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

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: February 2024

We reopened to the public on the 10th of February. With no Paddocks and Exhibition available (the site is currently a very big hole) it feels rather strange! But the Hill Trips are running as usual, in fact for the February half term we brought some of our free ranging cows and nine month old calves in to our hill enclosure allowing us to do two Hill Trips a day. So, we’ve been busy looking after our the herd in the enclosure and checking in with the free rangers once every few days. February has so far been rather mild so far with not very much snow so we’ve been having a relatively easy time, and the reindeer are finding easy grazing. We’ll be back to free range visits very soon (Monday 26th Feb) so if anyone is visiting us between now and the end of April be prepared for potentially much longer walks out to find the herd.

1st of February: Andi surrounded by some of our wonderful reindeer calves.
1st of February: Colorado the cutie!
7th of February: Repairing a fence at the top of our hill enclosure that got ripped up by a recent storm. Cameron is stood by the hole where the strainer post in the foreground should have been!
8th of February (a): Lotti and I head out to bring in the free ranging herd to our hill enclosure ready for the half term school holidays. Here’s Morven leading the way.
8th of February (b): Trying my best to woo the herd across the burn. I can confirm the burn was higher than the height of my wellies.
8th of February (c): Lace was the first to cross the burn with her calf Limpopo at her side. Thank you Lace for being a great leader! The herd were quick to follow her and then marched up this hill that we affectionately call Killer Hill.
11th of February: Holy Moley showing off her lovely incisors!
14th of February: After a day in the enclosure these reindeer are off back out free roaming. From L to R we’ve got Sorbet, Feta, Pip, Danube, Colorado (and his mum Christie just poking her head out behind) and Elbe.
15th of February: Sundae being cute as ever on a very dreich Hill Trip.
16th of February: Amazon saying hello.
16th of February: The state of the Paddocks just now.
20th of February: A recent storm blew down (another) fence within the enclosure. Here’s the delivery of new posts ready for for work to commence.
22nd of February: We did a enclosure swap. These are the girls who’ve been in the hill enclosure for a wee while now heading back out to free roam with Fiona leading the way.
22nd of February: Our wonderful volunteer Emm is back and has brought the sun with her. All the herders are delighted to see her, and so is Feta!

Ruth

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