Last week seems a long way away already, especially as this one has been a bit of a blur getting ready to head off to Florida for the next couple of weeks – camera very much in evidence and a Natures Images trip as part of the mix as well.
It’ll be quite a contrast to the cold but sunny conditions in the Cairngorms last week – I might have preferred a bit of snow, but if that’s not to happen then this is a very close second as it can be constantly grey and glum there for sure at this time of the year. It meant that temperatures rarely got above freezing giving us plenty of scenic and detail close-up opportunities with the ice to be found on Loch Morlich and the nearby streams.
It also gave some interesting opportunities for close ups of the local Mallards enjoying (if that’s the word for it) the cold too!
On the broader wildlife front, trips into the Northern cores of Cairngorm and around the ski areas elsewhere gave great opportunities for the hardy Ptarmigan and their more common relatives in the form of Red Grouse. You have to admire the way they both cope with these challenging conditions, particularly the hardy Ptarmigans who cope with the wind and the at times extraordinarily bleak conditions of these high peaks.
The additional highlights of the week was some quality time spent with local photographer Neil McIntyre who was helping us and our guests out with his Red Squirrel and Crested Tit feeding sites.
These are both species I’ve worked with before but these 2 setups were simply top class, and we were able to make full use of them in the glorious conditions too – all in all these were for me the highland highlights of the week for sure!
Guess it’ll all be a little different in Florida won’t it?
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!