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Local ‘birders’ treated to rare sighting of grouse from arctic tundra

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THREE MILE BAY — A rare sighting of a feathered visitor from the arctic tundra attracted bird enthusiasts to the quiet shores of Point Peninsula on Lake Ontario over the weekend.

Richard C. Wiley, author of local blog “Jefferson’s Leaning Left,” snapped pictures of a willow ptarmigan — Alaska’s state bird — on Saturday after one of his blog readers from Central New York tipped him off Friday.

“It was probably tanking up for a trip to leave the area,” Mr. Wiley said, adding the bird was not seen Sunday or Monday.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, these birds are completely white in the winter but turn rusty brown in the summer.

“The willow ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world in which the male is regularly involved in parental care,” the website says. “Pairs remain together from the beginning of the breeding season until their chicks are independent.”

In a blog post, Mr. Wiley said “birders” believe this is the first record of a willow ptarmigan in the state since a specimen was reported in Lewis County in 1876.

But some bird watchers remain skeptical of the earlier report’s accuracy, and cautiously speculate that this could be the first valid sighting of the bird, Mr. Wiley said.

“We were very fortunate to find it,” he said. “The bird was discovered by other bird watchers and I’d like to give them credit for the research and discovery.”

To read the blog post, visit http://wdt.me/T8B6Xk.

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