The Dutch connection…

One of our long-standing supporters is Carola, who started by adopting a reindeer many years ago, and has since amassed quite a herd! Here’s her story about her love of the reindeer:
I am not only a reindeer ‘adopter’ but also a reindeer ‘groupie’. Yes, a groupie. We have a group of friends that are all reindeer mad. Most of them live in the UK, one in Denmark and my husband and I live in the Netherlands. We visited the Reindeer Centre for the first time in 1999.
Feeding Biscuit on my first trip to the Reindeer Centre in 1999
I fell in love with a greedy baby called Biscuit. I then adopted him in 2004. On the Facebook page of the Reindeer Centre I met the Pattisons who adopted Biscuit as well. Maggie and I became friends, and a few years later we met , in Aviemore of course. I met some other people on the reindeer Facebook, some at Christmas Events, we became friends on online, friends became friends so we got a whole group of reindeer mad people, the ‘reindeer groupies’. We’ve met several times, and try to spend some time together in Aviemore every October. It’s great to visit the reindeer with them, we all love the reindeer and can spend ages sitting on the hill and watching them.
My very first adoption certificate!
I’ve been to some Christmas events with Candice and Pandra; had a great girls weekend with Belinda and Candice – attending Christmas events with the reindeer, and bubbles and disco lights in our hotel room. That was fun and it ended up with the three of us adopting Clouseau together.
Lego’s son Blue looking for a titbit at a Christmas event!
Visiting long-time favourite Oryx over at the farm
And adopting – yes, love adopting. I’ve had quite a few reindeer. It started with Biscuit. Then his brother Bhoy who sadly died too young. I had Paintpot and Oryx, who is still around. I adopted Biscuit’s mum Glacier who was 16 at the time. Can remember Hen saying I was crazy, I know, I am. Six weeks later Glacier died. I had deaf Lego, Swedish-born Magnus, Tinto, and Mo who are all gone now. One of the sad things, getting that letter that no one of us wants to get, telling that your adopted reindeer has died. But that is how it is.
Morven gazing at me when I first met her!
Tinto
A visit to the farm to see some of the boys
I can’t remember when the adopting thing got a bit out of hand. But now I am adopting 9 reindeer. Yes I know, I told you before, I’m crazy. I have a soft spot for my old man Oryx. I have Svalbard, a real character. I have Boris, who is NOT ugly guys!  (Editors note: Boris was born with a wonky nose and let’s say he’s not our most handsome reindeer…) I have my girlie Morven who I fell in love with on the hill when she was a calf, staring at me. I have Celt, together with my husband, who was such a cute little boy and now is a real big lad. And we also both have Frost, a light one with nice face markings. I have Clouseau who I share with Belinda and Candice. I have Baffin, who (sorry Baffin), I think is difficult to recognize, but Belinda adopts him as well, and she does. And last October I adopted 14 year old, white , deaf Blondie, mother of Lego.
Visits to the herd are always entertaining!
Because we live in the Netherlands we don’t get to see the reindeer as often as we would love to. But we’re lucky to have our groupie friends who visit more often and always want to make pictures of my little herd. Thanks guys. I wish we could have come and visit this June or October to see the reindeer, but sadly 2020 is not a very good year because of the Covid-19. But I enjoy the pictures from the friends and the herders, and the Facebook Live videos from Andi, which are great.
Andi giving Grunter a cuddle
Oh, and since the Reindeer Centre can use some extra support this year, I decided to adopt reindeer number 10… not sure who yet.
‘My’ herd last year!
And yes, I know, I’m mad, reindeer mad. And I love it.
That’s it,
With love, Carola

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

The Answers to Tilly’s Quiz!

Back in August we posted a blog with some quiz questions, from the quiz I ran for the staff here at Reindeer House towards the end of the (first!) lockdown, when the restrictions were starting to lift. So here are the long awaited answers! If you had a go then hopefully you have come up with the answers and they are similar to mine!

1: An old term for a stag?

‘Hart’ is an old English term for a Red stag. I grew up in the village of Welwyn, in Hertfordshire and the local Pub was called The White Hart.

