Zenfolio | Chris Stuart Highland Photography | Wildlife Notes

 

WILDLIFE NOTES

 

This page is to provide a bit more information about some of the various birds, mammals and other creatures which I have been privileged to photograph. I make no claims of expertise regarding wildlife, the following notes being taken from a variety of sources as well as any observations of my own. It is important to try and cause as little disturbance as possible to any wild birds or mammals.

Dotterel Charadrius morinellus

Dotterel-2

 

 

 

 

The Dotterel is a member of the Plover family and is regarded as being very trusting, indeed the scientific name of the Dotterel means "little fool". It is, however, scarce and is a protected species so it is essential not to disturb them at the nest. The female is more brightly coloured than the male. After laying eggs (usually 3) the female leaves and the male takes on responsibility for incubation and then bringing up the chicks. The male will sometimes feign an injured wing and run off to try and lead any threat away from the nest. The chicks can leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and will be ready to fly after around 28 days. They winter in North Africa. Small groups of Dotterel are known as "Trips" and will rest at traditional sites in East Anglia while en route back to the Scottish Highlands in the Spring. I have seen a Trip on the high fells of the Lake District in April.

 

Ptarmigan (from the Gaelic Tarmachan) Lagopus mutus

Ptarmigan 10

Ptarmigan are a hardy bird living in the high mountains of Scotland, mostly in the eastern and southern regions where the underlying geology provides suitable nutrition for the low, alpine plants they feed on. They have adapted to survive the harsh, arctic environment where winter can last sometimes from November until May. They are extremely well camouflaged with brown speckled feathers in summer and turning white for the winter, except for the black tail. The male birds have a red wattle above the eye. Often they may go unnoticed were it not for their distinctive croaking calls, or if they fly off. They tend not to fly far, and stick to their breeding areas. In winter their claws can act like crampons and the feathers on their feet like snow shoes enabling them to get about quite easily.

 

Crested Tit Parus cristatus

Crested Tit-1

I am indebted to my good friend, Margaret Walker, who kindly showed me some of the tricks of the trade for photographing these elusive and fascinating birds. The punks of the forest, what they lack in size they make up for in attitude. They are a protected species so care must be taken not to disturb them. Winter can be the best time to photograph these birds as they will come down from the higher tree tops.

 

Mountain Hare Lepus timidus

Hare 1

Scotland's only true arctic mammal is another incredibly hardy creature. Mountain hares (also known as blue hares) can be found living on the highest mountain tops, but more frequently in the eastern mountains and where there are managed grouse moors. They will eat heather and small shrubs and seedlings. In winter they develop a thicker white coat which is no doubt essential to their keeping warm and out of sight of predators, such as Golden Eagle. It is great fun to try and photograph mountain hares, but also difficult. Generally they will see you before you see them and they do not hang around long to be photographed. Unfortunately mountain hare populations are believed to be in decline.

 

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

 

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Again, I am indebted to my good friend, Margaret Walker, who very kindly helped me to obtain shots of squirrels. Fortunately the Highlands of Scotland remain one of the principal strongholds of the red squirrel so there are reasonable populations in the forests here. However the grey squirrel has made advances throughout the UK so we cannot afford to be complacent. The red squirrel is such a joy to watch and endless fun as they scurry around seeking nuts and pine cones. They perform the most amazing acrobatics as they effortlessly travel among the higher branches of the trees.