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In the Company of Scottish Mountain Hare…..

My first day back up in Scotland and, with the weather looking promising, Tim  and I headed up to photograph Mountain Hare. There was no snow really in Grantown on Spey , where we are staying at the Grant Arms Hotel, but as we drove higher, the snow covering increased. White Mountain Hare in the snow with blue skies and sun was always a long shot, but it was looking promising!

Layering to the extreme, Tim and I started the trek up the hillside.

It was mighty cold and the snow was frozen on top, making it difficult to traverse at times. In some places, the snow was thigh deep, making it interesting if we went away from the main paths! The views were stunning!

Taking it steady and heading higher, we scanned the landscape for the hare. Tucking themselves in shallow forms, to keep out of the driving , bitter wind, they are incredibly hard to spot. This was the first individual I saw, about half way up. Pretty close to the path, it was happy for us to lay down in the snow and photograph it at pretty close quarters.

Standing up and stretching, it then looked around and ‘lolloped’ off right in front of us, crossing the path just a few metres away. I was lucky to be in the right position as it passed me with the backdrop of the mountain behind…

Feeling very chuffed to have had such a lovely view within the first half hour, we continued up the snowy path. I keep scanning either side of the path, looking for any signs. Something caught my eye. In a little snow hole, I could just see a hare’s face. This individual seemed to be almost under the snow from the angle we were originally at, but as we over around, we could see it tucked protectively in a small hollow….

We left this individual tucked away and turned our attention to climbing higher. Out of the wind and in the sun, the temperature was fine (I did have about 6 layers on!) but as we reached higher levels and came into the open, the wind picked up and blew the snow horizontally along the ground. It was bitterly cold and it makes you truly appreciate the conditions that these hares endure on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the cloud would clear and the sun broke through, transforming the landscape and the hares, showing off their stunning coats. Sitting down in the snow, being patient and allowing them to come to you, they would often move from one location to another, running right across in front of you….

One of my favourite moments was when a hare stopped momentarily and then rolled itself in the snow…. this sequence shows that rather comical roll, over in just a second …

It was a truly wonderful morning and a great start to my break up here in the Highlands!

Heading back, we had another close encounter, but this time in not such a pleasant scenario. With roads running through mountain hare territories, it is inevitable that some get killed on the road. This unfortunate individual has not made it across, but it gave us a chance to have a close up look at this beautiful creature, perfectly adapted to its mountain home. Its coat was so soft and dense and its feet amazed me most… incredibly thick coarse fur covering the base, like huge snow shoes. A sad sight, in contrast to our morning shots.

This creature will be food for another. With hooded crows and ravens circling, it would not be long before someone else benefitted from this body. In nature, nothing is wasted.


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