Thursday 21 November 2013

Our Wildlife is Ready for Winter

The hills have had their second full carpetting of snow here after a wild stormy day on Wednesday with proper blizzards. If you want to come out to the hills now, full winter gear is recommended - ice-axe, crampons and winter boots. Many of the tracks are icy - so you need to take care on bikes too.

White hills on Thursday morning from the estate office

However, the wildlife is ready. Our red deer have grown their thick winter coats, with hollow, duvet-like hairs and the mountain hares have moulted to their winter coat. This white coat is perfect camouflage for conditions like we have now, but it's a disaster if we have a mild winter. When there's no snow, their white coat makes them obvious for miles around, and a hungry golden eagle can follow them very easily, before swooping down and helping themselves to a good meal. Winter is a hungry time for eagles and mountain hares can be an important part of their diet. If they can't find hares, they often survive on carrion.

Too obvious when there's no snow!
Ptarmigan (Mountain grouse) and some stoats also go white in winter for camouflage.

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