One of the red deer stags at our hill farm (the second site for the reindeer herd). Photo: Alex Smith

2: Name the three types of Scottish heather, and in which order do they flower?

‘Bell’ heather is first to flower and is a very bright purple, generally growing in distinct patches on dry moorland heath. The ‘crossed leaved heath’ is a close second, much paler purple in colour, it prefers wetter, boggier ground. Then finally the ‘ling’ heather, which clothes the Scottish hillsides with the wonderful purple hue and this year we had one of the best ever flowering of the ling!

The bright pink/purple of the bell heather, with the paler ling heather amongst it

3: The Scottish name for a woodlouse?

A ‘slater’. They are very small terrestrial crustaceans, which I often find under stones (so not sure where the name ‘woodlouse’ comes from!). When we named the reindeer calves in 2010 on a Bugs and Beasties theme, one of the male calves was called Slater. Sadly he’s no longer with us but we still have some of them from that year, including Spider, Beastie, Lace and Caterpillar.

4: What are the colour of the following berries?

Bearberry is bright red and has a sharp taste.

Crowberry is black, only grows high on the mountain and provides an important source of autumn and winter food for Ptarmigan.

Cowberry is red like the bearberry – in fact it’s easy to confuse the two. They grow at similar altitudes on the moorland but the cowberry is an upright plant whereas the bearberry is prostrate, growing along the ground often on stony ridges.

Cloudberry when ripe is orange/peach colour and grows in wet mossy areas.

And finally blaeberry is blue/black, called ‘bilberry’ in England and is very tasty.

5: Loch Morlich is a glacial feature, but what type?

A Kettle Hole, which is formed by a ‘plug of  glacial ice’, which was been left behind after the ice retreated and gouged out a depression.

Mozzarella looking rather gormless, but more importantly with the giant kettle hole of Loch Morlich behind!

6: Name the mythical creature of Ben Macdui. It has to be exact!

The Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui.

7: In which coire in the Cairngorms does snow linger the longest? indeed some years it doesn’t melt at all.

An Garbh Choire which is between the Braeriach plateau and the Lairig Ghru.

8: Name the two insectivorous plants that grow in boggy ground?

Butterwort and Sundew. They both have ‘sticky leaves’ which attract the small insects (like midges) which then get stuck on the leaf. The plant then ‘digests’ the insects by injecting enzymes into it. Sounds like something out of science fiction!!

Both insectivorous plants in the UK in the same photo! Butterwort (top) and Sundew (bottom).

9: Who was the first pure white reindeer to be born in the Cairngorm herd?

Snowflake was born in 1966? and Mr Utsi was very pleased to have a pure white calf in the Cairngorm herd. Many of the reindeer herding people hold white reindeer in high esteem and are regarded as very special.  Indeed Mr Utsi always claimed that more white reindeer were born in areas where there was a lot of white rocks and to encourage more white reindeer to be born he painted some of the rocks white!

Snowflake with one of her calves in the early 70s, in the Reindeer House garden!

10: What are the full titles and subtitles of the three books I’ve written?  

Velvet Antlers Velvet Noses: The Story of a Reindeer Family 1995

The Real Rudolph: A Natural History of Reindeer 2006

Reindeer: An Arctic Life 2016 Available on our website now!

11: In the foreword to ‘The Living Mountain’ by Nan Shepherd she describes reindeer as ‘no longer experimental but ……….’?

Settlers

12: Name 3 countries or islands ( other than Scotland ) where reindeer have been introduced in the past?

Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, South Georgia. There are other smaller arctic islands off the north coast of Russia.

Reindeer in the mountains in Eastern Iceland

Tilly

Pining for a Marten!

A shortened version of this blog has just been published in our twice annual newsletter, but we didn’t have space to fit the whole thing in, so we thought we’d pop it up as a blog too! 

Lockdown was a bizarre and scary period for us all. The term ‘unprecedented’, which I’d rarely heard before, has been used by the news and media every day for months now, and with a lot of uncertainty still ahead, I suspect the word may still be commonly used for some time to come.

