Capercailzie

Published: 8th February 2015

Revisited one of our Glenloy Wildlife trips across to the Cairngorms to see what was about there in the depth of winter. Angela hoped to get a decent photo of a crested tit. Foggy on the way across, but with some beautiful inversions, and blue skies by the time we arrived. Snow thick on the ground at Loch Morlich and the loch itself almost entirely frozen. Quite a few birds in the woods, including at least six cresties. Had good views but failed to get the required shots. Saw a dipper on the river and also treecreeper for good measure. Disappointed to find that neither the feeders by the campsite or on the veranda at the Mountain Café had been filled up, which I reckoned would have been the best bet for getting photo shots of cresties – those in the woods were right in the canopies of tall pines, and rarely sat still for long.

Cairngorm itself was hooching, with a shuttle bus running from Corrie na Ciste. We ventured out along the trail away from the ski area to see what wildlife, if any, was about.

Capercaillie lurking under the trees

Capercaillie lurking under the treesGrouse prints in the snow

Plenty of red grouse calling and saw several highlighted against the snow. Males starting to act territorially. Lots of reindeer tracks in the snow – huge footprints for a small deer – along with hare and grouse prints. As we left the chaos behind we realised we were following folk from the Reindeer Centre, out to feed a herd of 30 or so animals on the ridge. We hung back to watch these and were visited by a hopeful youngster, who quickly lost interest in us as we couldn’t come up with the goods. As we were heading back through the deep snow we were able to see into a shelter belt at the opposite side of the gully and saw two huge dark birds crouched at the base of the trees. One raised its head and stretched as a trio of much smaller red grouse flew off nearby. These were two capercailzie males  proving that they might be seen from the grouse watching butt after all, and a real bonus not five minutes’ walk from the bustling ski scene.

Called in at Loch Insh on the way back. Loch itself mostly frozen but river channels partly open. A small group of whoopers maintained its presence by the side of the water, along with mallard and heron. Plenty of roe deer still grazing the marshes, and even brave rabbits venturing forth from under cover of the junipers. A single buzzard was being mobbed by a crow, but it was too cold for us to hang around much longer to see if the hen harriers would show. Good day, with the capercailzies an unexpected treat.