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

The year 2020, as told by Crowdie

(with apologies to Cheer, who has a dubious role this blog…)

January: Optimism going in to 2020, the year ahead of us all… it’s going to be great!

 

February: Hold up. What is this new devilry on the horizon?

 

March: Holy crap! Run away!!!

 

April: Lockdown…. battling the virus

 

May: Still going…

 

June: …and going….

 

July-September: Starting to win! Virus receding…

 

October: Uh-oh

 

December 31st: Can’t leave 2020 behind quick enough! Dear god let’s hope 2021 is better….

Sending love and respect to everyone who has struggled through 2020, in particular the NHS staff and all the essential workers who have worked throughout – to you all we raise a dram. Fingers crossed there are calmer waters ahead.

 

All the colours of the rainbow (Part two)

Following on from my previous blog about reindeer coloration, I thought I’d highlight some of the funky face patterns in our herd today. White face markings are super helpful at aiding us in identification of the reindeer, as they don’t change much throughout the year (or their lives). Though they can be harder to make out when the reindeer are in their late winter coats, as they are less distinct.

Addax with her calf Parmesan

Anster showing off his white nose tip!

Boris with his patchy white face and squiffy nose

Cheer has one of the whitest faces in the herd.

Christie with her white “smile”

Merida with a white hourglass, followed by her calf Dr Seuss with his striking white face.

Gloriana’s mark makes us think of the Joker!

Wee Hemp has a speckly nose and white spot on his forehead.

Jonne with his yin-yang white nose

Oatcake has random splodges all over

In winter, Ochil’s markings are less noticeable.

Oryx has a mostly white face

Spartan looks like he’s dipped his nose in white paint!

Svalbard showing off his white nose and forehead.

Texel has a white face with two darker dots.

Andi

Adopters’ Open Day at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Back in 2012, when we got to the 60th year of the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, we thought we ought to mark the occasion in some way. Therefore, in the October of that year, we ran a special weekend aimed at all our amazing reindeer adopters, who show us so much support from year to year, and without whom we couldn’t continue in the way we do today. As the weekend finally rolled around, the sun shone, the adopters flocked our way and everything ran like a dream. And somehow, somehow, the stress of organising such a big event (bang in the middle of the run up to our hectic Christmas season) faded into the past… So in March this year, when Tilly announced that as we were 65 years old now we should do a similar event, I blithely said “Ok Tilly! Whatever you say, Tilly.” More fool me.

Open Day 2017 AP25

About a week later, I realised that I was going to have to be in charge of the organisation. The Sunday at the farm could mainly be left to Tilly, but the Saturday here at Reindeer House was going to be mostly my domain – whether I liked it or not – with Andi as my trusty sidekick. Heather organised the 2012 do, but isn’t working here anymore; Fiona would be far too busy organising the annual Christmas tour; and all the other staff have started here much more recently. Damn. Even just choosing the weekend proved problematical. It had to be October, but the ‘usual’ weekend clashed with the Aviemore Half-Marathon, and another clashed with the Craggy Island Triathlon, where half the staff decamp to each year. The weekend before, at the very beginning of the month? Tilly’s first grand-child would be due then… It would have to be the 21st and 22nd (ironically, the baby then resolutely refused to put in an appearance until 2.5 weeks after his due date, meaning Tilly’s son Alex had bigger fish to fry by the time we got to the Open Day. Granny Smith (haha) is delighted though).

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Bumble making a new friend!

The spring and summer passed in a hectic haze of the usual reindeer related activities and millions of visitors, and we managed to get the Save the Date cards out, and then the general info out with the June newsletters. Thankfully Heather had done a great job of organising everything the first time around and much of the stuff was still filed away on the computers here, just need updating a bit. As time passed I started to get more and more twitchy, and in the final couple of weeks was starting to sweat a little. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not always the calmest under pressure! I started making lists, and delegating left, right and centre, but gradually it all started to come together. It probably helped that I had a couple of days off in the week running up to the event, although I did insist on working on Fri 20th to save everyone from a day of answering the phone the find a squawking Hen on the other end, worrying about whether such and such had been done yet! But everyone here was absolutely awesome, and I needn’t have worried at all as everything came together perfectly. In fact I was barely needed…