Two martens just a couple of feet from the window of my bedroom!

But while we were told to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, something quite special was happening in Glenmore and indeed the rest of the country. With the lack of people around, for the first time in a long time, wildlife was once again becoming more visible!

Wildlife! Visible! Look how close!

For the reindeer here in the Cairngorms, they suddenly had the mountains to themselves and it was great to see them in areas they wouldn’t usually graze due to the number of people around. I even found a Ptarmigan nest with eggs right next to a (normally busy) path one day along with countless raptors seen higher up in the hills, but what I really enjoyed most was the change in wildlife close to home near Reindeer House. We had a visiting roe deer with two fawns outside the house on a couple of occasions; I would regularly see Black Grouse all over the glen along with an osprey fishing over Loch Morlich; and an abundance of other birdlife and the usual red squirrels. However, the animal I have most enjoyed has been the Pine Marten. For those who don’t know, a Pine Marten is a part of the mustelid family, which includes stoats and weasels. They are nocturnal and extremely agile, living mostly in trees and predating on small rodents, birds, eggs, insects and fruit. But what makes them so special is how elusive they are – until this year, I’d only seen a few fleetingly as they ran across the road or a path.

A free meal of peanuts!

I first discovered they were around at the very start of March – I started to notice my bird food bin (which lives outside my little cabin) kept being knocked over in the night. At first, I thought it was because of all the storms we were having at the time. But on a still night I was woken up by the sound of the bin lid crashing on the ground and to my delight, saw a Pine Marten helping itself to my bag of peanuts. Over the course of a few weeks it became more and more common until by the end of March this became the norm every night. I began to notice that up to 3 or 4 different Pine Marten were coming during the night and my peanut bill was going up!

Watching the activity quite literally from bed!

It was great to start being able to identify the different Pine Martens as I got to know them and see them behave in different ways. Some of the younger ones were very shy and timid while the older larger two Martens were very greedy and would stick about for longer. I did not mind being woken up most nights when they came as they were a great source of entertainment.

Unfortunately for me, since the middle of summer there has been less Pine Marten action from my cabin due to the abundance of food that they could predate on in the glen. I know that come late autumn they will be back in full force and, fingers crossed, with kits! I’m hoping that from now these furry charismatic creatures will be here to stay at Reindeer House for as long as I am. I feel very lucky and look forward getting to know them even more.

Joe

Adopter stories…

Every now and then we like to feature some visitor stories in our blogs. Here’s a couple of stories from long-time reindeer adopters Karen, Steve and Sally 😀

Karen and Steve, Moray: We started to visit the herd on holiday every year in 2011, we loved seeing and feeding the herd. When Blue was a year old, he followed me around on the Hill Trip and I fed him. My son took a wonderful picture of myself stroking his chin which he seemed to love, and I fell in love in an instant! We then adopted him until he sadly died; at the time I was going through breast cancer which hit us hard as I was just recovering from my third surgery at the time. We wanted to adopt a family member of Blue’s so transferred the adoption to LX, his brother, whom we have met once on the Hill Trip and fed! We are so privileged to be adopters and we love these beautiful animals so very much, it fills us with joy when we visit them! When we were adopters of Blue we even had t shirts made with the picture below saying respectively ‘I am Blue’s Mummy/Daddy’ on and wore them proudly when we visited them which gave the herders much laughter. It was very surreal how Blue seemed to bond with me that first day, he seemed to feel my loving energy towards him, and we loved his beautiful white colour (like his father before him) although we learned he was not an albino.

Lovely Blue!

To see how these wonderful people are so devoted to these beautiful and gentle animals is so fantastic, and to see them in their own habitat is even better and extremely important. We took our best friends Esme and Kevin up and they fell in love with the naughty Bond, so for Christmas we adopted him for them! We got the pack, and I wrote a poem in 4 verses or so to see if they worked out what the present was, and Kevin got it after 3 verses! They were very joyful to get this as a Christmas present, and we hope to visit again soon since we now live in the Highlands in Speyside at last!

