Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Spring in the Cairngorms National Park

I've spent a fantastic two weeks in the Cairngorms National Park the 1st week was revisiting old sites with friends while the 2nd week was my first tour as a photographic guide in the Cairngorms to 8 clients and co guide Josh Jaggard. I've been to CNP a few times now and seen a few species but wanted to go for some iconic highland species like crested tits, ptarmigan and black grouse.

Female Ptarmigan on a ski lek

My first target was a species I've never seen before the ptarmigan which is a member of the grouse family. Normally found higher up the the mountain ranges they blend in very well with the snow but in the spring time they stick out like a sore thumb making them easier to spot. I very surprised how calm they were around people and quite happy for me to crawl up to the them. This image is uncropped.

 Male with female popping her head up


Despite the snow up cairngorm it can get very warm walking around the slopes

The grouse came a little to close to get the fighting shots a problem I wish I had with more species 

Black grouse are something special and can be difficult to locate in there normal woodland habitat but in the spring they come out to lek, a breeding ritual to attract a mate and by using a hide you can get some fantastic images however theres a great deal of work involved.


I entered the hide at 5pm and stayed until 8:30am the next day sleeping in the hide so that I was there well before the lek began and in no way disturb the birds.

video




It was mainly the black grouse I was after however many species can be viewed like curlew, brown hare, roe deer, oyster catcher and this golden plover. Many waders come into the CNP to breed in the spring providing a interesting backdrop.

Hold territory on the moorland

The most common member of the grouse family in the cairngorms, red grouse are widely distributed in the moorland habitats of the park.

Crested Tit 

The highlands are home to many species that are rare or not found anywhere else in the UK including the crested tit. Although they live in a range of habitats on the continent the Scottish subspecies is only found in scotch pine forests.  

Scratchy enjoying a peanut 

I don't tend name wildlife when I'm photographing but while watching numerous red squirrels it was easier to give them names to identify which ones were coming to the mound to feed, this one was very confident and we called him scratchy due to the marks on his side.

Common frog enjoying the sun

Now I know most people travel to the Cairngorms to focus on some of the more sexy species but I just love my little critters, amphibians being one of them and I was pleasantly surprised to find the cottages pond full of frogs! The start of the week it was frozen over and just a couple days later full of frogs!

Male waiting for some toad love

As well as the frogs I found some toads in a burn leading into a loch. Lots of thin males were waiting in the river for the females to return and pounce on them. The toads are so focused on breeding them are very easy to approach and with try and grab passing fish and even my camera thinking its a female toad and try to mate with it.

The clients on the second week 

The second week was very enjoyable with the group and myself and Josh learned a great deal from the trip and looking forward to future trips.

Bonus Eider

On the visit home I convinced (begged) Josh to stop of in Northumberland to photograph the eiders one of my favourite birds. Ducks often look there best at this time of year just before them breed.

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

@JackPerksPhoto
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Website: www.jackperksphotography.com