Well, we call them Jim Bob, the rest of the world calls them Willow Ptarmigan (the Alaska State Bird). When it’s mating season this largish bird simply turns stupid. While not the brightest bird in the flock to start with (some hunt them by simply throwing rocks at them), when there is sex in the air, all thought goes to one thing, attracting a mate. Many years ago we had one basically fly into the window of the van while in pursuit of another male it felt was trespassing on its territory. Every since that moment, we’ve affectionately called them Jim Bob.
What you see here is their plumage as it changes from their all white winter garb to the brown summer garb. As they molt out their winter white you get the variants you see here. It is amazing how well this chicken size bird can hide behind just one piece of grass even with their plumage not completely swapped out. And when there are females flying about looking for a mate, the males simply turn stupid which for the wildlife photographer is a golden opportunity!
With their concentration elsewhere, getting up close is just a matter of time. At first, when you approach, they are like many birds and move away. But once you wait them out, perhaps just five or ten minutes, you can slowly move in to get the photograph you desire. I was shooting with the D5 / 800mm which permitted me to eliminate unwanted elements in the background while containing those elements I wanted. The time it took to get from the image at the top to the one at the bottom was about twenty minutes of slowly moving up. There was four of us working this one bird and we took turns moving forward five to eight feet at a time until finally, I was at my MFD of 16 feet from this male (photo below). Once I got my photos, I moved away just as slowly and an hour after we started shooting Jim Bob, we all had moved back to the vehicle and he hadn’t moved a stitch. But them, that’s why we call him affectionately, Jim Bob.