Sally, Colchester: My encounter with the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd started in August 1998, the day was awful, raining heavily, I remember jumping over deep puddles and running water in the hill enclosure, you can see from the photo I oblivious of the weather condition! Totally enraptured with the two furry noses nuzzling my hand, staring at the gorgeous big deep brown eye and the enormous grin on my face totally besotted! They were extremely greedy and it looks like I’m about to fall over backward but I don’t think I did. I then retuned in 2016 to be a volunteer during my holidays.

My next encounter wasn’t until 2016, for the second year running I had booked to go on a hill trek but had to cancel for ill health. My friends still went and I was (not very bravely) holding back the tears of disappointment. My friends went off for their adventure and I was left waiting in the shop for them to return (4.5 hours later). An angel called Tilly then asked a herder to take me to the Paddocks and show me the reindeer there and show me what jobs are completed throughout the day. Best 4.5 hours of my life!

I have since returned a few years running as a volunteer during my holidays. My favourite time is either the afternoon I spent in the hill enclosure picking up poo, bags and bags of it, or showing a child how to feed the reindeer – they’re nervous to start with but have the biggest grin on their faces once they’ve managed it, then there’s no stopping them, or talking to visitors in the Paddock. My absolute happy place is sitting amongst the reindeer after a Hill Trip, the reindeer lay down and digest their food, I’m so close amongst, everything is quiet and peaceful, the reindeer adorable, the scenery amazing and the fresh air so clean.

All the colours of the rainbow (Part One)

Visitors often ask if the different coloured reindeer in our herd are different breeds, or even different species. The answer is no, they’re all reindeer just the same – they can vary in colour like horses, dogs and cats do. I thought I’d show a range of the colours found in our herd. Through the process of domestication, humans tend to select for colour variation, leading to a greater variety in domesticated species than wild ones. They stay the same colour throughout their life, though the colour is richer in their summer coat and lighter in winter.

Reindeer can also have white markings – I’ll look at this in a future blog!

Blondie – as white as they get, with blue eyes
Matto – white with a dusting of darker hairs
Chelsea – what we call a “white” reindeer (as opposed to “pure white” like Blondie)
Emmental – light coloured
Silk – creamy hint to her normal colouration
Elvis – normal coloured with silver highlights
Hopscotch – “normal” coloured
Druid – a dark coloured reindeer
Spider
Pratchett – so dark even his beard is dark!

Andi

When good photos go wrong…

Other than the few reindeer still out free-ranging who I haven’t seen lately, I’ve otherwise managed to get nice ‘adopt’ photos of everyone in the herd in the last few weeks. These photos are to go on the certificates that go out to all the lovely people who support us by adopting a reindeer, and as autumn is when reindeer look at their best, it is therefore when I take all the photos.

I realise (after sitting down to write this) that I’ve actually written a blog about photos before (to be fair, that was 5 years ago and I have a rubbish memory at times…) but hey, what’s wrong with repetition?! But actually I thought I’d just show you some of the ‘outtake’ photos, ‘cos everyone likes to see photos of reindeer looking daft, don’t they?

Most photos that don’t make the grade are just because of open mouths or closed eyes:

Beastie
Camembert

 

A classic of Merida from a couple of years ago!

But after my trip over to our farm last month to photograph the reindeer there, I realised that I’d mainly just taken photos of Olympic looking ridiculous!

Possibly my favourite…

Then there’s just the odd ones:

Morven looking like she’s just remembered something she’d rather forget…
Looking attractive, Athens!
Background? Check. Good light? Check. Camera in focus? Check. Dr Seuss looking handsome and majestic? Che… oh. No.

Reindeer often need encouragement to look alert for their photo, with ears pricked. This results in my photography assistant (Andi) doing a lot of dancing in the background while making a lot of noise, or sprinting back and forth shaking a feed bag…

…resulting in photos like this, where there’s been crossed wires about which reindeer I’m actually trying to photograph at the time…

And sometimes we resort to throwing things at the reindeer (well, nearby anyway) to get their attention!

Horse many years ago, steadfastly ignoring us.

Most of the time it seems, this is what the reindeer think of me and my camera!

Russia many years ago

Hen