Nature Notes

Vol. II July 30, 1924 No. 7


An interesting member of the grouse family the size of a large pigeon is often seen by visitors to the high country of the Park. It is the white-tailed ptarmigan similar to the common ptarmigan of the Arctic except for a slight local variation. As seen at this season the bird is mottled brown and white with white predominating on the underparts, wings and tail. In winter when the bird lives on continual snow the plumage is entirely white.

The call of the ptarmigan is a rolling cluck varied with a sharp squeak. He lives the entire year through at an elevation of from 6000 to 8000 feet preferring the region at timberline and just above. The bird nests on the ground early in July, usually in the shelter of a rock. The chicks are found with the mother at this time of year.

The exquisite heather bells, with the leaves of the little Alpine buckwheat and other vegetation of the heights, furnish in summer an abundant supply of food. Tame and unsuspicious the ptarmigan is one of the most easily approached and studied of birds. Its grace, beauty, and pleasing personal characteristics, coupled with the inspiring nature of its surrounding make the ptarmigan in its habitat perhaps the most attractive bird in the Park.


A species of Epilobium commonly called fire-weed is the most conspicuous plant along the roads at present. The fire-weed grows abundantly in open places, old burns and along roadsides. Whether it is known as fire-weed because of the fact that it follows fires or because of the flame-like color is not known. The plant stands from two to three feet high on a slender annual stem with narrow four-inch leaves extending clear up to the flowering spike which is frequently as long as the total height with small rose-colored, four-petaled flowers.

This particular Epilobium is very widely distributed extending completely around the world between the latitude of Northern Alaska and California. Throughout Canada, Laborador, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and Siberia it is a common flower.

Within the Park there are three other Epilobiums. One, the yellow fire-weed is common below 4000 feet. Two smaller species, one pink, the other white bloom close to the ground in the high valleys.

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