I had a liesurely morning before heading out on the hills to photograph my favourite wildlife subject, The Mountain Hare. It was after 2pm by the time I got up the track on the Monadhliath hills. Bags of daylight hours of course this time of year so who cares. I saw no one on the hill. Wildlife photography can be a frustrating sometimes. Usually weather related. Weather of course is a big factor. It seemed that earlier on in the day was actually sunnier, sometimes forecasts aren't too accurate. There was also a keen, cold 25-30mph wind which threatened to spoil any good images with camera shake.
Despite the noise of the wind I managed to pick out that unmistakable, glorious call of the Golden Plover. Animals are smart of course and these beautiful wee plovers were on a wind sheltered slope. Last time I was up here they were all over the area. This afternoon the numbers were lower. I got down onto some boggy ground to try and get some closer images. One hour later and the sun peeped behind the clouds. I moved on from my damp, boggy spot and found another pair calling in the wind higher up. This time I got good cover behind some boulders and my patience paid off. There was a lovely wee character calling his heart out oblivious to the fact I was close by.
|A better view|
That was the closest I got and happier with the shot. It was getting into late afternoon by now and having not too much joy getting my Mountain Hare photographs. You need to be patient and with the wind it can be a real struggle. The light was bad too, quite dark at times. I wandered around till after 6.30pm before the conditions improved with some beautiful light over Strathspey and the Cairngorms.
|Early evening sunlight, Strathspey|
Just as I was about to head down the hill and home for dinner, I spotted a lovely individual Hare who was lazing in the early evening light. Wildlife photography, especially with the Mountain Hare, requires gaining their confidence, moving slow and being patient. Amongst many other field craft skills. I was eventually 'allowed' to sit down on the rocks with this guy as he lazed, ate and had a quick look at me and realised I was no threat. These are the special moments. You can now sit and take your time with your composition of images.
|The odd watchful eye|
|A stretch now and again|
I had another marvellous hour watching my Hare as he grazed and scratched, stretched and yawned. I could have quite easily spent another hour with him but it was getting on a bit and I was getting hungry too! I left him in peace and yet more magic moments from these adorable creatures. Thank you sir.
I run wildlife photography workshops throughout the year and I am now back guiding in the hills and running wildlife tours.For more details check my new website.
Time to head down and beautiful evening light on my bike ride home.
|Evening clouds and light|
MOUNTAIN HARE DELIGHTS
|Mountain Hare, Monadhliath on Wednesday|
For many folk in Scotland today marks the time to travel freely about the country. Since the end of March restrictions have been in place, much longer than England. It's also a point in time when I can get back to doing what I do best, guiding wonderful people in the Scottish mountains. From today I am back in business and taking bookings for adventures in the hills. Please look at my website and see what I have to offer. Guided hillwalking, navigation courses and wildlife photography days are amongst the most popular activities I run. Of course COVID-19 has not gone away and everyone needs to be as cautious as ever. Being in the outdoors in small groups or individual tuition is probably the safest you will ever be in these strange times we are now living in. All bookings will receive my COVID guidelines to keep you and me in a safe situation and they will be adhered to. My groups have always been either individual tuition or small groups of friends. You will not be lumped together with individuals you don't know. All details on my website: Tarmachan
So catching up on the last few days. The heat faded away and some mixed weather for a change after a long period of hot, dry and mostly sunny 3 months! Some of the driest Spring/early Summer we have had for many a year. It was nice to have some fresh weather and well needed rain.
MONDAY 29 JUNE
|My local Osprey|
I set off this morning to photograph 'my' local Osprey. These woderful birds are a delight to observe and photograph, especially when you know there will be no other people around. You've probably seen many of these birds on spectacular photographs usually catching fish. Virtually all these images will have been taken from a hide at close quaurters with a 'pond' of well stocked trout that's usually man made. All great stuff if you want that special close up picture. For me 'baited' wildlife photographs are not my thing. One of the biggest draws of wildlife watching and photography (for me) is seeing nature in it's true surroundings and wild. No bait, no tv cameras, no visitor centres. This pair of Osprey I have been observing for over 6 years now are always a pleasure. I spent 3 hours this morning. Fascinating watching them. Sadly they have never reared a chick (to my knowledge) despite having built a good nest nearby.