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The back shed all ready for the big day

We opened at 8.30am on the Saturday, and started off the day with a Hill Trip at 9am, followed by another at 11am. All the reindeer who had visitors coming were in the nearest part of the enclosure (the ‘Bottom Corridor’), which made life easier without having to trail around all over the various parts of the enclosure to show everyone ‘their’ reindeer. Kota, the breeding bull on the hill, still in full rut mode, was just over a fence with his girls and ensured that everyone got to see just how impressive he was as he grunted at anything that moved, peed on his legs and charged about…and tried to climb the fence once or twice. Eeek. Thankfully he remained the right side of the fence all day long.

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Kota looking super handsome! Photo: Belinda Beattie

Down at the Reindeer Centre, sleigh training demonstrations were in full swing, and everyone could try their hand at lassoing, Sami-style (not on a real reindeer but rather on a skull mounted on a post!). We had set up a little marquee beside the shop to provide some cover in case of awful weather, so lots of people parked themselves in there with a tea or a coffee and caught up with old friends, or made new ones! Visitors could also walk to Utsi’s Hut, the wee cabin in the woods built from the crates the first reindeer arrived in back in 1952, and Fiona did a special hill run in the afternoon up Meall a Bhuachaille behind Reindeer House, with everyone guessing her time for a donation towards the Everest Marathon Fund. Overall, there was a lovely atmosphere and it was all very relaxed, with people pottering around and just enjoying being here. And the weather was relatively kind to us too! It was mild, not windy, and only a little bit of rain at times…

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In the afternoon we trialled an ‘Open Hill’ system where visitors collected their tickets and maps, and made their own way to the hill enclosure, to be met by a herder on the gate, and a couple of herders in with the reindeer who could show them who was who and answer any questions. This seemed very popular too, although the weather deteriorated a bit as the afternoon went on.

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Fiona and Tilly doing a sleigh training demo. Photo: Barbara and Martin Butters

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Fiona setting off on her hill run! Photo: Belinda Beattie

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Reindeer harnessed up and ready!

And then on to Tilly’s talks at Glenmore Lodge! She ran one at 5pm and another at 6pm, and both went very well apart from some technical issues with the powerpoint, meaning some of the photos didn’t show up. This probably made the 6pm talk a little smoother, as at least she was prepared for the issues! Tilly also played a wonderful 20 minute film made in the 50s for the BBC about Mikel Utsi, the man who started it all, bringing reindeer back to their rightful home in Scotland after a 2000 year absence – thankfully the technology gods were with us for this one and it played fine!

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Tilly’s talk at Glenmore Lodge. Photo: Belinda Beattie

So all in all it was a wonderful day, but most thanks must go to our wonderful reindeer adopters, who give us so much support from year to year. We all went home exhausted on Saturday evening, but the fun didn’t stop there as most folks met up again the following day over at our farm, along with a few new faces too who hadn’t made it to the Saturday. But the blog does stop here, as Sunday’s write up can wait for another week!

Although first here’s some more photos…enjoy!

Hen

Matt O'Gorman
Enjoying a walk to Utsi’s Hut. Photo: Matt and Toni O’Gorman

Martin and Barbara Butters

Paintpot (and LX) meets one of his adopters! Photo: Martin and Barbara Butters

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Oatcake

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Tilly and Fiona. Photo: Clare Stokes

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Strudel and North. Photo: Carola de Raaf

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Kara meets her adopter Candice! Photo: Candice Bell

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Santa’s little helpers! Photo: Candice Bell

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Making friends on the hill. Photo: Belinda Beattie

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Sooty and his adopter. Photo: Belinda Beattie

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Jonas and Fiona

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First glimpse of Utsi Hut (Photo by Karen Sinclair)

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Utsi’s Hut. Photo: Martin and Barbara Butters

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Welcome to the hut! (Photo by Karen Sinclair)

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Sookie tried to go home with someone! Photo: Martin and Barbara Butters

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Cheer

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All too much for some reindeer by the end of the day! Photo: Belinda Beattie

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