Emm’s Volunteer Blog Part 1: Christmas 2022

I was very lucky to be volunteering with the herd for 8 days in December last year over Christmas. Fiona had said I could help with the Christmas parades that they were due to do. It was my first Christmas working with the reindeer and it was really magical and special experience.

A Fantastic Surprise at the start.

Once we got to Scotland, I had a few days off before I started work with the reindeer. There was so much snow so I was very excited. One of the days we went to Landmark in Carrbridge and my Mum and Dad said it was one of my early Christmas Presents and that there was going to be a surprise.

The surprise was that the reindeer were there!! I was so excited when we found the reindeer pen with Ruth and Mel the herders and the reindeer were Druid, Olmec, Poirot, Berlin and the 2 calves were Sorbet and Lolly. I think we also surprised Ruth and Mel with us turning up. Lol. It was funny to see the pen was next to dinosaur land and there was a gigantic T-Rex looking over the top but thankfully Fiona had made sure the noises were turned off otherwise the reindeer could have been very scared. We took all six reindeer for a walk around Landmark with Santa. I was allowed to help and led Druid whilst Santa led Poirot. It was amazing to see Poirot so calm as it was the first year Poirot was one of the Christmas Reindeer having been a breeding bull in October 2021. He used to charge at the fence protecting his girls and was very aggressive then. He was castrated in August 2022 and he became much calmer and became a Christmas Reindeer. I helped load the reindeer into the back of the lorry at the end and it was such a brilliant day and a fantastic surprise.

Poirot and Santa.
Emm helping out at Landmark!
Sorbet and Lolly – the calves at Landmark, with T-rex looming in the background.

Snow, Ice and Tamer Calves

A snowy Utsi’s Bridge.

It was very snowy, cold and icy in the first few days once I started and on my first morning, we took reindeer who had come back from Christmas events up onto the hill from the paddocks. There were adult reindeer and calves. I led Poirot, my first time leading a reindeer in snowy and icy conditions.  Andi had to dig a massive snow drift away from one of the gates in the hill enclosure as we couldn’t get through. When you walked on the snow, you didn’t know how deep it was so you had to be careful that you didn’t suddenly sink in! It was so icy Andi gritted some of the path for the Hill Trip visitors then I helped Andi worm the reindeer which was giving medicine to keep them healthy and clear of worm infection. I held onto the lead rope and put a few head collars on to the calves who were much tamer than when I was up last in October. They had grown lots too. Zoom the calf (the one who had been found on it’s own on the free-range) was so tame and would follow me and Andi around with the hand feed bribery bag whilst we were trying to catch the calves and put them on head collars. Zoom is best buddies with Sunny the hand reared reindeer calf.

Walking up to the enclosure in the snow.

In the few days before the big Christmas parades I did lots of duties in the paddocks and Reindeer House, made up the first-year adoption packs, helped file adoption leaflets away and packed adoption gifts and made feed mix with Lisette. Poo picking in the ice and snow was a new experience (you had to make sure you didn’t slip over and fall in the poo!). One morning Tilly was on Zoe Ball breakfast show on Radio 2 and we all listened to it on the radio. She was talking about the reindeer and Zoe Ball was very interested. Tilly was very good giving lots of information. Another day Joe had an interview for a BBC radio show in the paddocks before we opened. It seemed everyone wanted to know about the reindeer this time of year and our Cairngorm Reindeer Herd were very famous. There were still Christmas events happening and I helped Cameron mix the food then bagged it up for one event that Ruth was doing in Gleneagles.

The BBQ hut already for Santa’s arrival.

There were also things happening at Reindeer House with Christmas fun in the paddocks. I talked to people in the paddocks telling them all about the reindeer and also did meet and greet at times explaining what was happening during the Christmas fun. There was a Christmas quiz for people to do and all the herders wore their Christmas jumpers. Santa was in the BBQ hut where he could meet and talk to the children. There were herder talks and people could see the reindeer. The paddocks were decorated for Christmas and children were able to write letters to Santa and post them. Joe was making Christmas jokes all the time and advertising the Naked Herder’s Charity Calendar as well which went on to make a lot of money for the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team. When I restocked shop there was Christmas music playing in the office.

The hill trips were also really magical. On one trip Gloriana was cleaning her calf by licking it when lying on a snow patch which was really lovely to see. I was able to do the hand feed talk on a few occasions and it was so special that the herders trusted me to tell everyone the important information. Some hill enclosure gates had massive snow drifts so we had to use other gates and walking on snow drifts was difficult as you would sink in suddenly knee deep in snow. One day the snow gates were closed on the main road but we were allowed up to the Sugarbowl car park. This was the first time I had seen them closed. The snow gates opened an hour later. When we got up to the enclosure we moved the ice and snow cleared the path of ice and snow with shovels and our feet.

