Friday, 3 July 2020


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 Mountaineering.

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.

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

Pearl-Bordered Fritillary
Beautiful flower meadows

Monadhliath from the top

Looking down to Strathspey


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
Hare habitat

Loch A'an
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

Great tail

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

Clouds lifted
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

Loch A'an
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

More Orchids
A last stroll by many Orchids on the path out from Lurchers Ridge before another blast down the hill on the bike.

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