|Coming into land after chasing off a Buzzard|
|Keeping an eye out|
In the afternoon I went off for a bike ride and the dull early morning transformed into a beautiful afternoon. Sun was out so I went up for a ride to one of the many wee hills below 500m in the Strathspey area. These hills are usually very quiet or indeed deserted so good choices if you want a quiet day away from the crowds. Views are just as good as anything at Munro height. The Cairngorms is well known for the beautiful ancient Caledonian Pine forest. On this walk there is an excellent mix of pine and deciduous woodland. A great walk/bike ride in Autumn colours too.
|Dog Rose and Bumble bee|
|Beautiful flower meadows|
|Monadhliath from the top|
|Looking down to Strathspey|
WEDNESDAY 1 JULY
|Mountain Hare, looking splendid in their Summer pelage|
It was a much colder day with temperatures on the high Cairngorms forecast to be around 2 C! What a contrast from last week. The Monadhliath hills are a bit lower so with a cloudy day also forecasted. I had a few hours away to check on the Mountain Hares where I run most of my Mountain Hare photography workshops. These days out I offer are becoming more popular. You can see why. Such adorable creatures and wonderful characters.
|Golden Plover in full song|
High up on the hills above 700m the Golden Plover were in full song. Their call is unmistakable. I think it's like an Avalanche Transceiver 'beeping'. The call gets more frequent as you near the birds. This afternoon it sounded like I was surrounded by so many. A constant chorus of song and 'warning' beeps. They were also curious, seemingly following me everywhere I went as I searched out my usual Hare spots. I don't think I have ever had 4-5 hours of Golden Plover continuous sound. Getting a good photograph though is another matter. Sometimes they laze about resting, not today. They were hyper active.
|Checking me out|
The hares pelage is now in full summer colour. What a contrast from the winter when they are virtually white. Often in summer they are more camouflaged than in winter. The vegetation up on the Monadhliath is quite different from the high Cairngorms. A lot of heather mixed in with a scattering of rocks here and there and plenty of Cladonia (Reindeer Moss). It was lovely to see a couple of Leverets (young hare) although they are now almost adult size, they grow very quickly.
|A cute Leveret|
THURSDAY 2 JULY
Thursday looked an half decent day, dry with the possibility of some bright spells and low winds on the top. I had a day out in the Cairngorms with the hope of seeing the Ptarmigan and/or Dotterrel and maybe if I was really fortunate, seeing them with their youngsters. I biked it up from the house through Glenmore to the Coire Cas carpark which I am now getting so used to and a very enjoyable way to get to the hill. Riding up through Glenmore I spotted 3 separate sightings of Red Squirrels. Really lovely to see so many, hopefully they will be car aware as it starts to get even busier on the road over the coming weeks.
|Stopped off to photograph this beauty|
|Just loves posing|
I just had to pull over the bike and photograph one of these wee beauties. I spent 20 minutes in the company of one lady squirrel. She was quite happy posing halfway up a pine as the cars whizzed on by oblivious to what wonderful creature was close by. Great start to the day.
|Northern March Orchid|
|Lots of Cloudberry!|
The lower reaches of the Northern Corries is sporting a glorious array of flowers just now. This Summer has been brilliant for the flora, possibly due to the warm, sunny and dry conditions we've had most of the Spring? The Orchids in particular are wonderful. Lots of Heath Spotted Orchid and Northern March Orchid. Also of note was the Cloudberry
just bearing it's fruit this week. These are edible and delicious. Not quite ripe yet. I wandered up the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge to gain the plateau, always a delight and a good workout with all my camera gear in tow.
|Fiacaill Coire Sneachda|
|Nice and quiet|
I hadn't seen anyone since leaving my bike at the carpark, despite a long row of cars and campervans parked up. The beauty of the Cairnorms, you can quite easily disappear in it's vastness. I got to the plateau after the scramble and had my butties with a wonderful male Snow Bunting singing its little heart out, prerched on the top rocks of the ridge. Delightful.
|Singing Snow Bunting|
5 minutes later I hear a drone buzzing around me. Quite intrusive and actually they are banned from the northern Cairngorms area. Thankfully I enjoyed the 10 minutes of the Snow Bunting before the idiot sent his drone up from who knows where. I escaped the noise and wandered off south to the Feithe Buidhe area.
|Snow Bridge over the Feithe Buidhe|
I sat down by the Feithe Buidhe waterfall that plunges down into the Loch A'an basin. A beautiful spot. The water has carved a fab snow tunnel underneath the snowpack. Further over from the burn are the slabs and the snow tunnels here should start to form soon.
