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January 2015

 

 

Red Squirrel in the snow

 

 

It’s taken 4 years of visiting the Cairngorms in winter to finally get snow.  Every year I have hoped for snow, indeed, I have ‘ordered' snow but this time in the run up to the trip, I began to think that I had over-ordered!  There were horror stories of snow drifts, deep snow fall and road closures over the whole of Scotland.  When we got to the highlands, there was a thick carpet of snow on the roads and it was snowing heavily.  The snow ploughs and gritting lorries were out in force and the driving conditions were challenging to say the least but we got to our beautiful, warm cottage in one piece and thanked our lucky stars, our vehicles and their drivers.  

I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 days photographing red squirrels over the last 3 winters but never been lucky enough to photograph them in the snow.  This time, we were incredibly lucky.  Not only was there thick snow but it also snowed on our first full day of photography. Bliss.  The light that is reflected up and around the squirrels is astonishing and helps to create magical and extraordinary images.  The squirrels are wearing their thick winter coats and their ear tufts are at their longest.  Even the tiniest flakes of snow are highlighted on the radiant copper coloured fur and whiskers. 

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The squirrels, like all wildlife in the winter, are having a tough time.  Hazelnuts are a fantastic and very welcome food source for the squirrels and they busy themselves rushing about caching nuts as well as sometimes, just sitting and eating … and posing prettily.

Is it cold just sitting waiting for the squirrels? The temperatures can be well below freezing, especially with wind chill to take into account but there’s nothing like the sight of wildlife through the viewfinder to make you forget everything.

The Cairngorms are such a beautiful place to be in winter... and this particular visit, it was like walking through a wardrobe and ending up in Narnia.  The snow on the trees is quite mesmerising.

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I tried to photograph some of the bigger snowy scenes but I wasn't very successful ... so here's a few 'work in progress' images that if I'm lucky enough to re-visit the Cairngorms, will be improved upon.

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One day I missed the colour in the sunset by faffing about and found myself in experimental mode surrounded by wild mallards, ice and webbed-duckprints. When the light had almost completely gone, I realised that the orange of their feet stood out against the blue-grey tones of the ice.  Time for fun with ducks on ice!

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Photography doesn't stop after dinner!  If there's a moon in the sky or some stars, then there's always an opportunity for something completely different and some snowy night time scenes. Was it cold?  Yes.  Was it very late?  Yes. Was it fun?  Oh yes!

 

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I'd never seen a Goldcrest before this January... and I saw one flitting around the lower branches of an ancient Caledonian Pine while i was waiting in vain for a Red Squirrel to show up in the pine forest.  I was mesmerised by this little tiny bird as it buzzed and flitted and hovered among the branches.  These may not be the best photos, but I like them!

 

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I had great fun on this trip with friends David, Ian & Cathy.  We stayed at the warm and cozy Northshots cottage near Kingussie and, given the amount of snow about, owe a debit of grattitude to David for driving us around in the amazing and sure-footed Bongo.  Thanks for everything guys... can we go again?