The grouse family have long since been a special subject for me to photograph, indeed some 28 years ago when I first started they where the very first birds I set out to try and capture on film , as it was back then. Over these past years I have covered the Capercaillie , Black grouse and Red grouse fairly well, however not for the lack of trying I was never really happy with my Ptarmigan shots. Over many trips up the Cairngorms over the years I cannot recall returning home without pictures but was nearly all ways disappointed with the results. Perhaps I am being to harsh on my own pictures and some of these I had taken where not that bad but I know what was achievable and felt my shots where largely well short of the standards I set myself.
For much of February this year (2013) we had the most amazing spell of weather imaginable with virtually no wind and clear blue sky’s, perfect conditions for Ptarmigan in the Cairngorms. However during this period I had photo tours nearly every day and none of them included going up to do the Ptarmigan , each day would go by and I would look up towards the hills imagining how good it must have been to be up there. Indeed this proved to be the case as each night you would see other photographers tweeting about what a great day they just had in the Cairngorms , naturally I was delighted for them 🙂 !!! . Only joking, anyone making the effort to get up there deserves their pictures.
With the weather still holding at last I got a day to do some of my own photography, with conditions perfect for various other subjects I pondered briefly what subject to go for. Briefly is the term as it was a no brainer really to go for the Ptarmigan. With my friend Mick who was visiting at the time we got an early start and headed up the hill. By 10am we were up in Ptarmigan country . A walk up the highest ridge with most light proved fruitless, no birds to be seen, surely it was not going to one of these days . A change of direction and down in to the corrie side overlooking the boulder field things looked or should I say sounded better as I could hear the distinctive croak of the Ptarmigan coming from the opposite side, a scan with the binoculars and sure enough there must have been over 20 birds scattered about amongst the rocks and to my great relief on the lit up side of the corrie and not on the shady side which has largely been the reason for the disappointing results from previous endeavours.
Never much point in sneaking up on Ptramigan as they have seen you coming from a long way back so all you can really do is approach them slowly and carefully and just hope you get some obliging birds. Well this proved to be the case, for the next 5 hours we stayed with various different groups of birds following them as they went about their daily routine, can only say what a privilege and fantastic experience it was and one that will stay with me for the rest of my days. So after over 20 years of trying at last I got the day I longing for, was it worth the wait, you bet it was. Worth mentioning Mick my friend who was with me, it was his first time doing Ptarmigan.