On today's snowshoeing trip, we didn't see any hoofed mammals, but we did see a most extraordinary bird, and it is a worthy Rocky Mountain substitute for this year's "official" animal.
It was a white-tailed ptarmigan, and it can boast many of the same features that the Chinese attribute to the goat / sheep / ram:
- Sheep are "gentle": ptarmigans stay alive by munching on willow buds. How gentle is that?
- Sheep are "mild-mannered": when was the last time you heard about a ptarmigan going postal?
- Sheep are "shy": ptarmigans epitomize shy. It's their life goal. With their cryptic feathers, they blend right into the background. In the winter, they are completely white except for the black eyes and beak. In the summer, they sport feathers that look like rocks and lichens.
- Sheep are "stable": check! By growing extra feathers on their feet, ptarmigans have stable snowshoes to keep them upright and supported while they walk around in the wintry landscape
- Sheep are "brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice": okay, four out of five ain't bad!
|Feathered feet on a ptarmigan that's being banded for a research project. Photo courtesy of Kathy Martin|
Gung Hey Fat Choy, everyone, and enjoy whatever wildlife you get to see here in the park!