I meandered slowly across the plateau. It went quite dark at one point and a few spots of rain. Then the sun came out. Another day with 3 layers, hat and gloves. Another snowpatch and a small snow tunnel. Not big enough to get right inside, unless you are keen and want a soaking from the burn underneath.
|Snow Tunnel season|
|Distant snow showers|
Some lovely cloud formations on the way down. Sadly another Cairngorm outing with no Ptarmigan of Dotterrel encounters. Next time :)
|Coire an Lochain|
| Nice cloud formations |
|Heath Spotted Orchids|
A last stroll by many Orchids on the path out from Lurchers Ridge before another blast down the hill on the bike.
FREEDOM TO ROAM & BACK TO BUSINESS
|Loch A'an basin, Thursday|
The temperatures rocketed here in the Highlands towards the middle of the week. Temperatures up on the summits in the Cairngorms reached around 18 C by Thursday. Thankfully there was a good breeze blowing most days. The threat of thunderstorms and heavy bursts of rain faded way and it has been dry, hot and mostly sunny for four days.
After early cloud and rain it was a lovely afternoon for a bike ride up Glenmore and over Ryvoan. The first of the 3 heathers we have here in Scotland is just out in flower. Bell Heather. This time of year you get to see different flowering plants day by day.
|Adorable Red Squirrels|
|Bell Heather in bloom, bees loving it|
|Mountain Hare, Monadliath|
On Wednesday I had a wander to my usual spot in the monadhliath hills to photograph the Mountain Hares. Good numbers and they're well into their summer pelage now, that gorgeous chocolate brown colour. No good close ups today but nice to see them in relation to their mountain environment and blue skies above.
|At the ready|
|Camouflage in the heather|
Highlights today were a Wheathear and her two fledglings lower down the hill. She was looking after her young well, constantly feeding them with insects, plenty of them about just now.
|Juvenile, getting towards adult size|
|Patiently waiting for food|
It was also lovely to observe and photograph a Golden Plover looking gorgeous in the golden sunshine. This is another ground nesting bird that can be found high up on moorland and sometimes even above 900m in some areas. Their instantly recognisable call is usually the first signs they are close by before actually seeing them.
|Nice afternoon sun|
I had a wander around the plateau, avoiding the paths as much as possible. Quieter
but mostly to try and find some of our wonderful wildlife. Namely Ptarmigan and Dotterel. It's that time of year when the young should have hatched so it would have been nice to see some chicks about. In the end I saw no adults of either species never mind any youngsters.
|The Ciste Mhearad snow|
The Ciste Mheared snowpatch up towards the summit of Cairn Gorm was is hanging on well. There is an impressive 'crevasse' opened up. This gives an easy indication of the depth of the snowpack here. At least 3 metres. It will still be here for some weeks to come, despite the soaring temperatures of the weekend. A good spot to cool off for lunch. Earlier in the day I spotted two juvenile Ring Ouzel at around 1100m. Nice to see them high up. They are normally lower down, close to the Coire Cas carpark earlier in the Spring/Summer.
|Juvenile Ring Ouzel|
|Happy not to fly off very far today|
If you've never had the pleasure of seeing these beautiful birds you may well be mistaken in thinking they are female blackbirds. The big giveaway clues are the terrain and height they thrive in (unlikely to see a blackbird at Munro height) and their very beautiful and distinctive call. Once they grow into adults they get their distinctive white bib on their chests. The male's is much more vivid.
|Stag Rocks above Loch A'an|
|Golden sands and beautiful blue waters of A'an|
I roamed around the plateau for a few hours, checking out all my usual well known spots that \I have frequently seen Ptarmigan and Dotterell. Not today unfortunately. Always another day. I was accompanied by plenty of Skylark and Meadow Pipits and a distant Snow Bunting or two.
|Shelterstone Crag & Carn Etchachan|
|Coire an Lochain, late afternoon|
|Coire an Lochain|
|Hiding Mountain Hare|
|Heath Spotted Orchid|
Nice to see my friend the Mountain Hare in Coire an Lochain on my return home. It was still as hot on the bike ride back down the road from the top of Coire Cas. Great news again this week. From 3rd July the whole of Scotland can freely travel about and accommodation is starting to open up at the same period. Of course this is also terrific news for moi. I can get back to work and hopefully folk will start hiring mountain guides again. So I will be availiable from 5th July onwards if you require any guiding in our beautiful hills. I also provide navigation courses and wildlife photography workshops, as usual.
