Just two weeks ago we had the most snow we’ve had at all since lockdown began here in the Highlands. 4-5 days of sub-zero temperatures overnight and heavy snowfall resulted in a lovely cover of snow most mornings and continued snowfall throughout the day. It was blissful. Who doesn’t love the world covered in a blanket of snow? Everything softens and quietens, everything is still and slowed for a time.
As the cold snap was so late in the year, temperatures through the day had otherwise been rapidly rising and the snows soon melted once the cold front had passed. Whilst awake and enthused by the light reflecting off the snow on the ground I pulled out my camera and went for a long, early morning wander. I was primarily looking to see if I could find the wild baby goats. They are born each year in January to parents who have spent the year hugging the gorse which lines the roads and generally hanging out along the coastline. These babies are born at the coldest time of the year in what is already a fairly cold and exposed climate on the SW Scottish coast. Yet they seem to survive and thrive, always closely monitored by their attentive parents.
Goats have a complex matriarchal social structure and tend to be found in groups of around 15-20 individuals. They may parent as a group – called alloparenting – rather than individually care for their own biological offspring although I can find little research covering this topic as it relates specifically to goats. Many mammals and birds utilise alloparenting to raise healthy offspring using a kind of collective group effort to raise the next generation of young. I did see young goats following individual females closely, so maybe they are more bonded to their own individual offspring.
As I wandered around in the snow I photographed the goats, following them a little way down a track towards a burn. They were wary of me; but they seemed more concerned for their group and the location of individuals in the group than with me. I did my best to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
Here are a few shots of the best snowy morning we had here in Wester Ross.