We spent two weeks in the Scottish highlands. It snowed a fair amount, but temperatures were so mild that the snow often melted the same day. Higher areas had moderate amounts of snow cover.
Despite reports of a population crash, we saw average numbers of ptarmigans in the Cairngorm mountains and a few mountain hares amongst the granite boulders.
However, in other places the hare populations were severely reduced compared to recent years. Some days we were seeing only 6 or 7 hares rather than the usual 30 or 40, and even these seemed more wary than usual. We managed to find a few individuals who were not concerned about our presence and stayed with them to watch their behaviour. They would sit in their snow holes for hours at a time before washing, stretching and heading off to find some food.
One day up on the tops there were harsh winds and blinding snow storms - we could hardly see the hares.
We headed back down the mountain while we could still find the footpath.
The next day next day was much calmer, with some lovely blue skies.
We’re pleased to announce a competition success. Tracy’s image of an otter asleep under a derelict pier on the Isle of Mull was awarded first place in the SNPA competition.
Tracy said: "I am delighted to have won this award and thrilled at having one of my photographs recognised in this manner. Most years I try to spend several weeks in either the Scottish highlands or islands as I love their remote beauty and diversity of wildlife.
"I have been fortunate to experience a variety of encounters with otters and have many photographs that enable me to relive these golden moments. On this particular trip I was trying to get a different image to those already captured, specifically a longer range view of the animal in its environment. Over several days I watched this young otter. It occasionally met up with another, presumably its mother, but was mainly independent. On this day the two otters had been fishing about a mile apart for most of the day, then met briefly in the late afternoon which resulted in much splashing and tumbling together in the seaweed. After this the younger otter decided to take a nap on the crossbeams underneath an old derelict pier. With the tide rapidly coming in getting the shot meant going for a paddle. Despite my wellies filling up with freezing cold sea water I was as happy as the snoozing otter."
For more information, click on this link to the Scottish Nature Photography Awards.