Sunday, March 17, 2013

Caledonian Caper - Part 2

Following on from my previous post......we had decided to spend the afternoon heading upwards in search of that hardy white grouse of the mountain tops, the Ptarmigan. There was plenty of snow around and the warm daytime temperatures had melted the upper layers only for it to freeze in to a walking unfriendly ice sheet. Off into the wilderness we headed, trudging uphill with our heavy camera kit on our backs, and ice grips on our boots. Wearing numerous layers of clothing on a warm afternoon, after a short while I decided to take off my jacket and clip it in to my rucksack. Onwards and upwards. We had covered quite a distance when we came across a walker descending who said he had seen some birds about a further 30 minute walk up the trail.
15 minutes walking later and I decided to take a brief break to gather my energies before the final push for the ptarmigan that were now hopefully only a short distance ahead. It was when I took my rucksack off that I noticed my jacket had disappeared. However, what was of greater concern in the pocket were my car keys! Usually I put my keys in my trouser pocket, as you are not generally likely to lose them :). I looked back down the expansive landscape below in disbelieve thinking that the chance of finding a jacket with very effective camouflage to be slim.
So I started heading downwards looking for car keys and Andy headed onwards to try and find  the birds. I walked for a long time with hope diminishing with increasingly weary steps and thoughts turning to locksmiths. Fortunately the coat had fallen on a large patch of snow rather than in the heather and a it was such a relief when I finally spotted it while trying to retrace the route of my earlier ascent.  By this time it was getting late in the afternoon and it seemed pointless to re-head back uphill. So I called Andy and told him I was going to descend back to where the car was parked and a cafe sold the very comforting prospect of a hot chocolate. It seemed quite a long time before Andy arrived back in the car park with the light disappearing rapidly. He did find the birds but it had been a struggle to get any images particularly with light having dipped behind a nearby mountain.
Back at our accommodation, the first task was to download and backup the photos from the day. Over dinner we debated the plan for the next day. Return to the 'Caper' or go back in search of ptarmigan. A tough call as we had such a productive morning with the Caper and a good number of photos. In the end we decided to return to the Caper the following morning on the basis that is was such a rare opportunity and it was afterall the main purpose of the visit.
Another clear and frosty morning found us once more heading back into the woods to the Capercaillie location. It was another brilliant session with the bird. You will have to excuse me for posting so many images in this post but it will probably be a very long time before I do another one on Capercaillie.  Once again the bird drifted back into roosting mode around lunchtime, signalling time for our departure.
Once again we debated whether we should try to look for something to photograph on the way back south but I was conscious that Andy also had another long drive straight after an already epic journey back to the Wirral. 

As for as I was concerned it was mission accomplished for our Caledonian Caper. Such an enjoyable couple of days spent with a truly amazing bird. I sincerely hope that the efforts to conserve it from a second extinction in the UK are successful. This will not be my last trip with the camera to Scotland this year as I am scheduled to return in the mid-summer but will tell you more about that adventure nearer the time.

1 comment:

Ron Bury said...

Hi Richard

They're some first class pictures. Bet you're pleased.



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