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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have seen Marmots a number of times this summer. We first bumped in to these small, furry mammals in the Dolomites and with Matthew and Rachel we had two lovely days when we watched hordes of them in the Valgrisenche.

Near Guillestre we stumbled on a group of Marmots that live close to human habitation and seem to be happy to co-exist, giving us the opportunity to watch them feeding, relating to each other and moving around. Although small and chubby, Marmots move quickly and nimbly over rocky ground. Their thick fur and layers of fat help them survive the winter hibernation and their feet and toes are made for digging the complex burrows they live in. According to the signs here, they eat dandelions and clover and they spend a lot of time munching away in the meadows; one Marmot is always the duty watch and calls with a high pitched whistle if there is something to be alarmed about. They are marvellous at sitting still, either looking around sitting up on their back legs or flat to the ground with legs spread out trying to keep cool. Despite the signs, many people bring carrots to hand-feed to the Marmots; we stuck to clover, as we did not wish to be responsible for a sick Marmot.

Even though we are in September, there are still plenty of flowers around; the lovely Meadow Saffron and wild lavender are still flowering, as well as lots of fruits and berries ripening; our walks halt as we stop to eat wild raspberries and blackberries. We are also still seeing plenty of butterflies, lizards and grasshoppers on our walks. We have been very excited to see Crested Tits in the pine woods around Guillestre, something we've never managed to see in Scotland.

We hope you are suitably impressed with our grasp of technology; we have hopefully included a video of the Marmots with this blog. Just click on the small arrow below the picture below - have your speakers on. Enjoy!