Wednesday, 22 January 2020

PTARMIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY IN BENIGN CONDITIONS


Limited snow in Coire an Lochain

Snow free walk ins
Good to see these guys again

Female ptarmigan

Rubbish light for photography

Limited snowcover
Another warm day with temperatures of plus 7 C up high in The Cairngorms. All the approach paths into the corries now free of snow. The limited snow is high up in the coire and gullies. Not much in the way of winter gear used today. No gloves required at over 1000m. All I wore all day was a baselayer and windproof. Not a breath of wind in the coire so good day for wildlife photography although the light was flat and pretty rubbish. Lots of croaking of the ptarmigan, always a lovely sound in the hills. They had me on steep ground today for photographing them. But great news that numbers are on the increase, well my sightings anyway. As mentioned in my blog already, numbers of these special birds have been quite low since last summer.
Thankfully we are in for some colder weather and fresh snowfall by Friday or Saturday. Winter for now, on hold.

Monday, 20 January 2020

WINTER SUNSHINE

Coire an t-sneachda 

Point Five Gully
A group heading up Point Five Gully

Sow Bunting down at the Coire Cas carpark


Goat Track and Fiacaill Buttress 

Sunrise over the coire

Hard, frozen snow, Cas Coire

Looking up to pt. 1141m
High pressure making its presence over much of The Highlands. Temperatures up to plus 7 degrees C in the upper reaches of Coire an t-sneachda this afternoon. Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures,  the snow was frozen hard earlier in the day. Even the approach paths into the Northern Corries had refrozen water ice for much of the way in the afternoon. Beautiful clear skies all day over The Cairngorms but very strong SW winds on the tops and plateau. It was nice and sheltered in Coire Cas and later Coire an t-sneachda. plenty of folk out climbing and winter skills groups. Staying mild all week but snow fall at the weekend.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

SETTLED WEATHER, SETTLED MOUNTAIN HARES

A fine sunrise over The Cairngorms
Fine light for Mountain Hare photography

Nothing quite like a Sunday morning stretch
Afternoon cloudscapes over Sgor Gaoithe
Mesmerising clouds
Great feet for tunnelling snow

Some posing for me

Alert ears
The high pressure now over most of The Highlands bringing a welcome settled spell of mostly dry weather. Despite the isobars spreading out it is still quite windy on the high tops. With a forecast of some nice sunny weather again, I ventured to the lower Monadhliath again for some more Mountain Hare photography. A fabulous dawn with some great light across the snowfields. I quite quickly spotted one individual Hare. He looked very settled in his wee snow shelter he's constructed. I spent over 1 hour with this chap. He was content and quite happy just pondering what I was up to. He did move around, but only to his other snow hole he'd obviously made earlier, just 2 metres away. Between mooching about, stretching and posing he just sat about and was very photogenic. With the beautiful light and good snow cover it was probably the g=finest photography session I have ever had with these wonderful animals. What a privilege.




Saturday, 18 January 2020

SUNSHINE, DRIFTING, MOUNTAIN HARES, FAB SNOW

Fabulous snow
Great day for wildlife photography
Beautiful light for a beautiful creature
Brilliant consolidated and untrodden snow cover above 700m

Main Cairngorm under cloud

Frozen bog, joy!

First up today
Beautiful

Double alert!

Settling down

Hare amongst the spindrift
So nice to be walking in blue skies and sunshine today. High pressure slowly drifting over the Highlands but the big Cairngorm Mountains were still plagued by cloud. So Karen and I decided on a lower level mountain, over on the Monadhliath. Very different weather on the west side of the A9. It's also a lot quieter at the weekend, we saw just two other folk in the distance. The older snow has gone through a melt/freeze cycle and superb walking on this. Any boggy ground lower down was frozen solid. Plenty of wonderful, light drifting in the stiff winds. For the first time in a long while the winds had swung from a Southerly, round to a Westerly. The Mountain Hares were looking absolutely wonderful in the bright sunlight. They were sheltering from the winds on the eastern aspects so we weaved around the hill to photograph these beautiful creatures. Watching them in the snow, spindrift and bright sunlight you could see this was their natural environment. We can visit but only these guys can tough it out in the most severe of winter conditions.
Looking like tomorrow is the finest day of the weekend. Lighter winds and more sun. Enjoy.

Friday, 17 January 2020

LESS WIND, MORE ICE, PTARMIGAN RETURN

The ptarmigan are back!
Coire an Lochain

The Lochain now frozen

Nice and wintery

Icy paths

Northern Corries

Shelter in the boulders
The Cairngorms have had a few days of stormy conditions. Winds in excess of 60mph for the last 3 days. Yesterday there was a temperature rise with rain up to 1000m. Sub zero temperatures last night and into today so great for the snowpack. This morning it was still breezy but only 40mph, so bearable. Some good visibility and even sunny spells this morning.
I was in the Coire hoping to photograph the ptarmigan. Their numbers have been very low recently but I did notice a flock of these wonderful birds in Coire an Lochain last Sunday. With the constant Southerly/SW high winds I was hoping they would come down to shelter, sure enough they have. Lovely to see and photograph. Once February comes along we'll get some sun into the Corries for some better lighting.
A calm and pleasant weekend coming up. Good conditions. Goes without saying, ice axe and crampons essential.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

ANOTHER WILD WINTERS DAY

Axe arresting

Avalanche assessment

Deep drifts

High winds

Assessing the options from the cafe
High winds once again the biggest feature in The Cairngorms. Helen and Max out with me for a 2 day course. We met up at the excellent Glenmore Visitor  Centre cafe to chat through the options of the day. After an hour or so of looking at weather and Avalanche forecasts we decided to head up the ski road to Coire Cas carpark. Most folk had either turned around or on their way out off the hill, beaten by the 60+mph winds. We decided to venture a whole 5 minutes from the cafe to run through some axe skills and axe arresting. We looked at assessing the snowpack, finding a relatively easy shear in the area, this at just 700m. The temperatures rose slightly during the afternoon. We reconvened in the Pinemartin Cafe down at Glenmore (3 cafes in 1 day)  for a recap and another coffee!
More heavy snow forecast tomorrow,  the winds a tad lower so maybe we can venture further.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

IN THE WAKE OF STORM BRENDAN



Happy newbies

Happy experienced

The Moraines

Snowcover at lower elevations improving


The locals wanting a walk with us this morning 


Reindeer enjoying the winter conditions 

Coire an t-sneachda 

Sheltered spots
Thankfully I wasn't booked for working yesterday when Storm Brendan was in full force. Winds of 120mph were recorded yesterday on the summit of Cairn Gorm. Today it was much calmer. Even so a lot of snow blowing about in the Northern Corries. Below freezing at Coire Cas carpark this morning.
Regular client Andrew and work colleagues, Debbie, Tanya and Nick were out for a works team building/fun day/skills training with me. A completely new activity for some. Great day and great company.