Dynasties – Spy

A few years ago, Andi started a series of blogs titled Dynasties after watching the David Attenborough series with the same title. These highlighted matriarchs within the herd, in particular some of our most successful breeders. I thought I would continue this theme and in this blog I will write about Spy. I have only know Spy as an adult reindeer, and she has always been notorious for being a feisty girl, in fact you can read an entire blog about why we are all a little afraid of Spy, written a couple of years ago by Hen: Spy – the reindeer we’re all a bit scared of – The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd.

Spy with some of the most beautiful (and pointy) antlers in our herd.
Spy at 7 years old.

Whilst she is fairly wild most of the time, she becomes particularly terrifying when she has a newborn calf. Most of the reindeer, particularly the older mums are quite happy for us to be nearby their calves, knowing we won’t cause them any harm. Spy however will absolutely not let you anywhere near any of her calves, if you read through Hen’s blog linked above it will tell you all about the different tactics required at calving time. Whilst we curse Spy lots of the time, her fierce protection of her offspring makes her a fantastic mother and she has raised now 4 strong female calves; Morven, Dante, Florence and Sundae. In fact, all 11 of Spy’s surviving descendants are female, guaranteeing the continuation of her genetics.

Spy feeding Florence.

Morven was born in 2015 and was named in the ‘Scottish hill races’ theme. Morven has always been a fairly independent reindeer, like her mother. She’s definitely tamer but you still wouldn’t always guarantee being able to catch her out on the free-range. She’s one of the strongest and healthiest reindeer in our herd and herself has now had two daughters of her own, Pinto and Mochi.

Morven as a calf.
Morven showing off her beautiful antlers.

Pinto was born in 2020 and despite being one of our Covid calves, is tamer than her mother yet again. It seems as though with each generation, Spy is diluted a little. Pinto has now had her first calf, the incredibly sweet Orinoco who was born last year. Orinoco is very sweet and tame, but not pushy at all, making her a favourite amongst herders. Mochi is also a real sweetie, she is now almost two years old but due to being one of the smallest of her year is often mistaken for a calf, which sometimes results in her getting preferential feeding along with the calves which she’s certainly not complaining about.

Pinto free-ranging in the winter.
Orinoco on the free range aged 4 months old and clearly very relaxed in our presence already.
Mochi as a calf, who looks much like her mum at the same age.

Dante was born in 2017 and is without a doubt one of the prettiest members of our herd. She also grows an impressive set of antlers each year, even whilst rearing a calf at the same time. Dante whilst also shy in nature, through years of bribery is now reliable to catch and a lovely reindeer to work with. She herself has now had three daughters, Mangetout, Glacée and Amazon.

Dante as a 2 year old.
Dante fully grown.

Mangetout is now fully grown and mother herself, but I couldn’t resist this photo of her as a newborn calf! Mangetout is also tame enough to reliably catch, but occasionally granny Spy shines through as she shows us her beautiful (and pointy) antlers! Mangetout had her own calf this year who we have named Darling. There was some controversy over whether we would name a calf Darling, after the river in Australia. Some of the herders thinking it was a bit too ‘cute’. In the end we thought if we gave is to Mangetout’s calf (Spy’s great-granddaughter) she would almost certainly turn out to be the opposite! So far she has proved us wrong and is generally a lovely reindeer, although can be a bit of a menace if you try to stand between her and a bag of feed.

Mangetout as a new born calf in 2020.
Mangetout at 3 years old.
Darling with mum behind.

Dante’s middle daughter Glacée is now almost two and like her big sister, was also given a French name, the word for ice cream. Glacée is very recognisable as she’s got a big white tuft of hair between her antlers! Amazon, her younger sister, is without a doubt the most impressive calf born last year. Her antlers are absolutely huge, with elaborate splits in them and she’s just as tall as many of the yearlings.

Glacée
Amazon as a calf, already being mistaken for a yearling.

Florence is the next down in Spy’s daughters. She was born in 2019 as is named after the Italian city. I would say she is tamer yet again than either of her sisters, she is the spit of her mother in looks but temperament wise is much calmer. Florence has calved just once, and very sadly he didn’t survive his first summer. Florence is almost 5 so I have no doubt she will have many more breeding years in the herd and will go on to produce just as many wonderful reindeer as either of her sisters.

Spy and Florence.
Florence at almost 3 years old.

Sundae is the youngest and last of Spy’s daughters. She was born in 2022 and named after an ice cream Sundae. Sundae has got a white nose, which she gets from her dad, Spartan. The rest of her features, including the big white rings around her eyes and her large slightly floppy ears, are all Spy! Sundae is now almost two years old and has lost her antlers a bit earlier than some of the others so currently spends feeding time doing her very best calf impression to sneak into the ‘calf only’ green feed sacs. Who can blame her though!

Sundae as a calf with Spy behind.
Sundae and Spy a year later, still side by side.

Spy will be thirteen this year so whilst her breeding days are now behind her (cue huge sigh of relief from all the reindeer herders involved in calving season), her legacy will be continued by all her offspring. She currently has 4 daughters, 5 grand-daughters and 2 great-granddaughters, all of whom are either at breeding age or will be in the next couple of years. There is definitely no fear of the Spy line dying out in our herd, but diluting her ‘Spyness’ a little with each generation, is definitely no bad thing!