FRIDAY & SATURDAY
Some wildlife watching and photography last two days. We have some very easy walking around the many lochs and lochans in the Strathspey region. All within short travel distance or on foot/bike from the middle of Aviemore. Thankfully Saturday was a bit more comfortable temperatures after another scorcher on Friday. Saturday evening we had an half hour weather window after rain. Enough time for a lovely photograph session with a Lapwing on the Dava Moor.
|Juvenile looking a bit damp|
|Delightful baby bunny in Clova|
|I counted at least 50 in this group of Greylaggs|
|A very fast Roe Deer|
|Looks like rain|
|No, sun came out|
|Lochindorb, nice evening|
|After the rain|
HOT MOUNTAIN DAYS
|Carn Etchacan & The Shelterstone Crag, 0445|
Over the years I have made an effort to get a high bivvy out on the mountains for the Summer Solstice. It's one of those 'you must do if you're a mountaineer'. Of course the whole idea of it is to enjoy a stunning sunrise on the longest day of the year. Of the many bivvies I have done over the years I think A' Mhaighdean in the Fisherfield Forest ranks has my finest sleep out at Solstice. A glorious 2 days.The prize for the most miserable one was probably Clisham on Harris in cloud, rain and midges! You can't win them all.
Of course camping out (which includes bivvying?) isn't allowed at the moment in Phase 2 of Covid come-out. So the next best thing is to walk through the night and plan on getting to a chosen mountain top at sunrise.
I am 24 hours 'out', I know. The true Solstice was yesterday but the forecast for the early morning yesterday was dull and cloudy so I gave that one a swerve.
|The Northern Horizon at 0230 from Coire Cas|
One loctaion I have been meaning to photograph for some time now is the huge and spectacular Carn Etchacan & Shelterstone Crag. This remote climbing crag is steeped in Mountaineering history. Some hard summer and winter routes here. It's in a remote and very beautiful spot above Loch A'an. A fair trek to get to never mind doing a spot of extreme climbing. The crag faces East, therefore to get a good photograpic image you ideally need to capture it early morning, preferably at dawn. Of course being the Summer Solstice it is now sunrise at 0419 (precisely)! The best spot to photograph it is at the top of Stag Rocks on the Cairngorm plateau. I left my house on my bike at 2300 on Sunday evening.
|Sunrise behind Cairn Gorm|
Apart from my bike lights, I didn't have to use my headtorch all night/early morning. This time of year it is basically twighlight. A lovely bike up to Glenmore and the ski road. I then walked up Coire Cas to the 1141m top and over the plateau. It was chilly up high, single digits C. A brisk breeze was also blowing. Not ideal for photography so I was hoping to get some shelter amongst the many wee tors that litter the edge of the plateau above Stag Rocks. Of course there used to be a bothy, well shelter, here. St Valery. It was pulled down after the Cairngorm disaster in 1971. This was a dark day in The Cairnorms. Many children and 1 adult perished in winter blizzards high on the plateau. They were searching for another bothy that existed at the time in the Feithe Buidhe area. All but 2 of the group perished from exposure and cold as they failed to loacte it in the appauling conditions. After this incident all the high shelters were pulled down for safety reasons. Far better plan to get yourself down off high ground than risk searching for a small shelter in poor conditions. All that exists of this bothy at the top of Stag Rocks is a slab of granite which is inscribed with the St. Valery shelter name. It's a good bit of micro navigation to find it.
|The only remains of the St. Valery Shelter|
I arrived in good time, 0330 so plenty of time to set up the tripod and camera. Also scoping out the best viewpoints and windless spots. Photography is much better with a few clouds around and the light was just catching under some of the clouds above Cairn Gorm summit.
