Wednesday, 16 January 2013
A spectre in the mist
In the short daylight of winter, the lower hills can give great days. On a grey and frankly unpromising day I planned to walk over Coiliochbhar Hill which would give the option to be dropped off at the start of the walk and to finish by walking back home.
A short walk along a minor rural road led to the start of a farm track heading up onto the open hillside. Higher up I passed several very old grouse butts. These are small stone, wood or turf constructions used to give cover to shooters. The grouse are then driven over the line of "guns" and the downed birds recovered by gun-dogs. The construction of these butts is particularly old and the moor hereabouts is now used as rough grazing rather than grouse moor.
Above the grazing is a young plantation of spruce and pine trees. At this age the trees give good habitat for wildlife; I saw tracks of Roe Deer and Fox on the track and was pleased to see a Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) near this wood as they're not at all common either locally or nationally.
Looking ahead beyond the plantation I could see the summit area of the hill - it really is a very easy ascent.
The weather was quite strange - on the east facing slopes of the hill a thick mist was rolling up towards the summit but never quite making it right to the ridge; the west facing slopes were completely clear.
This pattern of mist and clear air was repeated across all the hills and valleys which I could see. This is a view of Morven. The glimpse of blue sky to the west was encouraging, offering the chance of some sunshine.
As the sun emerged from the cloudbank, it illuminated the mist below the ridgeline and the alignment of the sun behind me throwing my shadow onto the mist produced a nice Brocken Sprectre.
The conditions necessary to produce a Brocken Spectre aren't that common so I took several images (none of which show that the shadow and halo are pretty big). I then walked along with my spectre towards the Larch wood which surrounds the summit of Coiliochbhar Hill.