An Old Glenmore Book

Manouk popped into Reindeer House a wee while ago and had picked up this book from a charity shop in Aviemore. It is the Forestry Commission guidebook for ‘Glen More Forest Park’ and has no date on it but was published sometime in the 70s. It has a section about the Cairngorm Reindeer. I had a flick through it and thought others might enjoy the prints and information about the reindeer which was written by Dr Ethel Lindgren (who along with Mikel Utsi, reintroduced the reindeer herd in 1952).

Things have changed a lot in the last 50 years or so. You may read that back in the day some of the reindeer born in the Cairngorms were sold elsewhere and some of them even used for meat. You’ll all be pleased to hear that for a long time now, all of the reindeer born in our herd have been able to live out their natural lifespan (roughly 12-14 years) here in the Cairngorms. Nowadays, we keep our numbers at roughly 150 by controlling how many females we run with a bull during the rut and therefore how many calves we hope will be born each spring time. Below is the article, some photos of the reindeer, as well as some beautiful prints of the Cairngorms. Enjoy!

As it says in the book “Arrangements can usually be made at Reindeer House, a stone-faced lodge east of the Glen More campsite” this is true even today but not for much longer! By the end of 2024 we hope to be operating from the new Reindeer Centre, right next door. Photo from 1962.
Outside Reindeer House in 1963 with reindeer Nikka, Per, and hand-reared calf Boko.
A herd of reindeer behind Reindeer House in 1963 – this is where our new building will be.

Lotti

An Update on our New Reindeer Centre

In January 2021 we embarked upon a project of a lifetime here at The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. For many, many years we have operated out of Reindeer House, with a modest shop/reception area and to say the least a cramped office.

Visitors arriving would sometimes come in and say ‘where’s The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre’, slightly incredulous that our place, with such a grand name was so small and homespun. But equally many of our visitors and supporters have loved the way it is and I suspect are slightly worried that any change may be for the worse.

We hope the new Centre will bring as much joy as this to everyone who visits the new Exhibition and Paddocks! Photo by Joanne Weston, taken in October 2023. Thanks for sharing it with us!

But please be rest assured that the reindeer, the herders and the passion for our unique herd of reindeer will be no less than it already is and our new facility will tick lots of boxes for everyone, whether able or unable to make it out onto the hill to see the free-ranging herd. It will also be a game changer for our dedicated reindeer herders who will be able to work out of a purpose built work place where they can ‘come in from the cold’, dry their clothes and work in a comfortable spacious office with a dedicated area to have a break.

Taking down the old Exhibition in January 2024 – the end of an era!
A tractor was recruited from the farm to help with the clearing of the old Exhibition.
The clearing continues.

The site for the new building is in our reindeer Paddocks, which is quite a steep bank, so there was an initial dig out to provide a flat surface at the same level as Reindeer House on which to place the foundations. That started in mid February and without a doubt the snowless winter worked in our favour. Since than the foundations have been laid, the concrete floor poured in and then in a flash a very large crane arrived, the site was buzzing with tradesmen and a lorry came with prefabricated panels. The crane lifted the panels on to the site and the internal walls and roof of the building went up in double quick time.

A great big hole!
The gabion baskets go in behind where the new building will be – March 2024.
The freshly poured concrete floor.

Right from the start, after we received an extremely generous donation from a long term supporter the process of finding an architect, doing a feasibility study, drawing up plans and finally going for planning permission has been seamless. Much credit needs to go to our architect Catriona Hill, from Oberlanders, who has been our guiding light/guardian angel throughout the process. And here we are now more than half way through the construction and a completion date pencilled in for the end of October.  

By the middle of May we could really see what space we will have for our shop, exhibition, reception area, toilet, office, plant room and staff room. We are limited for space because we still need as much room as possible for the reindeer Paddocks, but we are extending their range into the wood to provide them with shelter from the hot sun and rain (they of course won’t need shelter from the snow!).

And just like that, within a few days the building went up and the roof went on.
The new Exhibition space.
Huge window in the Exhibition!

