Alaska Mosquitoes Are the Bane of All Existence, Even for the Willow Ptarmigan
by Bryce W. Robinson
What is the Alaska State Bird? Well, according to everyone I spoke to before my journey north, the Alaska state bird is the Mosquito. I’ll admit now, I understand their point. If there is no wind on the north slope, and temperatures are fair, the mosquitoes are intolerable. Luckily, one can prepare for the onslaught by bathing in carcinogenic 100% Deet and wearing cumbersome face nets.
One can prepare, if one is human. I saw first hand the other night that all blood carrying life here suffers from the miserable insects. I was watching a Sandhill Crane feeding in the short grass of the tundra. In an instant, the peaceful scene changed as two violent Willow Ptarmigan began a campaign to oust the crane from their area. I assume the behavior was due to the presence of a band of small young ptarmigans, hidden somewhere nearby.
After the crane wisely vacated the area, I took the opportunity to pair the striking summer plumage of the two ptarmigan with the golden evening sun for some spectacular photography. The Ptarmigan were cooperative. I set myself at an appropriate distance from the birds, and laid on the tundra to sit at their level. While I shot the birds, the Alaska state bird conducted its business on all of my vulnerable areas. It’s been three days, and I’m still itching.
What struck me most was the amount of mosquitoes on the head of the male Ptarmigan. The poor bird was constantly shaking the bastards off, but to no avail. He was being mercilessly bitten, and had no defense. I felt for the small feathered creature. In this instance we shared something; the misery of the mosquito, a fact of life in the north country.
I hear you on the mosquitoes. On a bad day in the redwoods when it is still and slightly wet i swear I’m eating mossies every other second. I ended up with almost two dozen bites on my back last week trying to photograph those screech owls I saw. Totally worth it though. Great photos as always!
Thanks Melissa! I like that you call them mossies. A dozen bites on your back will drive you crazy. Sorry to hear, but I’m sure the screech owls were worth the bites.
they have gotten bad here the moment I walk outside my door they are all over me, unusual for this area to be this bad, they are big too, they don’t spray anymore, not sure whymaybe theywant us all to get sick and die or be so miserable we move to the cities where they do spray (I think) I can only imagine the horrors for the animals that have to live outside, the deer, coyotes foxes birds mice rabbits they have to be very miserable right now. the swifts and the bats are loving them tho. deet is totally worth using if you want to be outside, it washes off and the risk of cancer is so remote it is not even worth talking about or thinking about.
I can tell the mosquitoes get to you as much as me. I heard that this year is especially bad. How fortunate…