As an absolute fan of Ptarmigans, I decided to visit them during autumn to see the changing colours in the mountains and also the beautiful moult of the birds at that time of the year. As they are now turning towards their entirely white down plumage, they seek for snow patches to be better camouflaged and thus are usually found at snow level. A first visit last week wasn’t successful as when I found the birds the clouds were starting to surround us. To my experience, the Ptarmigans are really less confident when the weather isn’t great, so this day I just took landscapes images and watched the birds with my binoculars without trying to approach them (which was already quite tricky as the clouds were not helping to find them between rocks and snow!).

As the conditions in the mountains were so beautiful, I returned last weekend really early to try to find them once again. After a long hike of about 2h30 with all the gear on my back, I eventually found them with my binoculars on the slopes below the summit. I did a few pictures from far away and studied carefully the good way to approach them. It was no easy task as the cold night had “iced” the ground just enough so that every step was slippery, especially with the 500mm on my shoulder. The approach took me another hour, carefully avoiding moving when the birds were themselves moving, and also crouching and progressing very very slowly, watching every reaction of the birds and stopping immediately if a sign of disturbance was seen. I was finally able to spend my whole day in the mountains with them, watching their fascinating behaviour. An unforgettable experience.

Very well camouflaged between rocks and snow.

The amazing autumnal colours down in the valley.

Such a nice and fascinating bird… Ptarmigans footprints in the snow.

Ptarmigans in autumn colours