So, when we are all finished and everything is open as normal visitors will arrive and come into the new Centre before making their way through the new exhibition and on to the reindeer out in the Paddocks. With the incredibly successful crowd funding we will be kitting out the inside of the Centre and the Paddocks with all our fascinating facts about reindeer, the history of the herd and the amazing world of reindeer herding. We also intend to have some immersive film of our reindeer in the different seasons. In particular to be able to show visitors, who are unable to walk out onto the mountainside just how friendly and well adapted our reindeer are to their mountain environment.

Tilly

Photo Blog: May 2024

Who takes a holiday at the beginning of May? Yep, three full-time reindeer herders! Myself, Fiona, and Lotti got back on the 8th of May to 13 calves already romping around on the hill. What a treat to see them all and catch up properly on all the news from home.

We got straight in to the thick of it and the calves kept on coming. Hill Trips were fully booked during the bank holidays and Whitsun Week. We had some shorts and t-shirt weather and some FULL waterproofs and warm hat kinda weather. We’ve also been busy in the office running our Crowdfunder campaign which is going incredibly well (please check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/a-reindeer-experience-for-all). Adoptions are still flying out the office and the June newsletter is being written. Oh, and the brand-new Reindeer Centre went up before our eyes in around 3 days in the middle of the month! An action-packed month!

Just a reminder – we won’t reveal the names of the new mothers until after we’ve let our adopters know in the June newsletter so I’ve tried to be deliberately vague. Enjoy… !

8th of May: On my first day back to work I have the pleasure of being the first person to lay eyes on this tiny lass. Ignore her blue toes – we always spray their navel with an antiseptic spray and I accidently got her foot!
10th of May: As I fed the cows and calves this little dude comes to say hello.
11th of May: The father to around half of this year’s calves!! Sherlock looking very proud of himself.
15th of May: Little and Large. Big bull Spartan walks past a mum and her new calf!
16th of May: Zambezi is no longer a calf! She’s now classed as a yearling, but is still just a beautiful!
17th of May: Calf peek-a-boo! This wee one is still not brave enough to come say hello.
17th of May: Calves come in a variety of colours from pale to dark.
17th of May: Merida and her seven year old son Dr Seuss sharing a moment together!
20th of May: Another cutie with distinctive dark eyebrows.
22nd of May: Aztec on a very ‘atmospheric’ Hill Trip! His favourite time of the day is the hand feeding session, this is him recovering.
26th of May: Four-day-old calf, he’s small but doing very well!
27th of May: This is where we found Ochil this morning! She’d managed to break-in to the lichen store and was having the time of her life.
29th of May: A gaggle of chilled out calves on our Hill Trip.
30th of May: Dr Seuss again, this time with his younger bro Ärta.

Ruth

Reindeer Lookalikes

In January 2023 I wrote a blog about reindeer looking like their close relatives: https://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/2023/01/20/mini-me-reindeer/

As we are now in calving season, I have recently heard myself saying “she looks just like her big sister when she was a calf” or fellow reindeer herder Lotti saying “she looks exactly like her mum as a new born”.

So, it got me thinking, perhaps it’s time for another blog about family resemblances.

Emmental’s boys!

Emmental in 2020, with her pale coat and white nose.

Emmental is a beautiful, mature breeding female, now aged 11 years old. She is rather pale in colour with a white muzzle. Over the years she has been a successful mother and has three surviving sons named Olmec, Iskrem and Ob. Yes, we chose names all beginning with vowels. But that’s not their only similarity. They also all have white noses, just like mum! Looking back through photos of them all as calves it’s easy to confuse who is who.

Emmental herself aged four months old, in 2013.
Olmec as a four month old calf in 2016.
Olmec as an adult with very similar face markings to his mum!
Iskrem also at four months old with the same beautiful colouring.
Emmental with her calf six-month-old calf Ob who also has the white nose (November 2023).

Pony’s girls!

Pony was a rather notorious reindeer in our herd with serious amounts of attitude! She was born in 2011 and sadly passed away a couple of years ago aged 11, which is a fair age for a reindeer. She left us with four surviving offspring – two males Poirot and Cowboy, and two females called Suebi and Turtle. It’s the girls who can sometimes make me confused! Their both normal-coloured, their antler shapes are similar, and they have also both inherited some of Pony’s attitude! We have nicknamed Turtle, “Snapping Turtle” as she often waves her head and smacks her lips at us if we can walk past her too closely.