|Cairn Gorm summit with beautiful lit clouds|
|The ever changing colours|
All my photography tries to capture the colours I actually see. Some photographers will argue it's art and the camera can never capture what the eye sees. Fair enough. In these days of mobile phones and social media it's getting quite extreme with the 'art' form. No doubt you'll have come across the many images with completely saturated colours of sunsets and sunrises. Big no, no for me but hey ho, people must lovely gory and weird colours!
|First rays of light on Carn Etchachan with Ben Macdui in the background|
|Suns up! Loch A'an below|
I was jumping between sunrise shots in the East and the first rays on the roks of Carn Etchachan. Can't be in the two places at the same time! It's always very special that first sight of the sun peeping over the skyline. What joy.
|Shelterstone Crag (centre picture)|
Soon the whole mountain side was illuminated and Loch A'an was just catching some daylight too. It's amagnificent scene. This whole area is, for me, the finest place in the Cairngorms. From Stag Rocks round to the summit of Carn Etchachan. Whicever viewpoint spot you choose along the crag edges you can't go wrong. This morning at this particular time it was most definitely the place to stand!
|The glorious beaches and water of A'an. Lying at 700m. The jewel of the Cairngorms|
|Carn Etchachan towering over Loch A'an|
I spent a good hour moving about finding some of the best spots to capture the ever changing light. Already the clouds were rolling in from the SW over Ben Macdui's summit. The beautiful light was about to disappear. What a glorious sight and enough time to savour it all.
|Hard to choose|
|Cloud creeping over Ben Macdui|
That was it. Dull cloud and flat light. It was over. Light is everything in photography. Early morning and evening the finest times, always. It is worth getting up early and stumbling out of bed. Or in my case, no sleep the previous evening! I was going to stay a while on the plateau for some wildlife photography. The wind had picked up and it was quite dull. I was happy to head back down, despite lumbering all the camera gear!
Magic. Will be back here for a winter sunrise soon! At least in winter you get a wee lie in!
|The final sunlight, 0600|
SUMMER SOLSTICE, TAKE 2
THE WILDER SIDE OF THE CAIRNGORMS
|Cairn Lochan in a wonderful cloudscape|
The temperatures took another leap today with an afternoon reading of 24 C in Aviemore. We made an early start to get the best of the weather and not too hot a day. It's also the best time to get out anyway, for wildlife. We set off from a cloud engulfed Coire Cas carpark at 8am, even so it was still just T shirt conditions at this time in the morning.
|Cloud burning off quickly in Coire an Lochain|
|No wind at Coire an Lochain|
|Cliffs and cloud on the crags|
We walked into Coire an Lochain. Dead calm conditions and the skies were now clearing with beautiful sunshine in the coire. A certain someone couldn't resist a wee dip in the chilly water. A refreshing start to the day. We headed up onto the plateau and to Cairn Lochan. The only sound the calling of a couple of Snow Bunting. Wonderul atmospheric cloud conditions as we reached the summit with the crags holding onto some cloud, away from the cliff edge it was completely clear skies. Could have sat and watched this for hours.
|Snow Bunting on the cliffs|
|Male Snow Bunting|
For lunch we headed across the plateau and to the finest view point in the entire Cairngorms. Sat and lazed around for 30 minutes, as you do on these beautiful hot, windless days in the mountains.
|The finest view in The Cairngorms|
|Shelterstone Crag from Hell's Lum|
|Loch A'an and Shelterstone|
|The beautiful beaches of A'an|
This year the lingering snow patches are holding on nicely. For those interested in such things. Most years there are two patches of snow that usually survive right through to the following winter. They are on Ben Nevis and Braeriach. But the last two years these have melted away completely. I wonder if we will have these stick around this year? One area that holds onto snow well into summer and a good indicator is the snow in the Feithe Buidhe slabs. When these stay around till July they sometimes form wonderful 'snow tunnels' This is when the watr trickles down the slabs of rock underneath the snowpack and creates these brilliant snow caves, which you can sometimes walk into if the snow cover has been deep enough that particular winter.
|Feithe Buidhe and the deep snowpack|
|Feithe Buidhe slabs|
|A wonderful place to explore|
We teared ourselves away and headed back to civilisation. Up on the plateau it was lovely to find two male Ptarmigan high up on the rocks who were just lazing about and didn't seem in the mood to fly off anywhere soon. Always nice to get your wildlife to stay around for any length of time. Of course you need to be quiet, patient and move slowly.
