Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Tiananmen Ptarmigan"

Perhaps it's somewhat fitting that the Willow Ptarmigan is the official bird of the state of Alaska, given its inherent propensity at ridiculous situations that don't exactly inspire confidence in its intelligence. Or, on the other hand, it exceptionally illustrates the fate of many animals at the hands (or in this case, under the wheels) of the dominant species. Not to mention our nasty habit of turning on ourselves, given the iconic imagery of the original Tank Man.

This particular panel is based on a true story, one that's not all that rare for anyone who's trundled about the back roads of Alaska. While on a midnight excursion by vehicle into Denali National Park we ran across - or as it happened damn near ran over - one of these birds blithely blundering about. While we were the only other creatures sharing the road that particular evening, this scenario does happen with some frequency, and excepting the odds of surviving the sheer mass of a moose, people in our neck of the woods barely skip a beat. That is, if they even bother enough to slow down. That said, the sight of a guy flat on his belly in the middle of the road might have given some pause.

In so far as linear perspective is concerned, this is technically a "worm's eye view" as opposed to a "bird's eye view," but it of an actual bird's eye view. At any rate, I did score one exceptional portrait of a magnificent Great Horned Owl who had staked out a treetop alongside the road. Most folks covet any sighting of Alaska's photogenic megafauna, but myself I'm just as pleased and awed at encountering any other denizen of Denali.

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