Published: 09/04/2012 14:30 - Updated: 09/04/2012 14:45

Boat of Garten residents educated about capercaillie

Providing more affordable homes in Boat of Garten and protecting local capercaillie has led to disputes
Providing more affordable homes in Boat of Garten and protecting local capercaillie has led to disputes

Members of the Boat of Garten community have got up close to one of nature’s most spectacular shows in Scotland.

The 15 residents recently visited the RSPB’s Caperwatch at the Loch Garten Osprey Centre in the hope of seeing a lek, a mating courtship by capercaillie.

They were attending as part of the ongoing mitigation measures being put in place by Strathspey Estate, Scottish Natural Heriatge, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the local comunity council to help protect their feathered neighbours.

The group enjoyed an early morning start at 5.30am and were treated to the sight of female osprey EJ as well as seeing a male capercaillie.

Richard Thaxton explained the importance of the Strathspey capercaillie population to the group and just how vulnerable they are to disturbance.

Mr Tim Poole, RSPB’s Capercaillie Project Officer, gave a presentation on the national status of capercaillie as well as their life cycle.

Alison Fielding, Chair of Boat of Garten and Vicinity Community Council said afterwards: "Given the importance of not disturbing capercaillie in our own Boat of Garten woods, especially during the breeding season, we are very grateful to the staff and volunteers who opened up the Osprey Centre especially to give us this opportunity to both see and hear more about this amazing bird."

Seven year old James Blair braved the early morning rain was delighted to see the return of EJ and the caper which he described as "cool and huge).

Mr Poole said: "The plight of capercaillie as one of Scotland’s most special birds is well known. Although they are a large bird, they are often difficult to see due to a natural aversion to people.

"It was brilliant to see the enthusiasm shown by the members of the Boat of Garten community on seeing the capercaillie."

Caperwatch runs from until May 18 from 5.30am to 8pm and gives people the opportunity to see these magnificent and rare birds without causing disturbance.

The Strathy recently reported that progress is being made in the quest to provide much needed affordable housing in Boat of Garten without harming the nearby population of capercaillie.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s planning committee controversially rejected plans by Davall Developments to build 72 houses, plus five house plots and a primary school site in a wooded area to the west of the village last November.

Committee members agreed with planning officials that the project would pose an "unacceptable risk" to one of Scotland’s most threatened species.

A working group set up a year ago when the initial application was deferred by the park’s planning committee has now said that it is close to a solution.

They hope this will result in up to 30 new affordable homes in the village, and walks in local woods, but reduced disturbance to the caper.

The working group is made up of local community leaders; main landowners Seafield Estates; the Cairngorms National Park Authority; Highland Council, a housing association and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The Cairngorms National Park is home to around 80% of the UK population of capercaillie.

Park planners said at the time that research showed the woods are very popular for recreation, particularly with dog walkers.

Members of the park’s planning committee agreed with them that some of the activity, especially that taking place off the paths, was having an adverse impact on capercaillie.

CNPA sustainable rural director Murray Ferguson said last month: "We want to help find a solution that allows some new affordable houses to be built, for people to continue enjoying the woods and for the capercaillie to thrive.

"We have been working closely with the community about how they use the woods, and what management measures they could support.

"We have proposed a practical set of measures to reduce the impact of existing recreational use on capercaillie to ensure their ongoing protection."

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