Settings for morning and afternoon outings on Sunday 13th June could not have been more different, and it will become clear which I preferred.
I had been dubious about taking on the morning trip on Cairn Gorm with Nigel, and Sue W (the overall co-ordinator of programmes at the Grant Arms Hotel), as the programme mentioned walking up the mountain for a while. I am just not good on steady rises, but I decided to see how the land lay, as it were.
I stopped at the Cairn Gorm Ski centre’s lower car park to take advantage of the ‘viewpoint’, but as viewpoints go, I was a little disappointed. No doubt much better covered in snow.
While the lower car park had been nearly empty, the upper one, with the main ski centre, had plenty of vehicles there, despite it not being the skiing season. I took this photo to show that there was still snow in one very sheltered spot.
We met up, about a dozen of us, and I enquired how strenuous the walk was going to be. About half a mile of gentle walking I was informed, so decided of course to join in.
Sadly, much evidence of skiing paraphernalia was in evidence, and this was the least beautiful of the wildlife outings I did the entire stay.
The venue had been chosen in the hope of seeing a Ring ouzel or two, and, I think, a wheatear – I can’t remember. The first was achieved within a couple of minutes of our setting off, and very close, to the astonishment of those who knew about these things. A Ring ouzel, a.k.a. ‘mountain blackbird’, like the blackbird is a member of the thrush family. It has a white crescent bib.
We watched it bob about, getting to closer to us, for some time. It can just be seen at 10 o’clock on the edge of the upper large rock below.
More chickweed-wintergreen, actually a member of the primrose family:
There was a wildlife flower garden right by, in which we spent some time, and I could have taken a few more pictures of labelled plants (to be honest, the garden needed some tending) but I chose just this one, mountain avens.
People were also very pleased to see and hear a Willow warbler.
We started our trek uphill, which was not at all strenuous of course at the pace we went.
It was impossible to avoid man-made mountain furniture.
Though by focussing, once we got to our highest spot, on a very distant Ring ouzel, I could pretend it wasn’t there.
A very distant Meadow pipit took advantage.
I was pretty well in the vanguard of those turning round in due course, the thought of a coffee in the centre being rather attractive.
But we waited for the others, even so.
And were rewarded with another Willow warbler. Or perhaps it was the same one, having moved tree.
The afternoon was another kettle of fish, the Uath Lochans, which I see from this information is pronounced ‘wah lochans’ and means the hawthorn small lochs. A very pleasant afternoon was spent on a short trail, even though we did not see the Crested tit hoped for by many.
We met a mother and two children who visited regularly with one purpose in mind:
I have no idea what kind of mushroom this is.
Within seconds of observing this:
we observed this:
There was a bit of a breeze all afternoon, but it was not cold. Well, by comparison with other days that is. A heatwave was going on elsewhere in the UK.
Because we were only six in total, including the two guides, Sue W asked if she might bring her dog, Loki, along. She was very well-behaved and had fun.
This is bog cotton, I think.
Thus ended a gentle afternoon’s entertainment, and the day was rounded off with a yet another good dinner.
Postscript. In two earlier posts, I featured WWII pillboxes. I have since discovered this BBC article from 2015 about the defences along the Moray Firth, and this longer booklet by the Forestry Commission Scotland which explains that they were built because of fears of a German invasion from Norway, which of course never came.