This year I will endeavor to make the last blog of the month a photo blog with a collection of pictures taken over the month. So here’s some highlights from January! A month when the Centre shuts and we crack on with lots of office work and general maintenance tasks such as painting the Exhibition floor and oiling the Christmas harness. But inevitably, I don’t take any photos of that stuff, so instead it’s just lots of lovely pics of reindeer!
Like any new reindeer herder, when I first started in May 2017 I quickly had to learn lots of reindeer names. A daunting task when we have around 150 in the herd! But it is very important as knowing their names means we can look after their welfare better by spotting when somebody is acting unusually and learning how best to handle each and every reindeer. Each reindeer is an individual with their own personality quirks, just like us humans!
I would frequently ask for help from Fiona, Hen and Andi in particular. “Who’s this one again?!”… most of the time they would give me very helpful clues and tips, so I slowly began to learn subtle markings or personality traits. For example, Oatcake has a white ‘O’ above her right eye, Feta has a short face, Wapiti is missing the very tops of her ears, and if you just see a reindeer bottom walking away from you it could well be Enya!
But sometimes they would say “oh they just look so like their mother/father/granny/sibling”. I used to find this very unhelpful! I don’t know their mum!! But, a few years down the line, I am finding I’m doing this myself. So, here’s a blog with a very small selection of some of our lovely reindeer who I think look very similar to a relative.
There’s plenty more but perhaps I’ll save that for another blog in the future.
Last night I was lying in a tent listening to the wind howling in the trees above and willing myself to fall asleep. I think the general practice for someone who can’t sleep is to count sheep, but as I am a reindeer herder, I sometimes count reindeer. Last night I was imagining counting the reindeer jumping over one of the burns which is exactly what I was doing on the hill in the snow a couple of days before. I took a couple of photos but didn’t quite manage to get one of them actually in mid air as I was trying very hard not to loose count, but here is Dixie taking off and Torch landing!
Whenever we feed the reindeer it is very important that we count them and make sure everyone is present and eating on the line of feed, this is the reason why we put all their feed out in a long line when we feed them. Once all the reindeer are eating their feed we wander along the line and count the reindeer, which can sometimes be difficult if they are still moving around. Sometimes it’s easier to stand in one place and count them through a gateway or over a river. When I am trying to fall asleep this is usually how I am counting the reindeer.
It is very important that we know if a reindeer is missing as often when a reindeer heads away from the herd it is because they are feeling unwell. This is something that has evolved because it protects the health of the rest of the herd. If the ill reindeer stays with the herd then it is more likely to pass the disease onto other members of the herd. If we find a reindeer is missing we will set off around the enclosure to try to find them, this is something that invariably happens on a dreich day. I have spent many mornings walking around the enclosure in the rain in search of the missing reindeer. I had a quick search through my phone to find photos from searching around the reindeer enclosure, and inevitably only found ones taken on lovely days, as who wants to take a photo when it’s raining? The lap of the enclosure includes Silver Mount, from which you can look down to Loch Morlich and the woods at the bottom of the enclosure, usually walking past Utsi’s hut. Utsi’s hut has a visitors book and I stayed there the other day and had a read through the book and found it signed by various reindeer herders who were on a lap of the enclosure searching for a missing reindeer.
When we find the reindeer we will catch them and then try to work out what is wrong with them. This usually involves checking them for injury and then taking their temperature to see if they are ill. If they are poorly we can treat them for whatever they are ill with and bring them back to the herd, so that once they are feeling better they are back with the other reindeer.
So there we go, a wee bit more information about why counting reindeer is so important, and not just for helping me sleep!
Following on from the blog last week, with lots of silly photos of reindeer yawning (click here to see that) I thought I’d post a blog show-casing the various sleeping postures of reindeer!
It does seem like the perfect time to post this blog as with the busy Christmas season now over, and the Reindeer Centre shutting on Monday the 9th of January until Saturday the 11th of February, most reindeer herders are generally looking in need of a decent sleep too!
So, for no other reason than hopefully to make a few folk smile, here comes lots of photos of snoozing reindeer…