|Ptarmigan at rest, but still got his eye on you|
Our day out was timesd to perfection. The cloud building up and becoming hazy by the time we headed down Lurchers. Some nice cloudscapes to keep us company.
|Nice cloud formations over the Lairig Ghru|
|Braeriach and Cairn Toul|
|A lovely view to end the day|
Interesting to see the ski road up to Coire Cas carpark has now been open for over a week. As mentioned on a earlier post, the carparks at Coire Cas and Coire Ciste are blocked off. The plan is to put unmanned automated barrier in place and compulsory parking fees at the carparks. That's all fine. But I can't understand the logic of actually closing off the carparks until these are in place? Anyone with the answer please feel free to enlighten me. Just an observation but I counted 33 cars parked up along the roadside before the blocked off carpark. Recipe for traffic problems and accidents?
|Meanwhile, on Loch Morlich beach|
CLOUDSCAPES & HEAT
THE GREY MAN OF BEN MACDUI
UN- FLAMING JUNE
|Fantastic t see the ptarmigan again|
We've been enjoying some absolutely gorgeous weather up here in The Highlands for quite some time now, a brilliant Spring. The weekend temperatures were some of the highest in the UK with Aviemore reaching 27 C today. I had a brilliant time back up in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms again on Monday. My usual bike ride up from the house to Coire Cas carpark is getting easier, despite the weight of all the hillwalking and photography gear. It's always less arduous in beautiful sunshine and no wind. Very pleasant too has there is no traffic on the access road to the ski centre carpark from Glemore.
|Coire an t-sneachda|
|Still big snow patches in the Goat Track & Point 5 Gully areas|
I took a wander into Coire an t-Sneachda. Last time I was here it was on one of the last days before restricted access due to the Corona virus. That was a marvelous winter day out. Very different today with hot sunshine, sunlight in the coire, snow melted away and no people. I sat down in the higher reaches of the coire and filled up my depleted water bottle. Wonderful to drink the cold, refreshing water. After a quick snack I turned around and a male ptarmigan was sat looking at me only inches away on a rock at shoulder level. But by the time I lifted my camera he was away into the boulders below. Sightings of ptarmigan have been very low in numbers for well over a year. Apparently one reason for this is because they can go through 6-8 year cycles of high to low breeding numbers. Another theory is a virus they pick up in their gut gets transmitted and unfortunately kills numbers of birds. A familiar story to us humans.
|The Fiacaill Coire Sneachda scrambling|
|A familiar route for me|
|The approach to the scramble|
Walking up to the start of the scrambling on the Fiacaill a' Coire Sneachda I could hear Snow Bunting singing away on the cliffs. Always a beautiful sound in Springtime when the males are in full song. Warm rock and no wind along the arete of the Fiacaill. A good body work out combined with the 450 metre climb on the bike earlier in the morning. I was soon onto the plateau and still no breeze to speak of really. Despite the high temperatures it was very pleasant compared to Friday when we had scorching heat.
|Beautiful Snow Buntings around the corries|
|They love the cliff tops|
There were many Snow Bunting singing away once again on the edge of the cliffs that run up to the top of Cairn Lochan. Brilliant stuff. For photographers you'll need to get high this time of year if you want to capture these wonderful wee birds. The male bunting transforms himself into a much more white plumage and can be easily identified. He's also the one doing all the singing and chirping.
|The cliffs of Coire an Lochain|
|Lingering snow on The Great Slab in Coire an Lochain|
There were only 2 people I saw all day. One guy on the summit of Cairn Lochan and a distant runner along the edge of the Northern Corries. I'm guessing the closed access road up to Coire Cas is a 'deterrent' for local folk to venture up into the Northern Cairngorms. Having said that, it is only 1 hour to walk up the road or there is a nice trail up through the forestry on a well made path that runs roughly alongside the road. I've always wandered what these mountains were like before the skiing arrived at Coire Cas in 1961. Pretty quiet I would have thought. There would have been a road as far as Glenmore then it would have been Shanks's Pony up to the corries. Coire Cas itself must have been wonderful before the skiing parathenalia too, a heaven for wildlife and green.
