Mountain Hares – MNHP Cairngorms 2017

This morning Carys and I went out with David to the ski lodge to photograph red grouse and mountain hares. We saw lapwings, oystercatchers, pheasants, meadow pipit and pied wagtail on the way, as well as red deer and roe deer! I went with the intention to photograph the female red grouse as I didn’t get any good ones last two times, so I was quite lucky that a pair just sat by the road and we were able to photograph it from the van. I also noticed how feathered the grouse’s legs are, an adaptation to highland weather.

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Red Deer near Lecht Mine

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Female Red Grouse

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Male Red Grouse with its feathered legs

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Male Red Grouse © Carys Fearns

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Female Red Grouse © Carys Fearns

I went up the slopes at the ski lodge again to photograph mountain hares. After a few failed stalks, I managed to get a close-ish view of this mountain hare. It was the only one that stayed out of the five I saw running up the slope.

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Mountain Hare on ski lodge

On the way back we saw a song thrush in the field, and I spotted a female great spotted woodpecker on the tree outside our cottage!

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Song Thrush on field

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Female Great Spotted Woodpecker

Josh and Becca went out at 6:15am with David Newland around the estate, and they photographed many species –

© Becca Witt

© Josh Pawlowski

It was Holly and Georgia’s turn at the red squirrel hide this morning –

© Holly Wilkinson

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© Georgia Raybould

Here is one of Jason’s shot from yesterday:

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© Jason Pritchard

This is our last full day in Cairngorms National Park (time flies!). We hiked up Ladder Hills, and spent a good 4 hours searching for and stalking mountain hares.

some phone pictures by Holly and Georgia

During the stalk we had at least 2 roe deer running away from us at the very last minute, which gave us good opportunities to grab some bolting shots. All the mountain hares were very skittish today and stalking was extra hard on the almost vertical slope. We split into 3 groups and went up the slope at three different places across the hill. Ben, Will, Jason, Mark and I took the longest route, going over the top of the hill and down again, where I spotted one mountain hare running up a small valley on my left hand side. Seeing that it didn’t run further up, I decided to go down the slope and check if it was still there. To my delight and surprise, it was sitting still just around the corner. The mountain hare gave me around half a minute to crawl closer and take some photos before running off. The close encounter felt amazingly good, as it stayed put in my obvious presence.

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Roe Deer bolting

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Close encounter with a Mountain Hare!

© Jason Pritchard

© Will Parkinson

© Becca Witt

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© Holly Wilkinson

© Josh Pawlowski

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‘Majestic Mark’ © Josh Pawlowski

The view from the top was very good, unfortunately we left our camera bags at the bottom. But here’s a phone panorama (with Jason, Will and Ben in it, and me in the distance) by Mark:

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© Mark Wallwork

We are leaving tomorrow morning, heading down to Birmingham to stay the night. Although we won’t be taking photos tomorrow, keep watching this blog as I will be doing highlights of the trip, meaning photos from everyone!

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