Pony in 2016 aged 5. Pony herself was very easy to recognise as she was missing the tips of her ears, but look at the shape of her antlers compared to her daughters Suebi and Turtle…
Suebi in 2019 aged 3.
Turtle in September 2023, also aged 3.
Just for good measure, here’s Pony as a three year old too! Note lack of ear tips so very easy to identify.

Suebi and Turtle are both breeding females. Suebi has the lovely Scoop, a two year old male, and also is the mother of the twins Elbe and Alba. Turtle has Amur, who has just turned one and is proving to be a very sweet-natured lad. Time will tell whether they produce any lookalike females!

I’ll leave it there for now but who knows, perhaps I can write a third installment in the future as there are lots of other examples within the herd.

Ruth

Tongues out for the camera

When we came off the hill today, I was having a flick through the photos I had taken in order to find a couple to post on social media. I found that two of the reindeer today had stuck their tongues out to me. They must have been unimpressed at having their photos taken. I thought that our blog readers might appreciate seeing some rather silly photos taken over the past couple of months.

Mangetout trying to lick the last bit of food off her nose.
It clearly runs in the family as here is Mangetout’s auntie Morven.
Olympic sticking his tongue out at a Primary school class who we visited.
Peanut, usually one of the most photogenic reindeer in the herd…
Bordeaux is also attempting to get the last bit of feed off her snout.
The tip of Torch’s tongue (there’s a tongue twister to be found in their somewhere).

It would be impossible to write a blog of tongue out photos without featuring the lovely Dug, king of the lolling tongue! Dug is one of the Reindeer House dogs and due to a combination of an unusually long tongue, and a slight overbite, he spends 99% of the time with his tongue stuck out. This causes great amusement to everyone who sees Dug, and we frequently look out our office window to passersby sticking their tongues out back to Dug. Thanks for making us all laugh Dug!!

Dug and his tongue catching the breeze!
Dug and Tiree.
Dug enjoying some afternoon sunshine!

Lotti

Photo Blog: April 2024

April has flown by. The first half of the month busy with the Easter holidays. We’ve had some wonderful Hill Trips both out on the free range and also in our hill enclosure here on Cairngorm. Although not much spring weather it has to be said.

The second half of the month was busy with moving reindeer around getting them in the right places for the fast-approaching calving season. Most pregnant females have been brought into our hill enclosure now and the “single ladies” (the old girls, young girls, or ones having a year off motherhood) were put back out to free range. We’ve also brought the first males back into the enclosure after their winter free ranging at our second site. Lovely to see some of the boys back.

The office has also been busy as always – my jobs have included newsletter preparation, working on adoption packs, preparing the 2025 reindeer calendar (wahoo – it’s just gone to print), trying to up our social media game, sorting emails, drinking tea…

It’s been a fun month watching antlers casting and growing, and bellies widen on our pregnant females. Bring on the first calf of 2024!

2nd of April: Moving the herd with Lisette at the back doing a wonderful job as ‘sheep dog’!
3rd of April: Danube with her tongue out!
5th of April: Juniper and Sundae in a blizzard!
6th of April: Fern and Okapi soon to be 17 and 16 years old respectively are the first over at the feed bag!
8th of April: Sunshine!! A rare sight this month. Moving the herd into position for our Hill Trip.
15th of April: Dr Seuss is back in the enclosure after a winter free ranging in the hills. He’s clearly feeling snoozy after the Hill Trip. He takes his role as chief hand-feeder incredibly seriously!
17th of April: Sunny (our hand-reared calf from 2022) was back in the hill enclosure for a short while and followed me back to the gate just like he used to as a young calf!
16th of April: These 11-month-old calves get to feed out of the bag for another month before they turn into “yearlings”. Orinoco is the cutie closest to camera.
18th of April: Mushy, Spy, Dante, Ladybird, Sambar and Sunny.
22nd of April: Sherlock looking handsome with those big velvet antlers.
23rd of April: A lovely morning with Tilly on the hill.
24th of April: I headed over to the farm to help Tilly with a farm tour. Lovely to see some of the boys I haven’t seen much of this winter, like Druid here!
24th of April: The lovely Hemp!