|Taking it easy|
|Looking fine in the sunshine|
Retracing my steps I headed back East along the plateau, still with the Snow Bunting singing all the way along the cliffs. Shortly after leaving the top I spotted a male Ptarmigan! He was taking it easy on the cliff edge gazing out to the North. Looking very chilled out he wan't at all disturbed by my presence. A brilliant 30 minutes or so sitting beside him just 4 metres away. I even had my packed lunch whilst sitting looking out to the corries with him. Pure bliss. For me this is wildlife photography. A day spent in the hills looking and searching. Then quality time near your subject, watching their behaviour patterns. Of course getting some nice images is a big plus point. After lunch I left him to his peace and quiet.
|Just the odd croak|
|Coire an t-Sneachda & Cairn Gorm|
|Coire Domhain snowpatch|
|View west from Cairn Gorm|
The bright sun and clear skies faded by early afternoon with some high level cloud building up. I finished my walk by heading over Cairn Gorm summit and down Windy Ridge. On the way I was treated to even more Snow Bunting and that other wonderful Cairn Gorm bird that we have here in summer, the Dotterel. Fabulous end to the day.
|Another Snow Bunting near Cairn Gorm|
|Moss Campion just starting to flower|
|Female Dotterel looking inquisitive|
Well not quite over, looking forward to the brilliant ride back down the road to cool off. It's a brilliant, fast freewheel back down to Glenmore with, of course, stunning views. But there was still some last minute wildlife, even at carpark level. Finished nicely with Ring Ouzel and an inquisitive Pied Wagtail.
LAST OF THE HOT MOUNTIAN DAYS
|The beautiful Dotterel, Cairngorm plateau yesterday|
10 weeks of not being on the mountains is the longest time in my life, and that's a fair few years! Friday 29th May was a day that we were allowed access to the mountains again here in Scotland. That is, if you live around 5 miles from any hills. The Scottish government and SMRT's published the guidelines this week. Phase 1 of coming out started 29th May.
Some folk may say 'you're so lucky living near the mountains'. My reply, as always is 'Luck didn't land me in The Highlands. Hard work, commitment, scarifices and determination have given me nearly 30 years of living in these wonderful places'.
|Loch Avon Basin|
|Feithe Buidhe slabs|
It was with great joy that I set off by bike from my house on Friday and cycled up to the Coaire Cas carpark in glorious early morning sunshine. The snow gates are closed at Glenmore still. I've cycled up the road many times over the last 10 weeks which keeps you fit, especially when carrying camera equipment weighing 3kg. I am proud and glad to state that since restrictions set in over 10 weeks ago we have only used the car on 3 occasions and that was for the 5 minutes drive into Aviemore for shopping. All my exercise bike rides and walks have started from my front door. Today was no exception.
|Bike ride from the house to Coire Cas carpark|
|Glorious morning |
I took a wander over the Cairngorm plateau after a visit to Coire an Lochain, a familiar route. Once up on the plateau via the Twin Burns it was so warm, no hot! Clear skies and hot sunshine for the rest of the day. I only saw 3 solo walkers all day. On my way over to the Feithe Buidhe area I got a wonderful 20 minutes with a single Dotterel. This beautiful migratory plover travels the long route from West Africa for breeding on our hostile (sometimes) high Cairngorm plateau. A ground nesting bird that is a delight to see and only found on the high tops in The Scottish mountains
Just 20 minutes later the plateau was filled with the beautiful call of the male Snow Bunting. Another one of our special birds up here. The male changes its plumage in the summer months and very different markings from the female. There's nothing quite has lovely as the singing of a snow bunting on the hills.
|Male Snow Bunting|
|Female Snow Bunting|
I had lunch at my favourite viewpoint of the entire Cairngorms. Stunning views of the Loch Avon basin. I sat and drank out of the Feithe Buidhe waters, pure magic. 2 litres went down very easily in the scorching hot conditions. Apparently Aviemore was one of the hotest places in the UK at 27 C.
|Fiacaill Coire Sneachda|
Even the reindeer where high up on the plateau today. Savouring the cool snow patches, a common sight when it gets hot up here.
|Reindeer cooling off|
|Bemused by humans|
Back down to the carpark. Day topped off with the beautiful Ring Ouzels around the ski area. A fab whizz back down the ski road on the bike. A grand day out. It's great to be back!
|Loch Avon beaches|
|See you soon|
IT'S GREAT TO BE BACK!
RESTRICTED ACCESS - WEEK 9