Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mountain wildlife

We camped on the shores of Loch Cluanie, and before I had even left the tent in the morning I heard the 'swoosh swoosh swoosh' of a raven's wings flying low overhead. My wife and I recently went away for my birthday weekend. The weather was clear and stable, so we seized the opportunity to walk the Five Sisters of Kintail. I was keen to get back into the hills, and in particular I was hoping to see wildlife - and lots of it.

As we gazed at the still loch over breakfast we counted one. . . no, two. . . no, hold on, five black-throated divers, their exquisite black and white markings visible through the bins.

Black-throated divers are bigger than this in real life

The walk was superb (and full-on!), with cracking views of Ben Nevis, the Torridons, the Cuillins on Skye, Eigg . . .
Kristy and me with Ben Nevis in the background (the snowy bit to the left in the far distance)

This ptarmigan must've dropped its compass

There were goats, there were buzzards, there were signs of ptarmigan and tracks of mountain hare, there was a tantalising glimpse of a blackbird-like shape in some crags high above. I want to say it was a ring ouzel (it's pretty likely it was) but I didn't get a clear enough view. So what? It was wildlife. We were in the mountains and the sun was shining. With ancient rocks and alpine lady's mantle at our feet we could see as far as we wanted in any direction.
Feral goat - too cool for school

Mountain hare tracks - which direction do you think it was going?
I love the air in the mountains, and the feeling of leg muscles working hard. I love the feeling of clean aliveness, the clarity and the perspective. I also relish the part of the descent when you start to re-enter the trees - native woodland remnants and new planting. After hours on the austere tops, the leaves take on an extra glow, the scents are rich, the birdsong lush. And the meal in the hotel bar tastes superb!

1 comment:

  1. Just discovered your blog... very inspiring and good writing style! Look forward to more posts as they come in...