Ruth

Reindeer herder pet peeves!

I thought I’d write a bit about some of our biggest reindeer pet peeves this week – and undeniably, there are quite a few… Pet peeves 1-4 are tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take offence if you’ve made one of these slips in the past – no doubt some of us did too before becoming reindeer herders! But peeves 5 and 6 are serious, and a cause us a constant headache – please don’t be *that* visitor…

Number 1: ‘Reindeers’

The biggest pet peeve of all is most definitely… ‘reindeers’. The plural of reindeer is reindeer, with no ‘s’, and whilst I’ve never heard anyone say ‘sheeps’, ‘reindeers’ is a very common mistake. It’s only a little thing and it’s hardly going to change the world if you say it right or say it wrong, but it’s just something that grates so much. You will see a tiny shudder of horror pass over any one of us if you see us talking to someone who uses the word ‘reindeers’. Not to mention my roar of disgust earlier this year to open our local paper – who really should know better – to find that they had used ‘reindeers’ (in very large font) in the title of their article about us. Face plant.

One REINDEER…
…multiple REINDEER.

Number 2: ‘Horns’

I guess there’s really no reason for people to know or understand the difference between antlers or horns, unless they have background knowledge in biology. But still, when reindeer’s antlers are referred to as horns, it’s something that makes my eye twitch – the word just sounds so wrong. To educate anyone that doesn’t know (every day’s a school day), animals that grow horns, such as cows, sheep and antelope, only grow one set in their lifetime and the horn is made of keratin, the protein that your hair and fingernails are made from. In contrast, antlers are made of bone and are grown by members of the deer family only, and they are grown annually, falling off each year. Technically therefore, they are classed as ‘deciduous’ – not a word normally used other than in relation to trees.

Reindeer have antlers.
Whilst sheep have horns. Photo: Alex Smith

Number 3: Reindeer imagery at Christmas

Oh god… where to start? I think 99% of ‘reindeer’ imagery used on Christmas cards, decorations etc, are not actually reindeer at all.

Where to start?! Santa’s sleigh pulled by… fluffy white Wapiti? They certainly ain’t no reindeer….
Don’t get me started on the fact that reindeer and penguins are found in different hemispheres. They live at opposite ends of the planet, and always have (other than the introduced population of reindeer on South Georgia who lived there for around 100 years before being eradicated about 10 years back, but I doubt that this Christmas card designer was aiming to represent the fauna of a South Atlantic island). In fact, don’t get me started on the (lack of) connection between penguins and Christmas at all…
Granted, it is a reindeer. But with a set of… red deer antlers on it’s head. Backwards on it’s head. I don’t even know where to go with this. The worst thing is it is an advert for a reindeer parade where the providers of the reindeer were – us. We send the organisers of all events we take part in a link to a load of beautiful press photos for them to use for promotion purposes, which, funnily enough, does not include the photo abomination above.

Number 4: Carrots

If you happen to have a child who still believes in Father Christmas and are reading this aloud to them… stop. I don’t want to be responsible for breaking hearts. If you’re an adult however, and think that reindeer love to chow down on a carrot or two – prepare yourself for a shock. Reindeer DO NOT eat carrots. It is a myth. I’m sorry, but there it is.

Santa will eat the mince pie and he’ll no doubt enjoy the dram, but if the carrot vanishes overnight, it’s not Rudolph. Perhaps Santa’s just making sure he can see in the dark? Photo: Scotsman website

Once again, let’s shoe-horn in some education. Reindeer are ruminants, meaning they have four stomachs, like cows and sheep. They have similar dentition too, having tiny teeth at the front of the bottom jaw, and a flat, bony palate at the front of the top jaw (plus molars top and bottom at the back). This means they nip away at the vegetation with the small front teeth, swallow it into the first stomach – the ‘rumen’ – and then bring it back up to chew again with the molars before it progresses through all four stomachs. Tiny front teeth can’t easily much up a carrot, and nor do carrots grow naturally anywhere that reindeer live, so they do not form part of their diet. I am actually aware of reindeer in permanent captivity in some places being fed carrots – but any reindeer that actually eats, or tries to eat, carrots is doing so out of desperation because they are not being fed a sufficient diet.