Spy at 12 years old, still in her prime.

Lotti

Photo Blog: September 2023

I love September! The reindeer look super, we’re busy with free ranging reindeer, we name the calves and we start learning their individual personalities, plus the rut kicks off. Having said that, I planned a two week holiday in one of my favourite months – must remember not to do that again! So there is a big gap in the photos for this month’s blog, but I’ve made up for it by just sharing more from the same day.

Just a reminder – we don’t reveal the names of the calves online until our adopters receive their newsletter next month.

2nd of September- Sambar (in the background) and Okapi. Both now 15 years old and looking great for their age. This was taken on one of my reindeer retrieval missions.
3rd of September – Brie and her wee daughter. Back in the enclosure and both looking good after a summer free ranging.
4th of September -Mangetout looking beautiful on a lovely autumnal afternoon. Her daughter and her new sister (belonging to mum Dante) are the calves behind her.
19th of September (a) – After a TWO week holiday, I’m back to work and the first job is to split the reindeer for the rut. Exciting times! Here is Fiona putting some cows out on Silver Mount, an area within the hill enclosure.
19th of September (b) – Step two is to add the bull! Fiona and I took Sherlock for a walk to the enclosure. Here he is off to find his girls – a man on a mission!
19th of September (c) – Our other breeding bull is three year old Jelly. He looks a bit less sure about the situation compared to Sherlock but he quickly got the idea.
20th of September – Holy Moley and her calf behind. Holy Moley is delighted to be back in the enclosure after the summer in the hills. Here she is on the hunt for more hand feed.
21st of September – Sherlock with some of his girls – Bordeaux, Pip and Jenga.
22nd of September – Trying to get a nice pic of Mushy and Jenga but Bordeaux wants in on the action. Or maybe it’s the white bag under my arm.
22nd of September – Christmas Reindeer, Frost and Adzuki, looking handsome in the late afternoon sunshine.
26th of September – Emmental is the first to the feed bag on today’s Hill Trip.
26th of September – Girls out free ranging! These are some of our single ladies, either too young to breed or retired from breeding. From L to R: Vanilla, Sorbet, Diamond, Sambar, Lolly, Solero and Suidhe (sticking her tongue out!)
26th of September – Catching up with this old lady on the free range! Diamond is now 11 years old and looking super. She is stripping the velvet off her antlers.

Ruth

Finding Dante’s calf

Being the most recent person to start working at the Reindeer Centre I am experiencing the day-to-day workings of the Centre throughout the seasons for the first time. I thought I would write about one of my favourite “firsts” to date, which is finding the first calf to be born for the 2022 season. It was a beautiful day at the tail end of April, which happened to be my first day back at work after my usual two days off and Andi’s first day back at work after a holiday. We started our usual morning routine and set off from the house to head up to the enclosure to check on our pregnant cows and feed them, upon feeding the cows we realised that one reindeer was missing, so we grabbed our calving bag which includes: feed for the mother, spot on and antibiotic blue spray for the calf’s naval and made a start on searching the enclosure. For anyone that hasn’t been to our enclosure it is a vast amount of space to search, the perimeter line is 8km in length alone! The missing reindeer was the lovely, four year old, Dante.

We headed along the top ridge of the enclosure to check a well-known calving area up there, but the missing reindeer was nowhere to be seen so we continued climbing to the summit of Silver Mount in search of Dante. Keeping with the theme of many “first” experiences, this was also my first time being on and seeing the summit of Silver Mount, which has glorious views of the Northern Corries, Loch Morlich and down onto Glenmore. Luckily for us, Dante was also at the summit of Silver Mount.

Looking down the top ridge towards Black Loch and Coire Cas in the distance.
The view from Silver Mount looking across our enclosure towards the Pass of Ryvoan.

With the easy part over we had to try and see whether Dante had calved or not and for the untrained eye this was a lot harder than it sounds. We could see that the reindeer was focusing on a specific ginger looking spot, but was this a new-born calf or a rock? A question that all herders ask themselves on a regular basis when looking for full grown reindeer, never mind a tiny calf! We were lucky though and the ginger mound began to move which confirmed that we had officially found the first calf of the season! Andi headed over to feed the mother, treat the naval of the calf and give spot on to give it protection from those dreaded ticks. Once we had checked that all was ok we headed back down to reindeer house to share the amazing news that our calving season had begun!

Dante and calf looking epic with the snowy Northen Corries behind.
Close up of Dante’s calf – the blue colour on her navel is the antibiotic spray.

At the end of May Dante and her one month old calf headed out to the hills for the summer, along with around half of our other mums and calves. We caught up with them a few times whist they roamed freely in the hills, both mum and daughter seemed to have a great summer as they were always in excellent condition. The pair are now back in our hill enclosure for the autumn where we’ll begin to train Dante’s calf to wear a halter and get to know her personality. Hopefully she’ll grow up to be a big strong girl like her mum, and big sister Mangetout.

A big moment when the first batch of cows and calves are let out of the enclosure to free range for the summer.
Dante’s calf enjoying the tasty lichen whilst out free ranging at the end of August – 4 months old to the day!

Amy

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