Roaring, rutting, hares and seed collecting!

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Yesterday was the first of this year’s “Roaring and Rutting” walks. Mark (NHT Land Manager) and I took a group of six walkers out to Glen Cravadale to see the rut; we were relieved to find the glen full of roaring stags as we came over the bealach at the top of Glen Liosaid. I have two more rutting walks to come; one to Glen Ulladail and the other to Glen Langadale.

The rut is where the males compete amongst themselves for ownership of groups of females, and defend established harems against rival males, for breeding with the oestrus females. The roaring that can be heard in the glens is the stags sizing each other up. This can lead to direct confrontations between two stags. This behavior is triggered primarily by the shortening day length, and will often last right through October.

Also this week I have been gathering in the markers we put out for the “Five Peaks Challenge” over the Mountain Festival. Yesterday I left Mark to take the walking group back down the glen, and set off up Tiorga Mor to collect the marker on the summit. On the top I caught a glimpse of a Mountain Hare – the Hare are currently moulting; this one was almost entirely white/grey. Whilst this change of coat may be beneficial on the hills of the mainland, out on Harris the limited snowfall means that they are incredibly easy to spot through most of the winter – something I’m sure the Golden Eagles are very happy about!

Last week I was out for a couple of afternoons collecting Downy Birch seed and Rowan berries. These I plan to propagate over the winter as the first stock for the planned NHT tree nursery. This involved clambering around in gulleys and on crags – the only places you find remnant native woodland on Harris are areas inaccessible to grazing. The presence of Aspen in most of these sites indicates that woodland has been there for thousands of years (as far back as the last ice-age);  due to the climate in this country, Aspen can no longer reproduce by seed, instead it perpetuates itself by regenerating from root suckers. Whenever you see an Aspen, you’re actually looking at an organism that could be up to 12,000 years old!

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