You may recall that I visited the school recently and talked about animal camouflage, particularly with regards to mountain hares and ptarmigan. Well I was driving back from a meeting in Tongue recently, around the long, dark, twisting single track road skirting loch Eriboll, weaving past the many sheep and red deer which seemed to be all over the place, when I very abruptly had to do an emergency stop! For theresitting right in the middle of the road, completely dazzled by my headlights was a startled mountain or blue hare. It is a very unusual sight for this area especially so when you consider their name – MOUNTAIN hare. Laid where I had stopped in front of the hare is only about 40 metres above sea level, this was a low level hare. I could not get past it, it wasn’t hurt, just bemused and hopping about but remaining in the middle of the road – It didn’t even pull into a passing place! So I slowly drove carefully around it whilst it sat and watched me go.
It was good to see one at close quarters; I have seen them very infrequently on Ben Ceannabienne and Ben Spionnaidh but not for years. This beautiful photograph was taken by Scottish photographer Mark Medcalf. He has a web site with some wonderful photographs of wildlife, some showing clearly the difference between the summer and winter coats of the hare. Keep your eyes peeled for wee stoats you may see around the village, they are quite obvious in white against the green grass. The hare I saw will have been safely camouflaged against the snow atop Spionnaidh just now, I hope he/she ran back there.