Sunday, 11 April 2021

WINTER, MOUNTAIN HARES & RETURN OF THE OSPREY

 

Snow showers & sunshine

FRIDAY 9 APRIL
A fabulous morning here in Strathspey.  Another below freezing night and early morning. Another light dusting of snow down at Aviemore level. Bright sunshine early doors. I set out a bit later to let the road defrost a bit as I was on my bike to get to the hill.

Snowy bike ride to the hill 

The winds were a tad lighter but still very cold, from a NW direction. I saw no one on the hill yet again. Another walk up to my local Mountain Hare, for a change! Of course it's a fabulous walk, not just the wildlife.

A few snow showers passing through 


There was more sun and blue skies than snow showers today. Great conditions for photography.  I was soon amongst the hares. The best spot was with two wonderful creatures. 
A duo of grazing hares

I settled down in the snow and on the lee side of the rocky hillside. For 2 hours I sat  watched and photographed these two guys. It's unusual to spend any length of time when there are two hares together. Usually one of them will get twitchy and take off, the other shortly after. These delightful hares were just happy lazing, stretching, yawning and munching.
Grazing


Lazing


Licking

Yawning

Stretching
Wonderful, priceless moments with nature. This is why photographing these beautiful animals is so addictive. Just magic to be allowed to spend time in their company. 
Heathers better over there


Light snow shower

Time for another nap
I bade farewell to these two just as another shower looked to be heading my way. Once back in the wind it was nippy. Full winter wildlife clothing still a must if you're hanging about on a hillside.
Humans still in thick fur


Another snow shower moving across

Snow still lying above 600m

Afternoon ice at 500m
I headed down the hill as the biggest, longest snow shower was over the hill. Even when I was back to 300m it was snowing and the cloud base was low. By the time I got back on my bike the skies cleared again and lovely sunshine developed.  It was only early afternoon so I decided to cycle up the Strath and see if my local Ospey had arrived back to Scotland for the Summer. 

The Ospreys have landed!

They had! It was lovely to see the pair back to thir usual spot. Well, actually these two are ringed and the usual pair here are not ringed so maybe they've only recently been ringed and tagged? I shall have to make enquiries.
I am very pleased to say that I am now hold a SCHEDULE 1 LICENCE FOR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY.
This licence is a legal document that allows me to take photographs of Schedule 1 birds near or at the nesting sites, including Osprey. I am also allowed to photograph Dotterel and Snow Bunting. All this information of numbers and locations is invaluable to experts in the field and adds to the database of these endangered species. I'm looking forward to the return of the Dotterel very soon in the Cairngorms and Monadhliath, their stronghold. 
Osprey

Closeby to the Osprey, down on the loch, were Grey Heron (6) Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and a pair of Bewick's Swan.
A grand day out.
Grey Heron

Cairn Gorm from the bike ride home

The ride home.

Spring in Strathspey 




SUNDAY 11 APRIL

Stunning clear skies morning

Another day forecast of sunshine and snow showers. With the morning due to be the best time of day, we set out at 8am. It was a chilly minus 6 C in Aviemore when we set off. The roads were snowy and the trees around town had a dusting too from the overnight showers. Minus 6 C in April is not bad going.
Usual icicles at 460m

Clear skies
Lovely and quiet up on the Monadhliath again. The hares were active and looking great against the clear blue skies.



A duo of beautiful hares

Active today
Just a couple of hours this morning.  Enjoying the fine views and only use two plus half a dozen hares in the snow. It was pretty chilly, despite much lower winds of around 15mph. It could have been any month in Winter. Superb. 
Lovely 

Cloud over the Cairngorms 

Light snowcover at 750m


We headed back down the hill for lunch. The shower clouds steadily building from the West. 

Beautiful markings

Keeping watch



An hour or so after getting home we had a few snow and hail showers. Perfectly timed. 
Clouds building 

Braeriach 

Tomorrow looks like a cracking day. 
Hail in Aviemore 

Never the size of Golfballs ;)


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

WINTER HOLDING ON

Winter prevails on the lower hills
The cold Arctic airflow of this week continues. Some strong winds thrown in making it true winter conditions up high. Even down in the Straths and glens it has been Winter like this week. Many areas in The Highlands seeing snow falling to low levels and below freezing overnight. It is not unusual, of course, to have snow and cold weather up on the hills this time of year. To have snow lying in the garden is I suppose. This is the beauty of living in The Highlands. If I had my way I would have Winter 6 months of the year :)
Today I bring you a belated Easter Bunny, or two.

Another cold one

I took a wander up to my usual Mountain Hare photography area in the Monadhliath. A much calmer day of late with the winds light at Aviemore and moderate above about 700m. Still the air mass is from the Arctic so cold. Temperatures at Aviemore this morning around minus 2 C.

Mountain Hare tracks in the fresh snow

With the winds from a NW direction I went around the lee side of the hills to see my Mountain Hares. Just like us humans, they don't really want to be facing a cold, strong wind if they can avoid it.
Deep drifts in places

With the high winds the last few days the snow has been drifting about a fair bit. In this area I frequent all of the old snow melted away a while back. The new snowfalls of the last few days has no base and therefore the wind scoured areas are bare heather. The lee sides there were some sizeable drifts above 700m.
Pleasent spells in the sunshine

Better conditions to photograph wildlife today. Good visibility with the cloud high and there were only a few very brief snow flurries. I soon spotted a few hares. One chap quite happily roaming in his wee area munching away.

Having a nibble of the new grasses

He's not quite seen me yet

Not sure

One of the many pleasures associated with photographing the beautiful Mountain Hares is observing the transformation of their pelage (fur) throughout the seasons.
They are just transitioning from Winter to Spring at the moment. Today was mostly dull and flat light. You get to see how wonderfully well camouflaged they are when there is mixed terrain of snow, rock and bare heather.

Well camouflaged



Improving visibility on the high Cairngorms in the afternoon

The light kept coming and going with a few bright spells. By mid afternoon it was flat and dull. I started heading back down the hill. Always the case that I seem to get the better shots in the afternoon when the hares are a bit more relaxed. After 3 hours or so of concentration you can get a bit fuzzy. The hares are so well camouflaged. They know it too! This particular hare I had seen a few times today, he seemed to be following me!

Posing or just staying camouflaged?

Off again

Great camouflage

It was still cold lower down the hill, the ice still intact at 400m! More cold and wind today. A bit rough up on the high tops on Thursday I would think today. Staying below freezing on Cairngorm summits for some time to come! Winter continues.....


Afternoon ice

Even at Aviemore level the snow lingering on