Wednesday 22 November 2023

Ptarmigan or Bust.

Waking up on the morning that we were to start the journey back south we were somewhat surprised to see the sun shining. We should really only be thinking about the long journey back to Ormskirk, but the dream of perhaps finally catching up properly with the Ptarmigan was drawing us back towards a final climb up Glen Shee. After all, we knew there had been at least 3 of the birds in the area the day before.

So, instead of driving south straight away we drove back to the ski centre car park with all the gear in the car!! The sun was still shining, although it wasn't long before we found it was still very breezy, especially at the top of the mountain. 

At the start of our holiday the Ptarmigan had been at the top of our most wanted list, and we had climbed several mountains in search of them, so this was almost a make or break for the trip.

On reaching the top we immediately came across several Red Grouse. The search around the whole area followed and the nearest we got was amazingly 3 Ptarmigan feathers, that had somehow stuck to the rocky outcrops. Considering how breezy it was they should have blown miles away!!

We tried in desperation other areas near the summit, seeing a few more Mountain Hares but still no Ptarmigan. We should now have been nearing Glasgow in the car with our original plans for the day. However, we battled on. 

It was now getting really frustrating after over 2 hours of searching, and I was now about to accept that we just were not going to see any Ptarmigan. As we started a slight descent something caught my eye amongst another outcrop of rocks. I quickly and quietly called to Lisa, as there in front of my eyes were 3 feeding Ptarmigan. It was such an amazing moment to realise that our really long search had in the final moments come to fruition. We both started to take photos of them, although the wind made it difficult holding the cameras steady. After several minutes the birds flew a short distance, but we managed to creep back up to them a couple more times. After watching them for 30 plus minutes we decided to leave them in peace, and we were able to glow and celebrate our success!!

My first ever Ptarmigan.

All 3 birds were changing to their white winter plumage, but one of the birds was quite a bit further back, with only a little white showing, and this one was very well camouflaged when it was amongst the rocky terrain.

We heard, and saw them calling a couple of times.

Check out those feet!!

The least white bird of the three.

Instead of now starting to climb back down to the car, Lisa decided she would now like to try and get some more Mountain Hare photos. Well, I suppose we felt we were on a roll now, so I quickly agreed that we could hang on a little more time. Lisa quickly spotted one Hare basking in the sunshine. I hung back a little to give her a better chance of getting close. The Hare really looked half asleep, although, of course it wasn't. However she got reasonably close before it ambled off.

A Relaxed Mountain Hare.

As with yesterday, we noticed the Hares were changing to their winter coats too, with some much whiter than others. One day I hope to photograph them once they have fully changed to white.

The beautiful Mountain Hare giving me a final pose before we leave Scotland.

We just couldn't believe how well this final Scottish session had gone. Not only seeing the Ptarmigan so well, but also getting our best Mountain Hare photos of the trip.

We now had 2 days of travelling south, back to Sussex via Ormskirk and Martin Mere. The trip south however was made much easier as we were still basking in our final day success.

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