A reindeer’s teeth. Not designed for eating carrots!

Working here taught me to quickly work out when to lie to people – if an adult brings us carrots for the reindeer then I will tell them the truth. If a small child gives me a carrot at a Christmas event, to give to the reindeer? Then perhaps they do eat carrots after all, but only on Christmas Eve. Not right now. Makes ‘em fly, you see.

Number 5: Visitors who don’t read any information when booking their tickets

I hesitated to include these last two pet peeves… but my fingers have just kept typing, and realistically, they the ones that actually cause us herders problems, rather than just annoy us. Visiting the reindeer here at the Centre is wonderful, and we do our utmost to make sure everyone has a lovely time. But you need to know what you are getting yourself in for, and you need to know what clothing and footwear you need to bring, in order to visit the reindeer safely and with maximum enjoyment. The people who book tickets, tick all the required boxes to say they will have the right footwear etc; they understand they need to use their own car; they realise they have to walk to the reindeer, etc etc etc – and then turn up having not actually read ANY of this info, make us want to cry. Hill Trips change throughout the year, starting from different car-parks and using different routes, so having visited before doesn’t mean you know what to expect.

We have all been shouted at by angry people over the years when it’s entirely their fault and not ours that they’ve (delete as appropriate) missed the trip/have the wrong footwear/are completely unsuitably prepared. Please. Just. Read. It. All. First. Please.

Number 6: ‘That’s not actually waterproof…

Peeve number 6 is linked to number 5. We ask visitors to bring a waterproof jacket with them for the Hill Trip at all times, and in the winter season (Oct – Apr) we ask them to bring waterproof over-trousers too. Obviously we can’t predict the weather and whilst waterproofs might not be needed on the day, at times they really are essential, and it is for people’s own safety that we have to insist they are wearing full waterproof clothing. Hypothermia becomes a risk quickly in winter conditions, and much more so if someone is wet to their skin.

Please understand we don’t want to turn people away, nor force them to purchase waterproofs they may not wear again, but as a company we also REALLY don’t want to be responsible for cases of hypothermia either. Safety in the mountain environment has to be foremost so you MUST come prepared for the worst weather, and just be grateful if you are lucky to get nice weather on the day. It’s also a matter of your own enjoyment – we want you to have the best time possible and you have more chance of doing so if you are not soaked through and frozen.

A wild day on the hill. Note the snow plastered down Eve, from her head to her feet, and on the reindeer too. This weather can occur anytime in the winter season of Oct – Apr. Photo: Getty Images

However, it seems the problem is deep-rooted in that a surprisingly large percentage of people seem to have no understanding as to what the word ‘waterproof’ actually means. It’s really not hard – it means… ‘waterproof’. Water can’t get through. Wet one side, dry the other. Not ‘water-resistant’, not ‘shower-proof’ – ‘WATERPROOF’. No, your ‘hiking trousers’ aren’t waterproof. Nope, nor your puffer jacket. Nor your ‘yoga pants’ (I kid you not – I have had this conversation with someone in our shop).

Cameron suitably dressed for the mountains in winter – hiking boots, waterproof jacket and waterproof over-trousers. Lots of layers underneath too. And look how warm and happy he is!

We’re rather at a loss as to how to get it across to people? We’ve tried everything. I’ve resorted lately to literally asking people if they would remain dry if I chucked a bucket of water at them. No? Then your clothes ARE NOT WATERPROOF.

As I write this today (in late March) 6 of the 26 people booked on the Hill Trip had to buy waterproof trousers in our shop (we have some ’emergency’ pairs for sale) before we would let them take part – despite knowing perfectly well upon booking that they needed to bring them, and being told so in three separate emails. March is not necessarily spring here – today it was full on blizzard conditions on the hill.

I can go into all sorts of other pet peeves, but I’m starting to feel a bit frazzled just thinking about it all, and I notice my use of capitals is increasing throughout this blog as I feel more and more shouty, so it’s probably time to stop here.

