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Rolling Uphill

April 29, 2015

Rolling Uphill

- as seen by -

Peter Zahler Peter Zahler

Bowling balls are clearly bound by the laws of gravity. If someone were foolish enough to put them on a steep mountain slope, they would simply roll downward until their momentum drained away on the lowland flats.

Himalayan snowcock, on the other hand, may resemble bowling balls – this flock, photographed with a camera trap in the Afghanistan Wakhan, bears an uncanny resemblance to a rack from a local bowling alley – but their movements are not defined by gravity. These relatives of pheasant, grouse, and quail roost at night on the highest and most inaccessible cliffs in some of the most remote and dramatic mountains in the world – always well above treeline, most often between 14,000 and 17,000 feet. In the early morning, before the sun’s rays even reach these high peaks, they glide downslope, land, and slowly work their way back up, picking seeds, forbs, grasses, and digging for roots and tubers with their thick bills.

Back on their high crag perches before a human researcher has started to boil water for tea, their mournful whistles from somewhere overhead provide a melancholic background to the cold start of a new day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For our current assignment, we’re celebrating birds. Send us your best. In the New York area? Join us on May 9 for our annual Birdathon at the Bronx Zoo. Bring your camera and take photos for the assignment.

Reconyx Camera Trap

, Afghanistan Map It


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