Once again I attempted to go out and photograph Mountain Hares. I think the mild weather has resulted in them staying on the highest peaks. However on my drive out to the moors I'm managed to photograph something even better a lovely Stoat Mustela erminea. Like the Mountain Hare, Stoats can turn white in winter surposebly triggered by day length, this one had a little white on the muzzle. Mustelids are among my favourite group of mammals, with the smaller weasel the only other representative in my area, the other species having being wiped out by persecution years ago. After this I walked up to a rocky area of moorland edge, there were plenty of Red Grouse around and eventually I saw a Mountain Hare Lepidis timidus, unfortunately I flushed it and only got a blurred shot of it running off, however it too wasn't white but had the bluish colour of summer which is probably a better strategy in the generally snow free Peak District winters.
Beggars can't be choosers and for a herpetologist in Northern England in winter that means looking at different wildlife. I've been trying to photograph Mountain Hares (without success) in fact i've only seen 2 road casualties, but i did take some distant shots of the bigger Brown HareLepus europaeus this week. I have also been doing a bit of birding. Having seen Black Wheatear in Spain, Black Eared Wheatear in Corfu and Northern Wheatear in the UK I decided I would make it 4 for the year and went to see the Desert WheatearOenanthe deserti at Bempton, East Yorks and what a cracking little bird it was. Just as nice were 2 pairs of StonechatSaxicolatorquata up on my local moors whilst looking for Hares. My local park has also been good for Goosanders which i'm sure will be decimating the fish population but they have made good photographic subjects more frustrating was a Great Northern DiverGavia immer. On boxing day I went to see a Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosus roost with fellow herpetologist Matt Wilson and we were treated to about 20 of these majestic raptors along with a superb male Hen HarrierCircus cyaneus, plus a female and a Barn OwlTyto alba.