The Cairngorms Part 1

For the Wildlife enthusiast/Photographer there really is no better place than the Cairngorms National Park, the place just totally captivates me each time that I go. The last two years has seen me visit in the Spring and Summer primarily to photograph the Ospreys, but I have never visited in the Winter to photograph the iconic species of the area, that was until last weekend when I spent a long weekend there Friday to Monday.

Home for the stay was the delightful ‘Little Birch Cabin’, set in a birch woodland in the little village of Insh, south of Aviemore. It would have been quite easy to spend the days in the Cabin watching the visiting wildlife to the cabin ( See next post) but I was desperate to get out to photograph the wildlife the area is famous for.

The first species for this post are the Ptarmigan and Mountain Hare.

The Ptarmigan that I photographed live on the high mountain tops on the Cairngorm plateau, these amazing little birds could not live in a more hostile place, the day I was up there it was beautiful blue sky and no wind, the previous day I got to the Ski Centre car park and made a hasty retreat off the mountain in storm force winds and snowfall coming in horizontal.

Locating a white bird in the snow isn’t easy, a lot of time scanning with binoculars looking for movement, but what really gives away their location is the croaking call of the males, and hey presto I had found myself a nice group on the steep slopes and a rocky snowfield at its foot.

The second species that I was really keen to photograph was the Mountain Hare, unlike the rabbit and Brown Hare which are introduced by man, the Mountain Hare is indigenous to the UK. The mountain hare mainly occupies Boreal forest, in Britain it is associated with heather moorlands, particularly those which are managed by burning in strips for red grouse.

To photograph these Hares I have to thank my good friend Graeme who took us down into the Findhorn valley to find these Hares on the mountain side. I was hoping to photograph them in the snow, but as the recent spell of mild weather had stripped a lot of the snow off the lower mountain slopes, the Hares were nestled down on the windy slopes in the heather. Their almost white coats made them stand out quite easily, great for the wildlife photographer, and also for the four Golden eagles that were riding the thermals above the valley.

I was lucky enough to get some nice shots, getting quite close to a few Hares, before the fading light and the biting cold wind forced us back down to the warmth of the 4×4. But I will be back to photograph these amazing mammals.

For my next post I will talk about an amazing encounter with a Pine Marten and Badger….. and some more delights of my Cairngorms adventure
I would love to hear back from you, and welcome you to leave a comment below…thanks.

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