If Rangers' wives or hotel waitresses were not at home during the past few weeks it was a pretty safe bet that like the bears they were out gathering blueberries, but now when asked where they were at on such and such a time the usual answer is, "I was out mushrooming". The first indication of the opening of the "Mushroom Season" was the brining in of a heaping pailfull of the tasty fungi by one of the Pony Guides a week or so ago.
Following the first fall rains in Paradise Valley the Common Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campester) came up in certain areas and for a time they were plentiful in the grassy meadows, but lately this species has been so much sought after in its rather restricted range that the finding of a sufficient number to make a good meal for a hungry Ranger was something of an event.
This is the same species that is grown commercially and imported in great quantities from Europe. When the average person says mushroom it is usually the Meadow variety that is referred to. The species is known by its white cap, pink gills that later turn a chocolate brown, squatty appearance and the fact that it never grows in the woods as most of the poisonous varieties do.
Recently the Naturalist was walking along the Skyline Trail at about 6,700 feet elevation and observed an interesting covy of Ptarmigan. They were feeding on the edge of a mossy patch bordering a submerged waterway which appeared for a brief space on the side of a rocky ridge between two ice fields well above the timberline.
We were able to approach within a few feet of the birds who were tamer than most chickens and went on feeding as we photographed them in various poses.
There were ten in the flock, evidently a spring brood, now grown up, but still flocking together; and the interesting thing to me was the variation in color due to various stages of the fall moult from brown to white. Apparently they were about all of the same age and had lived under the same conditions but the degree of moult varied from the normal summer plumage to almost the pure white of winter. With one or two there was a decided buffy color on the back that I had never noted before.
With their plump quail-like appearance, pleasing colors and quick movements added to the grandeur of their alpine habitat the Ptarmigan is one of the most interesting and attractive birds.
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