Tuesday 13 January 2015

New Year 2014/15 - Spittal of Glenshee, a golden eagle

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee, watercolour, 25x29.5cm

This New Year we were in Spittal of Glenshee for four nights, staying in Gulabin Lodge - cosy, spacious, well equipped, great position, very friendly owner/managers. Really excellent. As every year there were lots of us, friends, friends of friends. Around thirty-five on the busiest night, including a few children. Around thirty-five plus one, including the dog.

(see our New Year 2013/14 in Inversnaid here, 2012/13 in Kingussie here)

Each day we splinter, some going up the mountains, some walking lower level, some hardly leaving the lodge. I hurt my knee on day one, so two and three were spent no more than a kilometre from the building, sketching and painting and joining in with some of the social.

Day one was a big walk, about 20km. Starting in a large group walking west along Glen Shee then north up Gleann Taitneach, fording two river streams without (very) wet feet. When we stopped to snack by the main river Allt Ghlinn Thaitneich a herd of a hundred or more red deer were on the western slope above us and another fifty the eastern, grazing the transition line between vegetation and snow.

red deer, western slope

red deer, eastern slope

spot the summit

river Allt Ghlinn Thaitneich

We separated part way along the second valley and four of us continued, fording a third stream and finding ourselves watched by mountain hares in their white winter fur. They crouched here and there, dotted among boulders like cannonballs of snow. All day we saw red grouse and heard them bubbling in the heather, or flying fast -not far- away from us, clucking and whirring. Once when Jennifer stopped to sort her boots a golden eagle was soaring to a cliff high-above, Jennifer's first ever and I think only my second. (My first was on a walk from Loch Ossian, written about here - www.landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk).

spot the hare (s). I spot two.

spot the hare

mountain hare, winter fur

mountain hare, winter fur

mountain hare, afterwards, from photo, 29.5x20.5cm

spot the grouse

red grouse, spotted me

Gleann Taitneach

spot the golden eagle. (you can't, but it's on those cliffs)

pencil sketches, 15x20.5cm

The last kilometre was a steep 330 metres up into the start of the hills proper, our turnaround destination Loch nan Eun. A mountain hare lay dead on the path, not looking injured but nastily thin. At the loch it was fiercely cold, the water iced and snowed solid, beautifully otherworldy. It was already after three so we could only stop for five-minutes, for thermos coffee and frozen hand photos. Plastic bags-for-life made the first part of our descent very much more fun. And faster.

those legs!

Loch nan Eun

Loch nan Eun

re-united at last

It was dusk when we re-forded the first stream and full dark by the time we reached the third one. Our last hour was by moonlight, cloud curtain often obscuring the glow but always enough residual light to see by. Our track was O.S. double-dotted no problem to follow.

The other main group had driven to the car park at Glenshee and walked the high tops from there. They saw ptarmigan close up. I've never seen them. Ptarmigan tend only to run a short distance from humans, not fly away like grouse do. As with the fur of mountain hares, ptarmigan feathers turn white in winter. Thank you Andy for the photos.

spot the ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

three ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

Days 2 and 3 I stayed close to home. Day 3 we had snow.

spot the Grave of Diarmid. from my under-umbrella, under-beech-hedge sketch spot

the Grave of Diarmid, from our bedroom window, through binoculars

Grave of Diarmid, four spirits

Grave of Diarmid, pencil, pen, coloured pencil, 20.5x29.5cm

Grave of Diarmid. under-umbrella, under-beech-hedge watercolour, 25x29.5cm

Grave of Diarmid, ink and ink wash 25x29.5cm

from the churchyard, picturesque

Not so picturesque. Legal bird trap, to control "pest species of birds".

On the last day snow came.

Glenshee Bridge, work recorded as starting in 1749 and not completed until 1763...

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee

Driving home:

and Jennifer drove us home

Unfortunately Spittal of Glenshee isn't reachable by rail. By car it's about an hour from Perth, two hours from Edinburgh. Details here.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Leo
    Looks cold, what with the snow, and so on. I'm afraid that we've got you beat, however. Minus 24C here this morning with about three feet of the white stuff on the ground.
    Enjoyed your sketch of the Mountain Hare. Reminds me of a time when Sandra and I were hiking Taos Mountain in New Mexico and came across Pikas in a rock slide. Much enjoyed your ink wash sketch of Grave of Diarmand. There's much to be said about sketching in shades of grey.
    Best wishes for you and yours in this New Year
    Ernest Somers