Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
19th April 2014
'Grouse bagging' in the Cairngorms.
Rather unintentionally today’s walk turned out to be a fine bagging day, not particularly of bagging peaks as I only managed the one, but a bagging trip of the ‘twitching’ variety. There are four types of grouse that reside in Scotland. The Red grouse is the most common and is seen on most walks usually when startled out of the heather. The Black grouse is less widespread and more elusive but like its red cousin is usually found in the lower glens. The Ptarmigan is the mountain goer of the family and is confined to the higher ground, most often above the 700m contour, if you go high in the Cairngorms there is a reasonable chance you will come across at least one. The Capercaillie is by far the largest of the family and prefers to reside amongst the pines, it is by far the rarest grouse and is in fact a protected and endangered species.
I have only seen one before and this was literally the crown of its head through long range binoculars and then only confirmed as such by the warden at the Boat of Garten Osprey centre. And so I was greatly surprised to realise that the large brown bird wandering around the car park at the Linn of Dee was in fact a young female Capercaillie. Seemingly not shy at all, it took a bit of a shine to the young lad who was about to embark on an overnight camping trip with his dad. It delayed the start of both our walks as we enjoyed the experience of being in the company of such a fine specimen. Eventually we headed on our way up through the pines to take the track up to Derry lodge. I was on my bike so headed off with the promise of a brew later if I managed to pick out the right tent on my way back off the hill. It was a lovely day and it was a very pleasant amble up through the Derry pinewood.
On reaching the bridge just after the trees had thinned I headed for the shade of a large pine to enjoy a snack and formulate a plan for the rest of the day.
Derry pines and Beinn Bhreac
I decided on Beinn Bhreac and took a line up through the heather into the bowl below its western flanks. I then worked my way onto the ridge that curves around Coire an Fhir Bhogha, eventually finding easier going after picking up a bit of a path higher up.
Upper Glen Derry
Red grouse occasionally erupted from the heather breaking the quietness of the sheltered corrie.
On reaching Craig Derry high up on the edge of the plateau of Moine Bhealaidh the plaintive cries of Golden plover occasionally filled the air.
Beinn Mheadhoin across Glen Derry
The ground became rockier as I neared the western top of Beinn Bhreac and it was I headed over to the eastern top and summit that I spotted a couple of male Ptarmigan seemingly courting the attention of a female.
Derry Cairngorn from Beinn BhreacIt was a little breezier on the main top and I donned my jacket and windproof while stopping for lunch.
Beinn a' Bhuird from Beinn Bhreac
As I descended toward Poll Bhat a path became more evident and this continued over the heathery slopes lower down and through some boggier sections before dropping through the trees west of Meall an Lundain. After discovering that I’d dropped my water bottle I had some retracing of steps to do, fortunately I found it albeit some 400 or 500m back up the hills side. I kept to the track on the eastern side of Dee and was surprised to find just how much of it had been reclaimed by nature. Admittedly it had been a good number of years since I’d been along here, usually preferring alternatives to what had been quite a hard surfaced vehicle track. Back at Derry lodge I did indeed locate my camping acquaintances tent and true to his word the stove was soon fired up in readiness for some tea. We chatted a while and were joined by the local SNH warden who revealed that the young Capercaillie back at the Linn of Dee had been there on and off for a couple of months. He thought that she was probably displaced and a little unsure of what she should be doing during the breeding season. Eventually it was time to head off, although I was wishing I’d had my tent as it looked like it was going to be a very pleasant evening under the pines. Just after the lodge I completed my full set of grouse for the day. About half a dozen Black grouse crossed the track and flew high up into the trees.
I watched with interest as they sat perched in the high branches for a while before feeling secure enough to drop out of the trees onto the adjacent moor. Quite contented with my ‘full bag of grouse’ I mounted my bike and began the pleasant cycle downhill back to the Linn of Dee.
Top Of Page
© 2007-2008 Paul Sammonds. Template Design by Andreas Viklund.