creatures can move across the open country. It seemed like this moose covered nearly 3 kms of snow covered barrens in about 5 mins..it was amazing to watch.
Between one of the snow squalls I decided to quickly switch out to my wide angle lens to try and give you an idea of the area we traveled on and of course our luxurious means of transportation with my guide Anthony..lol
My body felt like it had been beaten with a sledge hammer from being banged around on the rough terrain. We continued on our way and as we neared the end of our return trip again something white caught my attention.
There among a section of exposed rock were not one or two but three Rock Ptarmigan sitting motionless hoping I wouldn’t see them. The image below shows two of the Ptarmigan as the other was out of view on the left.
My heart raced at the opportunity to get another try at capturing an image before the day was done.
Hoping they wouldn’t flush I slowly belly crawled between the rocks but boy was I in for a nice surprise as these three individuals were quite tame and provided some amazing photo opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites:
First off the beautiful Male indicated by the red strip over its eye
and of course the equally as beautiful Female. This is probably my favorite image as I love the surrounding rocks and hints of vegetation under the snow as it shows the type of environment they are found in.. and finally the fact that you can see at least one foot makes this image the complete package for me
During one or two occasions they approached allowing for some nice portrait opportunities
With a full memory card and an even bigger smile on my face it was time to leave these three to continue feeding and head home ourselves for a bit to eat. A 5 hour journey that seemed hopeless turned out to be a very memorable outing and just goes to show that persistence/hard work can pay off in the end.
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