Cairngorm National Park in the Scottish highlands is home to the iconic and charismatic mountain hare. When the days get shorter the mountain hares’ coats turn from their summer greyish brown to a stunning white. This enables them to blend in with their wintry surroundings in an effort to hide from predators such as golden eagles. It’s also thought that white fur, with its lack of melanin, is more insulating helping them maintain their body temperature in cold conditions.

Mountain hares have one of the hardest lives of all the UK mammals I’ve come across so far, withstanding the worst of the Scottish winter weather. They’re often braving temperatures well below freezing with gale force winds relentlessly battering them with snow, sleet and rain. In an effort to conserve as much energy as possible they will hunker down away from the harsh elements behind rocks and in holes they’ve dug in the snow.

Their beautiful pale coats and stunning snowy environment make them an absolute treat to photograph during the winter months. If you’re blessed with a snow-filled crisp winter’s day the low light and cool pastel tones in their surroundings creates magical and otherworldly conditions for truly wild looking photos.

However, the sought-after snowy conditions on the tops of the hills bring a whole host of problems while out in the field. Trekking up to the top wading through deep snow can be tiring whilst carrying heavy photo equipment. Fast moving spindrift (fine grained snow being carried by wind) can be a blessing and a curse. These conditions can make a striking photo but can also stop you from taking photos and make it extremely difficult to spot your subjects. You can also suddenly find yourself in a complete white-out, which can be very disorientating.

Despite all the challenges presented while photographing mountain hares, it feels like a real adventure and I have been rewarded with some of the most magical wildlife experiences I’ve had to date. There are so many intriguing behaviours to photograph that I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface.

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