WEDNESDAY 19TH AUGUST
I mentioned on my previous blog post that I may have seen the last of the Dotterel for this season. How wrong am I? I was very pleased to see a beautiful group of 4 this Wednesday. I had a visit to my usual haunt in the Monadhliath.
It was another hot day with the usual theme of a temperature inversion in the Strath. This slowly broke up through the morning. There wasn't a breath of wind all the way up to 800m early on in the morning. I was engulfed by millions of midges! If you're just 'hillwalking' then at least you are going at a reasonable pace to get away from them. For the wildlife photographer it is a nightmare! The midge net was on as well as a pair of gloves. Trying to see any wildlife through the mesh of a net is well nigh impossible, never mind getting the camera up to your eye. I was about to give up after two hours of this, that was until I had walked up to the 800m level when a breeze kicked in and the hot sun eventually got rid of the blighters.
Below me was a sea of cloud and it was a relief to be able to sit in the breeze and hot sun without the pesky midges biting. Apparently a 9 mph wind and above is enough to see them off. Direct sunlight and heat is another deterrent. In our recent spell of hot and sunny weather I am convinced that these conditions hasn't really had much affect on them. Maybe they're becoming immune? I roamed about now I was unconfined by midge net and swarms of insects. Beautiful views with a bank of cloud sitting on the high Cairngorms to the south. The Mountain Hare weren't sitting about much today, probably cursed with the midges as us humans, no doubt.
By mid day I thought it was safe to walk back down the hill as the breeze seemed to have increased at lower elevations. Then I spotted 4 Dotterel right in front of me. I backed up the hill a bit and lay down behind a couple of rocks. Lovely to watch them as they just sat and stood about in the sun. The adult female Dotterel loose their vibrant rusty red breeding plumage by late Summer and into Autumn. So much so it can seem difficult to identify if they are adults or juveniles. I am pretty sure these were all adults. I reckon it is the same group I have been observing all Summer. What a treat to see them again and in beautiful sunlight.
I must have lay on the ground the best part of an hour watching these wonderful, beautiful migratory waders. Only a couple of hours earlier I was thinking of going home because of the horrendous clouds of midges. I wouldn't have been lying on the ground then, that's for sure. Eventually I left the Dotterel to get on with their last days on a Scottish mountainside. The priority when photographing any wildlife is always, always the welfare of the species, no mater if they are common or rare. The animals should never feel in threat or disturbed.
Also spotted today were a group of Golden Plover, Wheatear and lots of flocks of young Meadow Pipit.
Maybe that was my last sighting of the Dotterel for 2020? Maybe....
THURSDAY 20 AUGUST
A much fresher feeling day. A stiff breeze blowing from the west, temperatures back to normal Summer values and clearer skies. The wind meant no midges (hooray!). I went for a nice afternoon mountain bike ride on one of the many routes we enjoy here in the Cairngorms and Strathspey region. One of my regular routes is Ryvoan Pass from Aviemore up Glenmore, returning via Nethey Bridge via the Speyside Way. Virtually all of it is off tarmac roads so nice to get away from the busy traffic we are experiencing just now. Having said that it wasn't very quiet up the Old Logging Way in Glenmore. Lots of bikers out. Once past Lochain Uaine and Ryvoan Bothy it was much, much quieter with hardly any bikes or walkers.
The heather is just wonderful right now. Huge swathes of it throughout my route. This bike ride is a very easy and short day. If you want to make it even more relaxing then there are cafes and pubs throughout the route and very conveniently placed! You are never more than an hour from refreshments! To make the day longer you can keep an eye out for wildlife. The route goes through the two biggest tracts of Caledonian Pine Forests in the UK, the Rothiemurchus & Abernethy Forests. Plenty of wildlife abut here. Today's highlights were the many species of Dragonflies around the may wee lochans and pools of water beside the trail.
Dragonflies, just like the Dotterel, will soon be gone, until next Summer. Until then, enjoy the last of the Summer days. 'My' Osprey has already departed on his long journey back to West Africa. Autumn not far away.