... make Nat a dull girl. Thankfully, when I set out for the hills this morning, I was in for an unexpectedly good day. I let the birds wake me at 6:30 and was safely in the car by 7, making full use of the empty roads to get a head start on any walkers that might be around to flush things.
Well, I should have taken it as a sign that things were going to be good when at the second turn I had to slam on the anchors to avoid hitting a red legged partridge that was ambling slowly over the road. *tick* one for the year list.
Not five minutes further down the road I catch sight of something the other side of the fence and again test out my breaks... Black grouse, around 9, I had unwittingly found a local lek in my haste to get to the hills. Making a note of the location for a later date, I snatch a couple of quick shots before leaving them to their morning displays.
As I climbed in the valley I became aware of the copious red grouse lining the road side. There can't have been much traffic along the road before me and I begin to feel that another life tick can be mine this weekend. Only one thing stands between my and my bird... over 1000 meters of mountain. This isn't just a tick quest, its my first solo munro.
I won't bore you with the details of the walk. I've packed my nice new winter boots (the old Scapa's finally died so I've treated myself to a nice pair of mantas), and the ice is a minimal problem. I just weave my way between the skitie patches as I make my way to the summit. Thanks to my early start, I only saw 4 other people.
|Snow on the tops has long since turned to ice|
After the first 150 meters climb I was cursing my heavy lens, it felt like a stone on every incline. Then at about 650m it won me back. I was using it to scope a promising rocky area in the distance, when one boulder just seemed a little too round. On closer inspection it turned out to be a mountain hare, not what I came up here for at all, but very welcome!
Leaving the hare I continued to climb, labouring over another steep section. Two bunting shaped birds went over and I paused, grateful for an excuse to catch my breath; but as soon as they had appeared, I'd lost them. I have never seen snow bunting and this seemed like a stupid time to carry on and miss them, so I dropped off the path and tried to skirt the ridge in the direction they had gone.
As I moved of the path I heard a little croak. A male and female ptarmigan, beginning to moult into their drabber summer plumage. I couldn't believe my luck. Just what I was after, two year ticks in one weekend! The pair were very confiding, keeping low to the ground and I was able to get within 5 feet of them.
I sat in the snow and happily snapped away for a few minutes until the first walking group of the day appeared and flushed them. c'est la vie. I hung around for a while longer, waiting for the walkers to get a head start on me, hoping for a second sighting of the elusive buntings... I never saw them again.