Tales from the Hill, Spring 2023

10 April 2023

This winter has been has brought mixed conditions and several spells of snow to sea level this year, which as beautiful as it can be, can make life more challenging for the animals on the hill.  At the time of writing, we have just completed our annual deer count which is logistical exercise involving every land holding over the whole of Morvern.  This year, 7 deer counters undertook the count on Kingairloch over two days in perfect wintery conditions; this not only pushes the deer down the hill into more accessible locations to observe but makes them easier to spot!  Photographed above, some of the count team identifying the composition of a group high on Beinn na Cille.

Spring is a vibrant time on the hill as all the mammals, bird and insect life re-emerge from their winter hid-outs, ready for the flush of new growth which we can expect any time. 

Spring is a particularly good time to observe red deer around the estate.  Following a long winter, the Red Deer Stags lounge around the low grounds in sheltered areas, expending as little energy as possible.  Their fat reserves are low due to decrease in quantity and quality of available forage and as such their metabolic rate slows, to account for this.  Take time to consider how hungry many are, and if photographing or observing them around the estate, please keep a distance, keep dogs on leads and try not to disturb them at this difficult time. 

In the next month, stags will lose their antlers which are cast when the growth of the new antler below, dislodges the previous years growth.  The antlers grow rapidly (as much as a centimetre a day), taking a blood supply from the pedicle on the stag’s skull and under the protective coating of velvet.  The antlers are fully developed by mid-August and most mature stags have fully formed, hard antler, by early September, in only 5 months!