Hen

The whole herd in one day

It’s not often we see all of our reindeer in one day but on this occasion in February myself and Lotti between our two sites here on Cairngorm and Glenlivet we saw all of the reindeer.

It started with a trip to our enclosure. Over the February half term we have decided that due to how busy the area is and the disturbance form people and dogs for our reindeer free ranging that for the two weeks of half term that we would take a small herd into our enclosure to guarantee Hill Trips, rather than take a group of visitors a 40 minute walk out into the mountains only for the reindeer to have been chased away by hikers with dogs. We figured our female reindeer, who predominantly free range most of the year, it would be a small price for them to pay for two weeks. So Lotti and I headed up first thing for their morning feed and check. While we were up there the free ranging herd of cows and calves had also made their way in for an easy feed so that was all the reindeer on Cairngorm checked by 9.30am… We must be good herders 😉

Pavlova here on Cairngorm.

Once we came off the hill we had to do some vehicle swapping with our farm over at Glenlivet so Lotti and I headed over there to do just that. When we arrived they were busy splitting some red deer who were being relocated so Tilly suggested that we headed up onto the hill with a few bags of feed to see if we could find the reindeer on their winter grazing. Like Cairngorm, the reindeer on our Glenlivet site range the mountains which has particular good lichen heath, lichen being a reindeers favourite food!

Firstly, we wrapped up warm. One difference between Glenlivet and Cairngorm is we can access the hill by quad bike on Glenlivet whereas everything is done on foot here on Cairngorm. When walking we keep warm but when we’re on a quad bike it gets pretty chilly. So the two of us looked like Michelin Men… or Women! We arrived at the top of the track and immediately greeted by 20-30 reindeer. We gave the others a call the best we could in the high winds then I left Lotti to give the calves some preferential feeding while I went on a bit further on the quad to see if I could locate some more.

The herd out free roaming on our 2nd site.
Cottage and Silk.
Flax.
Jenga.
Vienna.

I gave a good call and from various different directions came a few reindeer here and a few reindeer there eventually equating to them all. I was most delighted to see Sunny of course. He was the hand reared male reindeer from 2022 and I definitely have a soft spot for him. He still comes over when I shout ‘calf, calf’! Winnie and Alba our two hand reared female calves form 2023 were delighted to see us… I say us, they were delighted to see the food!

Adzuki and Sherlock.

So all in all, Lotti and I saw the whole herd that day which does happen now and again but it is rare.

Fiona

Sherlock’s Antlers

Sherlock in September 2022.

Despite spending the last 40+ years devoting my life to the Cairngorm Reindeer I am still fascinated by the annual cycle of reindeer growing their new velvet antlers, then stripping the velvet to reveal hard bony antlers and finally casting their antlers and growing a new set next year.

It is an amazing process, hugely demanding on their resources, but very beneficial to the individual whether they are males competing for females in the rut or females and young males competing for food in the winter.

The older mature males grow the most impressive antlers and for them the process of growing their new velvet antlers begins before the end of the winter and continues until they strip the velvet from the antlers around the middle of August, in preparation for the rutting season. The bigger the antlers the more likely they are to ‘win’ a fight and so claim a harem of females, so big antlers are important.

Sherlock – 8th of April 2023.
Sherlock – 9th of May 2023.
Sherlock – 6th of June 2023.

One of our main breeding bulls Sherlock showed all the signs of growing a pretty big set of antlers last year and by the autumn he didn’t disappoint us. Luckily for us he is a real gentleman among reindeer and although he sported these great weapons on his head, he was never aggressive towards us and we could still safely go in beside him and his breeding females on a daily basis to feed and check them all.

Sherlock – 29th of August 2023 – stripping the velvet.
Sherlock in the rut with Bordeaux in front of him on the 2nd of October 2023.

But their glory doesn’t last long and having spent 5 ½ months growing their antlers the breeding males are the first to cast their antlers at the end of the rut and before the winter sets in. So only about 10-12 weeks of glory with big hard antlers to fight with!

