Published: 17/05/2012 12:30 - Updated: 18/05/2012 12:05

Territorial song is fine to hear

A popular visit to CairnGorm Mountain
A popular visit to CairnGorm Mountain

Crowded and busy though the Cairngorm car park was, I could hear it as soon as I stepped out of the car. Birdsong. Where was it? What was it?

After searching the nearby barriers and vehicles, I found it - over 100 yards away, perched on top of the Base Station.

Snow bunting. A male, in territorial song. It pays to have a loud voice in this game, and he cut through all the motor noise and overspill music, all the rummaging and preparing that was going on.

He wasn't bothered, he flew up the Day Lodge piste and tried again, then had another try at the Base Station. No females here, he went off up the hill.

Despite the late snow it's all happening. Ptarmigan are in summer plumage, trying to avoid sitting on the snow for fear of being spotted by an eagle.

With the plateau still 100% covered, the available perches are few and far between.

One cock ptarmigan growled at me from the topmost rocks of Pygmy Ridge, a narrow buttress at the edge of the plateau. It was one of the few dry spots he could find.

They had it all sorted out in March, but the snow came back and pushed them away back to low country. They were back this month but it's too snowy again for them, so they will have to go through it all a third time.

Dotterel have arrived but it's one step forward and two back for them, too.

This Country Diary was submitted by Nic Bullivant, Head Ranger of the Cairngorm Mountain Ranger Service.

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