The Cairngorms National Park is currently home to over 18,000 people and visited by nearly 2 million each year. The Park is also home to our critically endangered capercaillie.
Whilst some folk have been lucky enough to see a capercaillie, many of us may never see the world’s largest grouse; a bird of the Old World who’s been living in our forests since the last Ice Age.
In the 1970s there were around 20,000 capercaillie in Scotland. Since then we’ve lost the equivalent of one capercaillie every day. There are now just over 1,000 birds left. Numbers have fallen for lots of reasons including lack of habitat, predation, chicks can die of cold and starvation if we experience a wet spring and adult birds collide with unmarked fences used to protect young trees. Disturbance is also a key issue.
Research from the woods around Boat of Garten in the Cairngorms National Park found that capercaillie tend not to use areas within around 100 metres of well used paths. This leaves them with less space to feed, breed and raise their young. Capercaillie have evolved to avoid us, particularly as females nest and raise their young on the ground. If disturbed we may cause hens to leave their eggs unattended or become separated from their brood. Hens typically lay 7 to 8 eggs but it’s likely only one chick will make it to adulthood, so April to August is a critical time for capercaillie.
The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project
With so many things we can all still do to help, the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project is busy developing the following solutions across the Park:
- Create more habitat for capercaillie.
- Enable communities in the Park to create their own action plans to help capercaillie.
- Enable more people to share sightings & signs of capercaillie to strengthen monitoring work.
- Provide financial support where necessary to help landowners controlling predators to continue.
- Confirm the genetic health of capercaillie in the Park.
The following organisations, alongside Carrbridge residents, have come together to develop these solutions representing a wide range of views in the Park; the Bird Watching & Wildlife Club (BWWC), Inclusive Cairngorms, Seafield Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, RSPB, Petal Power, Scottish Forestry & the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, LEADER, Scottish Landfill Communities Fund, the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Forestry, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. Together these organisations have contributed £517,700 to support the project through its Development Phase which ends in March 2020. An application will then be submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund seeking further funding to deliver the project’s plans from 2020 to 2023.