Archibald Thorburn (British, 1860-1935) Ptarmigan calling in the snow
Lot 164
Archibald Thorburn (British, 1860-1935) Ptarmigan calling in the snow
Sold for £72,000 (US$ 121,019) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Archibald Thorburn (British, 1860-1935)
Ptarmigan calling in the snow
signed and dated 'A.Thorburn/1926' (lower right)
watercolour and gouache
37.5 x 55.5cm (14 3/4 x 21 7/8in).


    With Richard Haworth, Blackburn

    The Ptarmigan

    The ptarmigan inhabits the higher mountaintops of the Scottish Highlands, being plentiful on many of their stony summits at an altitude above two thousand feet, ranging as far south as Ben Lomond, and is found also in small numbers on some on some of the Western Islands. Tales have been handed down of its occurrence on the Cumberland and Westmorland fells in olden times.

    The ptarmigan is numerous on the high fjelds of Scandinavia, Ranging southwards to the mountains of Central and Southern Europe, and eastwards as far, or perhaps father, than the Ural Mountains, while closely allied forms are found in Iceland, Greenland, North America, and Northern Asia.

    In autumn after a long tiring climb to the ptarmigan ground, usually not much under some two thousand feet above sea-level, the only intimation of the presence of a covey may be the low jarring notes of the old cock bird in charge, heard close by, but very difficult to locate, and so closely does the plumage of these hardy mountaineers match the grey stones and lichen of their surroundings, that often the flash of their snowy pinion as they rise is the first glimpse obtained of them and, when once started few birds can disappear more quickly than ptarmigan, as they wheel over the brink of a precipice and dive into space.

    They are much affected by weather conditions, being more easily approached on still sunny days, when they will often run before the intruder without taking wing; on the other hand, when a change to wind and rain takes place, they become wild and suspicious.

    The following lots represent the ptarmigan as it is seen in mid-winter; it's mid-autumn plumage being of a rocky brown colour suitable for it's surroundings. The male can be distinguished from the female by the black bank of feathers, reaching from the bill through the eye to the ear-coverts.
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