Monday, 31 January 2011
So much for the colder weather that I heralded through my last blog. For most of last week we had a high pressure sitting over the country. Sure, we had frosts down to -8. but we had glorious, sunny still days in between 'em.
Great weather to be oot the hill but lousy conditions for stalking. We all arrived back at the larder in the evenings ranting about flukey winds and beasts sent packing by grouse getting up hundreds of yards away. I feel my teeth wanting to gnash at the very thought of it.
The culmination of the week was taking a good friend of mine out on Friday. We eventually found a herd of about 200 right at the top of the hill.
Unfortunately we didn't get to stalk them for what seemed like an age. They ran this way and that, they stood bunched up on the skyline, not one would settle down or start feeding.
All we could do while this was going on was to watch and wait. In a particularly frosty hollow, wouldn't you know. Eventually they lay down and we stalked in.
We got into position and I picked out a fine yeld hind for Gordon. Twenty minutes later, the hind got up, turned away from us and walked off over the skyline without pause. The other 199 followed her. Right at the back a particularly scrawny calf paused outside Last Chance Saloon......
We thought it to be a lot of time and effort for one ill-thriven beast. Eric and Fergus (the horse) thought the same when they arrived at the top of the hill to pick it up.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
It's been so mild over the past week that our deer removed themselves to the far corners of the estate. This has meant lots of walking (the roads are still full of snow, of course) for little result.
I did, however manage to fall in with this hind shown in the pics. She was amongst a large group of deer and seemed determined to keep in the thick of them. It was only when they crossed a wreath of old snow on a steep brae that she struggled to keep up.
I knew she was badly crippled but it was only when I got up to her that I could see the extent of her problem. In the photo you might be able to make out that her back leg is broken up in her lower haunch.
It must have been like this for a considerable time. You can see how long her 'toenails' have grown without the wear caused by walking on them. Whatever, I'm very glad to have got her.
The thing that amazes me is that this is the first time I've seen this hind. Where the hell has she been hiding all winter??
The weather turned much colder today. There was a snell wind with snow flurries blowing through in the afternoon. It's come in the nick of time as I had my first stalking guest for ages.
The deer had been pushed onto far more accessible ground. We had 4 stalks for the day and finished with 5 beasts. Result.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
You'd hardly believe the change that this weeks thaw has brought. You'll see pics from last week and a couple from yesterday.
And yes, that is an adder in one of the photos. The poor thing must have had its alarm clock set wrong- or perhaps it was washed out of its hole by meltwater. When Eric (my ponyman) found it yesterday, it was barely moving and felt as cold as ice.
Today we found it again, dead where we left it. Speaking with my colleagues, no-one has ever seen an adder out anywhere near this time of year. For obvious reasons, it appears.
And while on the subject of downfalls; this morning I did my Tom Daley impersonation whilst trying to cross a burn on ice-glazed rocks. In another arena my back-flip with triple salco might have earned me a medal. Instead I got cold, wet and a knee sore enough to make crawling a pain in the arse. As it were.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
A normal day. I was heading to the hill, desperate to get on with my hind cull. With the weather having turned a whole lot milder, it had rained in the night.
I could see how icy it had gotten with the rain having fallen on frozen ground. So I was straddling the tracks as I climbed up through the first park. Then the rover slipped sideways into the frozen tracks.
It slid 50m.
Have a good look at the pic and see where it stopped. Then go and make sure that someone who you love knows it.
Even if it is just a normal day.
Monday, 10 January 2011
Happy New Year, one and all.
As you may be able to tell from the pics, the new year also seems to have brought a change in conditions.
The snow has had a big shift and even the treacherous ice that remained is starting to clear. And it's supposed to stay mild all week now.
In preparation for this, Eric my ponyman, led Fergus back to his post. I have a feeling I'll be needing them both. This weather will allow the deer to move waaay out.
Unusually for Fergus, he was a bit reluctant to be caught- I blame a month of too much time on his...er, hooves. (There was so much snow, and so much ice underneath it, that it has been too dangerous to work the horses for all of December.)
I can't deny that I was feeling a little bit reluctant myself after a fortnight off. I knew from experience that the hills would feel a whole lot steeper upon my return.
And I wasn't wrong. Still today, as a warm-up, I gave myself a mile-long drag. She wasn't a small hind either. It certainly warmed me up, but if there hadn't still been snow on the ground, I likely would have been.
Interestingly, as I was on my way to stalk the hinds, I came across strange marks in the snow. Like something little had been dragged down the hill. I had my suspicions and after following this slide for a while I came to a flatter bit of ground. And it's at that point the otter had had to stop his 'sledging' and walk for a bit.
The snow is brilliant for showing you just what you have going about. I come across quite a lot of otters marks. Which makes it all the more surprising how rarely we actually see them.