Sunday 17 July 2016

Gonna Climb A Mountain

Saturday 16th July Fresh SW to 50 mile per hour at the summit Occasional showers of horizontal rain, very cold at the summit. 6C feeling minus 5C with wind chill.

The cycle towards the Cairngorm mountain range is lovely and a butterfly atop a grass stem gives me hope for a warm, sunny day. No mobile phone signal so no chance to check on a weather forecast I reach the superb Cairngorm Youth hostel. Here I have to wait for the postman.
Britannia Building Society had unknown to me had blocked my debit card. Yesterday I had tried to book a night at the hostel and my card had been declined. Knowing that I was a long way from being skint I phoned Britannia. “We've stopped your card. We thought that there was some fraud.” No text, no phone call, no email; Britannia had sent a new card to my parents' address back in late June. Great!
Mum and Dad found it amongst my post and sent it to the hostel, recorded delivery.
Now I had to wait.
Noon, postman arrives, I have my card and I am off on an unladen bike up the mountain. Actually most of the way is a push. Super strong cyclists pass me as I use the excuse of looking for a crested tit to push up the steep road.
Reaching the Ski Centre, renamed since last year for some reason, I hide the bike and set off up the valley's central pathway, which is somewhat sheltered from the wind. The higher I go the stronger the wind gets. 

There is a smirk of snow in a cirque of rock and I head for that. Last year the slope to the left, north of this snow where I found over twenty ptarmigan, today's target bird, and I am confident of finding them, despite the extremely cold gale that is scouring the rocks.

I find ptarmigan pooh! They must be around here. I scramble up to the summit just as a particularly heavy rain shower hits. It soon passes and after a spot of lunch, taken crouching down behind some larger rocks, I sart the search for the birds in earnest.
A mountain hare dashes off at my approach. I see it three more times over the next two hours, or maybe I see three more, as I zig zag across the blasted granite rock landscape; first with the wind at my back before turning and facing the gale. My fingers are starting to feel painful with the cold, despite gloves and the rain stings my face.
The ptarmigan cafe is just a couple of hundred feet below me, teasing me with the promise of warmth, hot chocolate and cake. I need to find ptarmigan for real though and I am thinking that I may have to come back another day, or even in November, when one shows itself. I am so pleased I even shout, “we have one!” Ghostbuster style.

Just one but after a photograph for evidence I decide that one is enough and am soon tucking in to a delicious flapjack with a large mug of the dreamed of hot chocolate.
On leaving the warmth, I start the descent and what should be walking up the path? Six ptarmigan who have got more sense than me taking advantage of the shelter of the fencing along the path.

Siz wheatear and a single ring ouzel are seen to add to a very sparse day list. Meadow pipits have been the most frequently seen bird up here. A single each of both pied and grey wagtail and a single carrion crow, a fly over herring gull and a few titmice and a willow warbler make up the rest of the list. Not a lot but I can't complain when ptarmigan goes onto the Green year list, bird number 267.

Green Year list is now at 267, thirty ahead of this time last year! Brilliant. Surely the 300 is just a matter of time this year. I can imagine the moment when I see the 300th bird. Dream on Prezza.

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