After the week that brought us the Beast from the East, I felt I just hadn’t had enough snow and ventured up to Scotland in search of Mountain Hare.
I was keen to photograph the Hare at this time of year as they still have their beautiful white winter coats and the challenge of capturing a white animal on the white backdrop of a mountain was something I wanted to master.
I got in touch with James Moore of Black Isle Nature Photography, I knew having a guide with knowledge of the mountains as well as the behaviour of the Hare was essential and James proved to be a great guide.
We travelled from Inverness to the foot of the Monadhliath Mountains near Tomatin and began our climb.
Getting to the top was such a relief, the snow was up to my knees in places which made the climb really hard but it was so worth it.
We had seen a few Hare in the distance as we climbed but now to find an obliging Hare who could be our subject.
Hare tend to keep sheltered for most of the day by digging out a small well in which to sit and protect themselves from the elements. This made them hard to spot but we eventually came across a ‘bonnie’ Hare in exactly that position. Now to get close enough without spooking it. Much harder. Having to crawl on my hands and knees in thick snow with my camera gear was a challenge in itself and many times we would just about get in the right spot and the Hare would have bound off into the distance!
We managed to stay with one Hare for a few hours, hoping that it would spring into action, as Hares tend to rest mostly in the day, there was a lot of lying in the cold snow watching them have a sleep. The temptation was to move on to another, perhaps more active Hare but by staying with one individual for a long period of time, I was more likely to see some different behaviours.
We were amazed to see a bit of interaction between two hares, possible mating behaviour as one chased the other over the brow of the mountain.
They seem so small when sheltering in the snow but once stood up and stretching out you really notice the power in those hind legs and huge feet.
As well as some close ups it was great to get an image of a Hare within it’s environment. The view of the valley below was so stunning and this block of cloud that was descending gave an eerie feel and sense of remoteness.
After a great day on the mountain we began our descent, carefully. Visiblity was getting quite bad and the snow was very uneven. Half way down we spotted another Hare who treated us to some lovely moments before heading off up the mountain.
The next morning we headed over to the Black Isle in search of Red Squirrel.
We took a short walk to a hide in the most beautiful pine forest. James assured me that the Red Squirrels would be here and he wasn’t wrong. Within a couple of minutes of getting settled, the squirrels were in front of the hide, climbing the trees and chasing eachother. Having never seen a wild Red Squirrel this was very exciting for me. They are very likable animals with huge characters and it was so entertaining to watch them.
The dense woodland behind created an interesting backdrop and allowed me to be more creative.
After some hours with the Red Squirrel we headed to another forest area to photograph Crested Tit. We heard them before we saw them, a high pitched sound with a trill at the end.
Their beautiful crest really makes them stand out and we had a brilliant few hours trying to get images of them on Scots pine as well as being in the company of many other beautiful birds.
It was great to see some of the iconic wildlife of Scotland, I was really pleased with the images I had come away with and look forward to returning in the future. Huge thank you to James for such an enjoyable trip.