Mountain Hare / Red Squirrel Winter
Dates: December to March
Cost: £150 per person (max 3)
Location: near Aviemore, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.
Typical session: 0800 to 1600
Level of fitness: Moderate: The walk to the red squirrel hide is very easy. The initial hare location involves a 1km walk (each way) initially on flat ground then with around 0.4km uphill. This can be more strenuous in deep snow.
Required lens: 300-500mm range is most appropriate although a short lens (70-200mm) is useful if you want to include more of the habitat.
What to expect: A full day of photography split between these two charismatic Scottish mammals.
Red Squirrel Hide (0800-1100): Red Squirrel photography is from a sunken wooden hide in a clearing in a pine woodland setting with natural props and an attractive background. The hide accommodates 3 people and allows low level shooting, There is a solid shelf where you can place a bean bag or two if you wish to shoot with difference lenses.
There are typically 4-6 red squirrels visiting the feeding station where they are baited with hazelnuts. During a morning session you can expect a good number of visits providing plenty of opportunities for portraits and action shots including jumping if there is sufficient light to obtain the necessary high shutter speeds. During busy periods of activity several squirrels may be present, which results in chasing and territorial behaviour. The squirrels divide their time between feeding in situ on the various props and catching nuts, making repeated visits to the feeding station.
Mountain Hare (1200-1600): We will be on foot in the open for the entire time in order to photograph the hares in their natural environment, so you need to be well prepared for the cold and possible snow/rain. During the day the mountain hares tend to lie in snow holes and once located can often be approached at close range. This allows for some superb close-up opportunities. We will aim to locate a confiding hare and then remain with it for an extended period of time as this approach always yields the most rewarding images of hare behaviour such as grooming, yawning, stretching and running. Do bear in mind that not all hares are approachable and we may have to search for some time to find a hare than we can work with.