Spartan, who is a couple of years older than Sherlock was first to cast his antlers in the middle of November so I knew it wouldn’t be long before Sherlock was antlerless too. Two weeks later and off came one of Sherlock’s antlers making him very lopsided! Then a couple more days and the other one had fallen.

So now we are in 2024 and Sherlock, who was so dominant in the autumn, has been at the bottom of the pecking order over the winter.

Sherlock with no antlers in January 2024.
Sherlock just beginning to grow his antlers on the 28th February 2024.
Sherlock on the left on the with his lovely velvet antlers growing well, still free roaming in the hills – 30th of March 2024.
It’s in the genes! Sherlock’s mum, Caddis, grew very large antlers for a female.

Tilly

Photo Blog: March 2024

March has been a good month on the whole. The reindeer have all been roaming freely over two sites. Here on Cairngorm, we’ve been running our daily Hill Trips at 11am each morning. At the beginning of a work day we divide the duties up and generally we all take it in turns to either head out to find the reindeer and move them to a suitable location for the Hill Trip or we take the Hill Trip itself. I complained at the start of this month that I wasn’t feeling as fit as I usually am at this time of year as the reindeer have been sticking relatively close by meaning the morning walk out has been easy. Maybe they heard me, as for a good few weeks this month the reindeer became deaf to our calls and made us walk right up to them which gave me the workout I was looking for, especially when they decided to hang out at a height of around 900m each night. They usually don’t start being that sluggish until we approach the end of April and the pregnant females start showing their wide bellies. That being said, when we finally get to them, it always impresses me how willing they are to do as we ask. I’ve had some super mornings out with the herd this month and hopefully this will you give you a taste of it!

1st of March: Sorbet having a lie-down after a Hill Trip. She’ll be two in the spring, and her cheeky character is really starting to shine.
2nd of March: Holy Moley in the snow, posing like the TV star she is!
3rd of March: Feta with antlers! Since this photo was taken she’s cast them and are sadly yet to be found.
7th of March: One of the twins! This is Elbe, since he’s cast his wee antlers he looks remarkably like his twin sister Alba and I often have to do a double take.
8th of March: The herd were very high up this morning, making me and Amy walk all the way up to them, pretending they couldn’t hear us calling them for breakfast. You can just see Amy gently pushing them from the back as I’m at the front doing my best to lure them downhill.
12th of March: This time I’m ‘sheepdog’ at the back of the herd today whilst Cassie leads from the front as we get them into position for our 11am Hill Trip.
13th of March: 10-month-old calf Mekong with her lovely big ears and extra fuzzy face.
14th of March: Building work update – the gabion baskets are now in place.
17th of March: Pinto leading the herd, with her daughter Orinoco following just behind.
19th of March: The herd in the distance moving (incredibly slowly) to our call. Cameron and I still had to walk out most of the way to them so we didn’t miss out out on our morning walk.
19th of March: Nuii and her wonderful billowing beard! Nuii will be 2 years old in the spring but she’s so dinky she often gets mistaken for a calf.
21st of March: Feeding the herd underneath a rainbow.
22nd of March: Shannon and her mum Cheer. 10-month-old Shannon is a very greedy young lass and loves her food, however Cheer is one of the shiest members of our entire herd. Shannon therefore appears rather torn between her love of feed and her desire to copy her mum! As she gets older and her confidence will grow and I’m sure her franticness around a feedbag will calm down.
25th of March (a): The free rangers were brought into the enclosure the day before so that this morning we could give everyone a routine health check and some of the herd a vaccination. This is Lolly and mum Oatcake leading the way down to breakfast after their temperature checks.
25th of March (b): A trip to the farm in Glenlivet to help Tilly out give the reindeer there a routine health check. The reindeer looking at the camera is Cicero. It was great to see some of the boys again!
26th of March: Lace already beginning to grow her antlers – go Lace!
26th of March: The herd were remarkable unfazed by their vaccinations so Andi and I let them out of the enclosure to go free roaming again – here’s Gloriana and old girl Fern leading the way. Fern looking amazing for almost 17!
27th of March: Winter returns! Feeding the calves out of the bag to give them a wee bit of an extra boost.
28th of March: Sundae pleading with me for more food – she makes it hard to resist.

Ruth

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