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Carrbridge Capercaillie News

Delivered to every house in Carrbridge, Carrbridge Capercaillie News is designed to keep residents up to date.

The newsletter is overseen by the Carrbridge Capercaillie Group who are keen to keep residents informed about the project’s activities, encourage more people to get involved and to learn about their local capercaillie.

Read Carrbridge Capercaillie News online

June 2020

May 2020

March 2020

Please note the March edition was published prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. Some details may therefore have changed.

December 2019

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June 2019

11 Comments

  1. Gordon on 6th June 2020 at 21:00

    It would be wrong to import wild Capercaillie to improve the gene pool from abroad while there are so many other populations in Scotland – Perth, Aberdeen, the Black isle, Loch Lomond. Pitlochry, Blair athol and many other sites. But first you must identify the causes of declines in Speyside. I believe the main cause is predation and heavy disturbance from bird watchers at nesting/brooding times that’s limiting the population. The Lockdown may assist in better broods this year.

    • Carolyn Robertson on 7th June 2020 at 18:29

      Many thanks Gordon for taking the time to read Carrbridge Capercaillie News and for your comment.

      You’re absolutely right that reintroductions need careful consideration and strict conditions apply to ensure any species being reintroduced won’t simply be wiped out again for the same reasons that caused the decline in the first place.

      The research we’re conducting into the genetic diversity of capercaillie in the National Park is a step towards bettering our understanding of all the issues currently effecting the bird, and it may not result in a reintroduction programme, but time will tell. As for how the birds have fared during lockdown, nesting weather has certainly been a bit more caper friendly than last year, so here’s hoping.

      • Gordon on 9th June 2020 at 18:44

        Thank you for your reply. If the project identifies that the Carrbridge population is genetically weak than there are many isolated populations in Scotland 50 north and east and100 miles south. You don’t need birds, only eggs sourced by double clutching wild hens from these sites. Just so you know my experiences with Capercaillie: – I lived in Speyside for many years 80s>mid 90s and was out with many of the keepers all over the valley assisting with their work. I saw many Capercaillie and their broods throughout the Spey Valley from Blair Athol in the south to Tain in the north. I had trained working pointers and setters at the time and flushed many of them on various red grouse shoots while using my pointers. I have bred, and still do breed all 4 UK grouse species Capercaillie, Red grouse, Black grouse and Ptarmigan for over 30 years. I am always interested in improving populations everywhere but sadly many projects fail due to the lack of understanding of the birds needs, especially at breeding time. There are often too many assumptions made like: – It was believed that Scottish Capercaillie would go extinct by 2010 – but they didn’t. The last Scottish Capercaillie project had a plan to identify causes of declines and implemented targeted management and cost millions with no increase in birds. How does your project team think they will succeed? Capercaillie live in several habitat types over vast wild areas in Scotland and for them to go extinct is almost impossible. They may decline from areas under pressure from people, predation and habitat loss from building etc but in more isolated areas I’ve seen them year after year & they are relative safe and through natural dispersal may populate other areas/populations. They are never recorded as dying from sickness or disease, but mainly from predation of hens, their eggs or their young broods at nesting time. I would suggest your target effort for success around Carrbridge must be predator control, no disturbance around the leks and nesting areas from Mid April > August each year. Get your broods off then other losses to adults are minimal through the year. Capercaillie start to lay eggs from Mid April, lay one egg every two days (8 eggs laid in 16 days) and incubate for 26 days. Peace and quiet over this period is crucial. Up until 5 weeks young Capercaillie need the mother hen to brood them and get them streetwise. From 5 weeks they can survive alone if the hen is lost, again why Mid April > August protection is crucial.

        • Carolyn Robertson on 11th June 2020 at 07:36

          Thanks Gordon. In answer to your specific question, ‘How does your project team think they will succeed?’ and the point about understanding the birds needs, the project is made up of a wide range of partners, volunteers and staff who bring with them a breadth of experience, including gamekeepers and people who’ve been involved in caper conservation for longer than they’d probably like to admit. We’re working with the community of Carrbridge to let residents make their own decisions to help address the issue of disturbance, and we’ll adopt this approach with other communities. As you suggest, we’re also enhancing predator control in key areas by providing grant support for a new gamekeeper on Seafield Estate and a seasonal keeper on Rothiemurchus Estate. Please do feel free to get in touch via email (carolynrobertson@cairngorms.co.uk) if you’d like to chat in any more detail or, if it’s of interest, our FAQ page does contain more detail about the genetic research work and our approach to predator management. Thanks Gordon.

