Strathcona Wilderness Institute

Ptarmigan Challenge

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Strathcona Provincial Park is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area in part due to the Vancouver Island White-tailed Ptarmigan, a subspecies which can mainly be found in the alpine areas of the Park.

Female & Male White-tailed Ptarmigan

Female & Male White-tailed Ptarmigan

This summer, I was aware of several ptarmigan sightings that were reported to researchers at the UBC Centre for Alpine Studies. The reports received are being used to evaluate the impact of climate change on alpine birds on Vancouver Island.

Dr. Kathy Martin of UBC & her post-doctoral fellow Michelle Jackson gave a presentation in 2013 at the Wilderness Centre about the ptarmigan research, an expanded version of a presentation Kathy gave there several years ago.

Ptarmigan Record Sighting Card

Ptarmigan Record Sighting Card

Both the Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre at Paradise Meadows, and the Buttle Info Hut at Park Headquarters at Buttle Lake, distribute ptarmigan sighting cards to hikers that are venturing into the alpine. For the past dozen years, several hundred cards have been distributed annually.

Ptarmigan Sightings by Year

Ptarmigan Sightings by Year

I just received a graph of sightings from Michelle Jackson, and the results are interesting!
I hadn’t realized that while sightings started out well reported, in recent years only a dozen or so ptarmigan sightings annually have been reported to the Centre for Alpine Studies, even though hundreds of reporting cards are distributed.

So I would like to issue a Ptarmigan Challenge! I know there are hikers out there in the summer that see the birds, and with the low snow levels this year, probably also lots of winter hikers & snowshoers that will get far enough into the alpine to have a good chance of seeing ptarmigan.

Let’s try to get more sightings reported, year round, in order to contribute to this important research!

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