Emm and Lotti!

The reindeer on the free-range could come and go as they wanted. We left the gate to the top corridor open so most of the free-rangers could come in to feed and we could count and I.D them. I did this one day with Cameron and Lisette. We wrote their ear tag numbers down and checked herd list in the shed. It was lovely to see that the mum’s and calves stay together a lot of the time eating the same pile of food and lying down together. The mothers looking after their calves like Christie licking Gelato. Another day the free-rangers had moved to the top ski car park and I went with Sheena and Cameron to find them. One day Hen and Andi had to go to the top of Silvermount to get the reindeer as they were not coming down to the usual calls.

Iskrem and Emmental in the snow.

The other thing we had to do was split off the reindeer for the paddocks and Christmas events from the herd when they were needed and move them down from the hill enclosure and then bring them back up when they had finished so we were very busy. On one of the days I took Frost, Dr Seuss and Nuii up the hill with Andi. I was leading at the front with Dr Seuss and my job was to look out for dogs as the reindeer are very scared of dogs as they think they are wolves. I had to make sure the others stayed close behind me as they like to stick together in a group. When we were at the hill enclosure we let Nuii, the calf, off the head collar first before the adults so that they didn’t panic.

Dante and Glacée.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Emm’s Christmas blog!

Emm

Photo Blog: April 2023

April has been a busy month with some glorious spring weather and some incredibly wild winter weather too. The first half of the month saw the Easter Holidays so we had lots of visitors around – some days we put on an additional Hill Trip in the afternoon when the morning visit sold out, and in the afternoons we ran “Seasonal Herder Talks” in our Paddocks. The second half of the month was busy with moving reindeer around getting them in the right places for the fast-approaching calving season… exciting! Pregnant females were brought into our hill enclosure and the “single ladies” (mostly the old girls retired from breeding or ones having a year off motherhood) were put back out to free range after a quick health check in the enclosure.

It’s been a fun month watching antlers casting and growing, and bellies widen on our pregnant females! Bring on calving season!

1st of April: We have reindeer back in our Paddocks! From left to right is Kiruna, Jelly, Sherlock and Busby, all here for the first half of the Easter holidays.
2nd of April: Fiona and I spent the day with Tilly where we brought of some male reindeer down from their winter free range. Here we have Dr Seuss, Spartan and Scolty ready to be taken down to the hill farm in Glenlivet.
5th of April: Andi and I spent the morning moving the reindeer into position for the morning Hill Trip. You can just see Andi in the distance letting the calves feed out of the bags first.
6th of April: Cousins Fab and Tub causing trouble!
7th of April: Lopsided Florence demonstrating an excellent example of antler growth and development.
8th of April: Sherlock not remotely bothered about our wobbly fence, but it’s easy to forgive him with a nose like that!
11th of April: Beautiful morning to see the free ranging herd. Here they are crossing a burn with the Northern Corries looking dramatic in the distance.
11th of April: Emm is here and grinning away as always! Emm is one of our fabulous volunteers and was up for for a couple of weeks to help us out during April, Here she is defending the bags from the older reindeer.
12th of April: The return of winter! A VERY wintery and wild day to be on the hill. Here’s Fly leading the herd, growing her lovely velvety antlers. Pumpkin and Lace not too far behind.
13th of April: Fly posing beautifully, showing off her fast-growing antlers. Cameron in the background waiting for me to stop taking photos!
16th of April: Fiona feeding the herd in the hill enclosure. Check out that wide belly nearest the camera!
17th of April: Glacée almost a year old and looking gorgeous! Her new antlers just beginning to grow.
19th of April: Marple and her calf from 2022, Viennetta, are now in the enclosure after a winter free ranging.
20th of April; All three leucistic calves together – from left to right we’ve got 99, Mr Whippy and Vanilla.
21st of April: Moving the free rangers through the ski area on a gorgeous sunny morning.
24th of April: Beret appreciating her winter coat more today after the recent sunny weather – there’s snow dusting Meall a’ Bhuachaille (the hill behind) and hail showers during the Hill Trip.
27th of April: The boys are back in town! Fiona and I spent the morning at the hill farm and brought back six lovely Christmas Reindeer to the enclosure here on Cairngorm. Super to have them here again!

Ruth

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