The Cairngorms is one of the most mountainous landscapes
in the UK, characterised by broad granite plateaux, steep sided glens and deep
This is the largest area of
high ground in Britain, and, as a result, it has one of the most severe climates.
|The Cairngorms - winter wildlife
haven for hardy mountain specialists|
have a strong Arctic character and are great places to watch hardy wildlife which
flourishes in harsh conditions.
The animals on the Cairngorms are mountain
specialists, and many have adapted to the cold climate.
of the fittest
are one of the Cairngorms hardy settlers and a herd live freely on the mountain.
These animals were once common across the UK but they died out about 8,500
The Cairngorm Reindeer are the descendants of a herd reintroduced
in 1952 from Lapland so they're not truly wild, but it's thought they could survive
in this mountainous area if left to their own devices.
The Reindeer are
highly adapted for winter life - during the cold season they have a low metabolic
rate which means they have less appetite and conserve their energy effectively.
on their mountains the animals feed themselves, grazing mainly on low growing
They are particularly keen on a lichen called cladonia rangifer,
better known as 'reindeer moss'.
The Cairngorms' wildlife rangers also
help to supplement the Reindeer's diet with barley and sugar beet.
as their diet, the Reindeer have also adapted their fur to the winter conditions.
fantastic thick coats have a woolly under-layer and a thick guard layer which
is very dense and keeps the heat in.
From the tips of the Reindeer's noses
to the bottom of their feet, the animals' eyeballs are the only bare part of their
The animals' extra wide splayed hooves enable them to spread their
weight on soft snow to prevent them sinking in snowy conditions.
Ptarmigan is another Alpine creature adapted perfectly for winter conditions on
This bird rarely lives below 2,000 feet which means that
the only way to spot it is to take the funicular ride to the top of the mountain.
The Ptarmigan is an Ice Age survivor with a very hardy constitution, a high
altitude Grouse which is confined just to the Scottish Highlands within Britain.
name comes from the Gaelic 'tarmachan' meaning croaker, a reference to the bird's
dry, rattling call which is said to be like the winding of a clock.
winter the bird's coat turns pure white, except for black around eye and tail,
so it blends into drifts of snow.
By crouching low the Ptarmigan can often
escape they eye of the Peregrine Falcon or Golden Eagle sweeping over head.
dense plumage provides added insulation whilst the thick feathering on its feet
acts like snowshoes.
In winter the Ptarmigans survive by burrowing into
the snow to find shoots.
Also look out for Snow Buntings on the mountain
- quite often these can be seen from the car park, feeding on food dropped by
These robust birds come to the Cairngorms every year from Iceland
for their winter holidays.
The glory of Glenlivet
creature that turns white in winter which is also found on the Cairngorm range
is the Mountain Hare which lives on the Glenlivet estate.
These hares have
been living in Britain for about 12,000 years, but when the brown hares arrived,
most of them were driven were driven up to high ground.
They are characterised
by their white coat and black ear tips.
Their winter coat turns white to
protect them from airborne predators.
Normally nocturnal, these animals
hide among the heather during the day, but in the winter they are forced to look
for food during the day.
The Mountain Hare is difficult to spot because
it is generally a solitary and timid creature which often sits motionless with
its back to the wind.
But these hares often feed in groups early in the
morning and at dusk, which is the best time to see them.