A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF WILDLIFE IN & AROUND THE CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK
Widely accepted as the finest natural resources in the UK, salve one of the beauties of The Cairngorms National Park is that it has such a wide variety of different habitats and is home to a tremendously diverse range of creatures – great & small.
Additionally, the relatively small size of The Park means that you won’t have to travel too far to stand a chance of an encounter with our wonderful native wildlife.
Whether out for a gentle stroll along a river bank, weaving your way through a nearby forest or striding out across the Cairngorm Plateau, you’ll be amazed at just what may cross your path.
You may, for example, catch sight of the tiny Crested Tit, which just loves to nest in a rotting old pine stump. At the other end of the size scale a mighty Capercaillie might well favour you with a sighting though, sadly, numbers have declined greatly over the past quarter of a century.
Above you, especially in the quieter glens, your luck may be in as a Golden Eagle soars into view. There are some 20 pairs or so in the area and sightings are not as rare as you might think. You’ll need to be quick though to spy one of our Peregrine Falcons. This amazing bird was recently acclaimed as The Fastest Hunter on Earth, reaching speeds of up to 180mph as it swoops on its unsuspecting prey.
Easier to spot, especially as they are regular visitors to The Rothiemurchus Fish Farm, are the Ospreys. The increasing numbers of this – The Prince of Fishing Birds – is one of the conservation success stories of our time and, to learn all about their amazing recovery you can visit the RSPB Reserve at Boat of Garten, its well worthwhile.
In summer, an early morning or late evening stroll along a local river bank may well reward you with a rare sighting of the charismatic Otter, the cheeky Red Squirrel (a precious jewel in our treasure chest) or even the secretive Pine Marten which was previously known as a Matrix or Merlich and is now returning to some of its old haunts in and around the Valley.
It must be said though that, despite evidence of increasing numbers in Strathspey, it is still highly unlikely that you’ll see a Scottish Wildcat other then on a bottle of the local brew of the same name!! You just never know.
What we do know is that you are quite likely to see a wee Roe Deer bowling gracefully across your path in and around the local forests or even in the fields below the house.
Moving out on to higher ground, you’ll likely enjoy the stirring sight of a herd of the magnificent Red Deer – The Monarch of The Glen as they move in stately fashion across the hillside. You can also frequently come across small herds of Native Reindeer out in the wild.
Over 2000 feet, keep a sharp eye out for the very well disguised Ptarmigan and for the animal best suited of all to the high winds and low temperatures of the high tops – The Blue Mountain Hare.
We must, of course, not forget to mention the wily old Badger whose numbers are also on the up and up. Again near Boat of Garten is an excellent hide located near a splendid Badger Sett where a sighting is virtually guaranteed. You’ll need to book though by calling Allan Bantick.
One other, final, viewing that must also be booked and which is also very worthwhile is the Courtship Display of the Black Grouse. These splendid spectacles take place at one of their traditional lekking grounds in late April, early May.
Hopefully this short brief has given you a flavour of the diverse collection of wonderful creatures with whom we share this marvellous part of the world.
I am very grateful to Allan Bantick who kindly allowed me to use some of his excellent texts while preparing these notes.
For more details on the wildlife mentioned here and others, please either visit Allan’s site or Undiluted Scotland where Allan goes into more depth.