  2. Gordon on 11th June 2020 at 12:03

    Carolyn, In reply to your comment 11th June about part of my private email to you – It’s a question I ask that needs addressing while there is so much public funds involved ‘How does your project team think they will succeed? The last Capercaillie project costing millions covered much of the same area around Carrbridge with many “experts” If your project has a vast amount of Capercaillie experience and experts with years of knowledge, how have they declined under their watch and management?

  3. Gordon on 14th June 2020 at 09:25

    Questions:-
    The project info is saying, there are only 1000 Capercaillie left in Scotland, is that from specific actual counts?
    Is that male or females as well?
    How have all Scottish sites been counted?

  4. Gordon on 14th June 2020 at 10:47

    Can a copy of the project application to the heritage lottery fund be published on the project website for all to read?

    • Carolyn Robertson on 14th June 2020 at 21:03

      Thanks Gordon, yes – we will be publishing information on this website from our application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
      Regards your question about capercaillie numbers, as I’m sure you know, the last national survey (2015/16) estimated the number of birds in Scotland to be 1115 individuals with 95% confidence limits of 807 to 1501. There is strong evidence based on lek and brood counts to indicate a consistent decline over the last four years. These trends (combined with evidence suggesting that young males are attending leks earlier) suggest that the population is likely to now be lower than the last national estimate. Based on this we’re stating that there may be fewer than 1000 birds left in the UK, but work is ongoing to provide an up to date estimate of Scottish capercaillie numbers.

      • Gordon on 15th June 2020 at 08:33

        Only publishing some information not the full application?
        Capercaillie numbers: – So it was an estimate/gestimate of total numbers not an actual count. They must have counted males at Lek and have male numbers?
        Female figures are very hard to get as not all females visit the lek at the same time.
        In Wales many males visited several leks in the breeding season and counts of groups of leks near each other had to be done all at once with several observers so there was not double counting. Even then males were recorded at the lek and any that flew in or flew away had the time recorded so if they flew to another lek it could be discounted when observers met up later.
        Sadly, gestimates are often way of the mark as I saw in Wales, there was more there than they believed when surveyed with pointers.

  5. Gordon on 15th June 2020 at 08:44

    Comment I just made on Welsh leks referred to black grouse leks.

  6. Gordon on 15th June 2020 at 09:03

    Carolyn, I see no reference in your project to the extensive Capercaillie research work over many years by GWCT (Game & Wildlife Conservation) in Scotland. I would suggest you give consideration to their work and findings as they found predation one of the main limiting factors causing egg loss, poor brood size often none left each year after persistent predation. I understand that through radio tracking and fixed cameras of nests and birds over several years they recorded Pine martins as one of the main predators, and they have increased in number four fold by 2014 but now could be tenfold. Your project info puts foxes and crows top of the list and to a lesser degree Pine Martins. This is contrary to the GWCT research findings/evidence; your info needs to correct that fact so the public are not misinformed. Particularly, that you say the project is taking an evidence based approach! In some years poor wet weather in the early hatch time can play a part in reduced brood size, but in even good conditions Capercaillie hens lose many of their broods to predation by Pine Martins, foxes and crows etc. The project must work to produce good broods each year, a crucial element needed to reversing the decline.
    Sadly, from the GWCT research you have one species detrimental to Capercaillie on the increase in Scotland the Pine Martin, listed as “least concern”. They are implicated in the annihilation of an important declining “Red Listed” protected species, the Capercaillie. I believe that research shows action has to be taken using translocation of Pine Martins well away from Capercaillie core areas and habitats and you can then hopefully see recovery before they are lost forever. It seems to me by not including the GWCT experimental proposal of translocating Pine martins from Capercaillie areas the project can only fail and the decline continues to extinction, while Pine Martins increase! When the science evidence is there from specific research to reverse declines projects must implement them, especially when millions of public funds are involved. I understand the last Capercaillie project covering much of the same area cost 5 million pound of public funds with no halt to the decline. This proposal costing almost 3 million more pounds must not repeat such a result as the last one. Funds must be targeted to specific tasks to increase brood size, and productivity, the secret to reversing the decline.

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