I’m not long back from a week in the Scottish Highlands – the Cairngorms to be precise -and it’s a part of the country that I truly envy those fellow pro’s who do live there for having on their doorsteps, particularly at this time of the year.
The main purpose of the trip was a Highland Raptor weeekend I was running for Natures Images and we certainly had some treats in terms of birds and conditions to work with – my particular favourites being a characterful Peregrine and an absolute belter of a male Merlin – even more stunning when we were treated to some late afternoon light to die for!
With particular thanks to friend and fellow pro Peter Cairns I also managed to have a couple of mornings (as did a number of guests) in his Red Squirrel hide, and although conditions weren’t great on either morning (oh for some snow I had prayed the night before, to no avail) you can’t help but enjoy these fellows when they scramble about in front of you.
In the free time I had at the beginning and end of the trip though I’d hoped to make my way onto the top of the Cairngorms in search of Ptarmigan once again, but conditions were never really ideal when the time was available but the presence of fresh and falling snow in the ski-lift car park area had brought the hardy resident Snow Bunting population into regular sight, so after some strategic seed placement a couple of enjoyable sessions waiting for them to arrive and then looking for clean settings whilst I lay in the snow were enjoyable and productive too: I do love the simple images these conditions can offer if you look!
The final day did allow a walk in the hills though and yet another to add to the list of amazing Mountain Hare experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy over the years. You always hope to find one that sits rather than scarpers as you stalk them (it’s a very low percentage however good your stalking skills are) and this little fellow, nestled in his hollow out of the wind was completely aware of us from several hundred yards out, but slow, steady, patient and visible approaching meant no surprises to him, and after settling in as close as we dare (almost at the minimum focussing range of the lens in the end) a fantastic half an hour of enjoying the highland winter with one of it’s hardiest inhbitants was the reward – a true Highland Highlight!