Willow Ptarmigan

Seen on Chebeague Island, Maine in May of 2000

---Willow Ptarmigan - she was spotted up by the firehouse on May 16th, 2000 by my daughter Darya and me Beverly Johnson. The range is usually Arctic regions - lives in the tundra. The Maine Audubon Society sent representatives down May 17th to see the bird and they confirmed that it is a Willow Ptarmigan. It looks like he has white fur boots and he is not afraid of cars, trucks or people - I hope it can survived the dogs, cats and foxes.

May 26, 2000 - Every day we check on Willy and he seems to be content as can be hanging around the side of the road eating the blueberry bushes and being photographed by birders who come everyday to see him. I can't believe that on the 17th 9 people spent 6 hours in the rain and never saw him, because I believe he has been found everyday since. Our biggest worry is the foxes, dogs and cats around - and now I'm even concerned about the cars.

May 28, 2000 - At dusk Willy was seen heading Southwest into the woods off of Roy Hill Road halfway between South Road and North Road. I haven't heard of anyone spotting him yesterday or today. I've been checking all the spots where he has been sited and haven't seen him.

June 2, 2000 - I have heard of no sightings of Willy since the 28th. He may be in Parker's Woods hiding from the Paparazzi, he may have flown the coop, or he may no longer be with us. Many of us have been looking like crazy and I have walked through all the woods and haven't seen any feathers either. If we hear of any sightings I'll report back.

June 3, 2000 - Seen along the Littlefield Road eating wild blueberries and looking healthy.

June 9, 2000 - No sightings since last Saturday - lots of looking for it my many trips around the island!

June 16, 2000 - Still no sightings

These pictures were taken May 16, 2000

Monday, January 12, 2009 - Interview with Peter Vickery on Ptarmigan in Maine

 1) 23 Apr 1892 Kenduskeag --Palmer 1949:171

One record. A male in winter plumage was shot on April 23, 1892, at Kenduskeag, Penobscot County, and acquired by Harry Merrill of Bangor (Webster,1892a; Merrill,1892b).

2)19 May 1951 Sherman Mills, Sherman --AB 31(5):974

3)14 May 1977 Bailey I., Harpswell --AB 31(5):974

"Most extraordinary and perplexing is the record of a Willow Ptarmigan found on Bailey I., Me., May 14 (Paul K. Donahue et al.). Seen by five competent observers for a period of several hours
and identifiably photographed {a photograph credited to Jan Pierson, printed in black-and-white, appears with this report} (showing feathered toes), there is no possible confusion with albino
Spruce Grouse. Preliminary speculation about this very odd occurrence centered on the massive n.e. storm May 9-10 (May 11-12 further northeast) but ptarmigan is not the kind of bird likely to
be storm-tossed for hundreds of miles. Two previous Maine occurrences are both spring records: one shot in Kenduskeag Apr. 23, 1892 and the second a bird captured in Sherman Mills May 19,
1951. There exists a lone Massachusetts sight record: May 10, 1895. A study of old weather records for both the Kenduskeag and the Massachusetts ptarmigan sightings indicates no correlation
with any large storm systems. The consistency of the spring dates, all within the 3 1/2 week period, Apr. 23-May 19, indicates that these misguided occurrences might be related to either a
reversed migration, or possibly, something gone berserk in the breeding cycle." -P.D. Vickery

3.1){At the Maine Bird Conference in late April 1996, Bill Sheehan mentioned a bird that, if I recall correctly, had frequented a feeder in Waterville, somehow died, and was only identified a long
time after the fact (by Ron Joseph?) when he examined the specimen which had been preserved in a freezer. I need to get this story in writing from Sheehan; does anyone keep this species in

{In a telephone conversation the afternoon of 23 March 1998, Tom Hodgman mentioned a bird in Brooks captured and kept in a pen by a Brooks (Rt. 139) resident (after his dog injured it?).
Resident turned the dead bird in to the state; Hodgman accepted the specimen and recommended it go to the State museum (rather than the University collection). I didn't ask about the date. I
wonder if Waterville is the precise locality of the record Sheehan told me about, since Waterville and Brooks are within 25 miles of each other. Or maybe someone released some in that area?
Maybe, being boreal types, the birds find a cryogenic afterlife attractive and stray out of range in hopes of winding up in a freezer?}-Jody Despres


May 17 - Representatives from the Maine Audubon Society came to Chebeague and sighted the Willow Ptarmigan -

May 18 - A Group of ornithologist and bird enthusiasts came to Chebeague on May 18th but were not able to locate the bird. Following is a picture of them:

Back: Davis Finch, Louis Bevier, Turk Duddy, Mark Libby, Charles Duncan, Denny Abbott, Linda Woodard Front: Don Mairs and Peter Vickery

May 19 7:30 pm- Driving by the firehouse I saw "willy" by the side of the road so I got my video camera - It looks like he has changed color since my first pictures on May 16th.

Pictures from a video below taken May 19, 2000







BELOW taken May 24, 2000





The last time I have heard of anyone seeing Willy was May 28th at dusk
heading Southwest into the woods off the Roy Hill Road halfway
between South Road and North Road.

June 2, 2000 - Still no sightings of Willy!

June 9, 2000 - Willy was last seen Saturday, June 3 along Littlefield Road
has not been seen since