Cairngorms Break – Day 4 Ptarmigan & Sunsets

At last we had a forecast that looked good enough for us to head up in the Cairngorm mountains to search for the species Pete had most wanted to photograph this holiday; the Ptarmigan. Ptarmigan are in the Grouse family. They are possibly Britain’s toughest birds, living in the cold, harsh mountains of Scotland. Ptarmigans are masters of camouflage changing their colour to suit the season. In winter, they are completely white except for a short black tail, while in summer a brown and yellow plumage blends the ptarmigan into the lichen covered rocks. At this time of year, they are beautifully mottled; each one unique as they change into their winter coat. Their feathered feet then act as snow shoes, enabling the ptarmigan to walk on soft snow. 

I have never seen Ptarmigan, so was excited about seeing them and if I could get a good photograph, it would be a bonus. At this time of the year, when they are turning white and the ground is not covered with snow, they are very obvious on the landscape. This can often mean they are quite ‘flighty’ making them difficult to get close to, to photograph.

With a long day on the mountain, we headed to ‘Simpsons’ – the Garden Centre where Andy is the Manager. There, we were treated to one of their amazing breakfasts and it also gave us the chance to have a look at the 2020 Vision Exhibition that was gracing the Garden Centre’s outdoor space.

2020vision

The images here are truly inspirational and we showed our appreciation with a few light-hearted shots to start the day!

They breed them big in The Highlands…

Andy

Kate

Lyndsey tames a Giant Adder…

Lynsey

… and the best place for Pete??!!!!…..

Pete

 

Although the mist was on the lower ground, as we headed up to Cairngorm Mountain we rose above it and the clearing skies looked very promising.

We took the chance to take a few shots of us with the spectacular backdrop…

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We met Neil McIntyre ( whose website can be accessed via the link below) and took the Funicular Railway, which takes you up to 3500ft .

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Emerging onto the mountain side, we were blown away with the views! The light was gorgeous and the mist was still drifting over the lower hollows. The wind was a tad chilly, but for November, the conditions were incredible. 

We started scouring the landscape for the ptarmigan and they were pretty easy to spot in their white plumage. They were hard to get close to, though, and we had to creep along the hillside and boulders to try to get close enough to get a shot. Eventually our patience was rewarded…

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With the Ptarmigan  heading further up the mountain, we decided to call it a day, but the mountain had more to offer! As the sun sunk lower in the sky we were treated to a totally magical sunset of constant changing colours. It was truly amazing and no photos will ever really do it justice…

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The light was constantly changing, but the last Funicular was leaving and it was a long walk down in the failing light. We headed down to the car park and started the journey back to Andy and Lyndsey’s, but stopped at Loch Morlich to catch the last rays…

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What a totally incredible day…. wonderful landscape, wildlife and great company!