David Adam Gallery
David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Snow brings love and hate to Winter. Snow stretches endurance and survival for all the beasts that roam the highlands of Scotland. Snow is fun, they say, until it gets you; for many have perished on the wintertime hills and mountains of Scotland. Snow and chilled sleep are graveside pals and I have seen them, battled them and felt them deviously work together .... and how.
The dancing stars of bodily exhaustion bamboozle the mind, and then the eyes close only too easily as the blizzard stings flesh into numbed submission. Nature's cold womb welcomes one back to the hope of a warm place that never comes, and one falls into a dream where the mind comforts the cold away and welcomes the morphia of deadly exposure.
I have seen all this, whether it be with myself, affecting fellow climbers, or indeed animals. I have seen my Border Lakeland terrier curl up with its back to the ice gritted blizzard, eyes closed ready for sleep and, without intervention, would have been lost to the snow; she was as as tough as nails too and often riled me by chasing after Ptarmigan on the snowy cliffs of Lochnagar. I have seen climbers surrender to cold fate, head down and half buried in drift and, without a helping hand, would have been lost to the snow; so easy to go when bodily spirit gives up.
Yet, the beasts of mountain and moor survive some of the worst mountain conditions living through what can be six months of wintertime some years. I recall Fred Taylor, renowned head-keeper and stalker at Invermark, saying that deer can survive any dry, cold weather conditions but very wet and cold conditions can often work together to bring them down.
Lightning can also be a wintertime threat and I recall Bruce Cooper, head-keeper at Prosen, finding a group of dead deer on the high tops after what could only be described as an electric storm wrapped up in a blizzard, and, sure enough, I found a stag, inexplicably dead, on the snowy slopes of mountainous Driesh after one such thunder storm ..... maybe wet antlers and lightning don't mix.
Today I followed the tracks of some Red Deer through the glen and it was obvious that they struggled while coping with crust covered snowdrift at times. Their legs would sink at least half a metre down until firmness was found within the heather layer making progress painfully slow and exhausting. Many of the deer were looking a bit fed up with the struggle and just stood staring from the slopes above as I passed by.
A covey of Black Grouse whistle wings over my head as I sit on a dyke to sketch and the overhead spectacle was missed in the concentration between hand and paper. They fly like rocks jettisoned from a catapult, unlike the wing flipping antics evident with Red Grouse. The Angus glens are a stronghold for Black Grouse and the population seems to grow year on year because of an active policy by shooting estates to plant stands of native trees; these birds love fenced off plantations.
Today, my plan was to keep an eye out for Hen Harrier, as the doldrum wind situation might rule out easy flight for large raptors. Surprisingly, in a small area that I had not visited before, I found three raptors ..... Peregrine, Common Buzzard and Hen Harrier, and some returning Stonechats that seemed to pick at the newly hatched Winter Gnats dancing around between rush and heath.
At times snow covered land and sky merged into shapes of pastel colour that interchanged spatially with the light and violet-white land drifted into pearlescent sky while sun dappled cloud sifted a gentle powder over moor, and all became a deceptive mirage created by the reflective washes of snow, and within that shifting landscape void flew hundreds of grouse with stiff wings rustling the only shift in the chill air.
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 31 January 2021 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
My other web pages;
David Adam Gallery
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.