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M GO WILD – UP NORTH


AR LODGE ESTATE


Ptarmigans are possibly Britain’s toughest birds and live in the cold, harsh mountains of Scotland. In snowy conditions, their feathered feet act as snow shoes, so the ptarmigan can walk even on soft snow. Ptarmigans are masters of camouflage; in winter, they are completely white except for a short black tail, while in summer a brown and yellow plumage blends the ptarmigan into the lichen-covered rocks.


environment. Nevertheless, it’s a rich habitat for some very important mosses and lichens and it’s home to the snowbunting in winter and the dotterel in summer. Also well-established in this area are the plump ptarmigan – similar in appearance to its cousin the grouse. In the summer, its feathers are a mixture of grey, brown and black, but with the arrival of the snow, its plumage turns white, making it hard for predators and bird spotters alike to seek out. Of course, no Scottish estate would be


complete without heather moorland and the birds and animals that thrive here. Taking to often wild and windswept moors, there are excellent opportunities to enjoy the sight of red deer grazing, providing perfect picture opportunities for those seeking their own Monarch of the Glen moments, a fact echoed by David Frew, who said: “Tere are plenty of deer on the moorland and plenty of opportunities to see them and enjoy them against this beautiful backdrop.” Mountain hares are also plentiful in this part of the world, and can be seen darting over the heather by keen-sighted visitors.


Te birdlife among the


heather is very colourful – this is where the famous red


grouse can be found and the


distinctive golden plover also adds to the colour palate during the summer months. For fans of birds of prey, Mar Lodge does not disappoint. Te diverse ecosystem of the estate and its abundant prey supports a range of raptors. Trust ecologist Dr Shaila Rao, who has been working on the estate for many years, said: “Mar Lodge has a very healthy raptor population. Te golden eagle is one of the most spectacular of these birds. We have at least three breeding pairs every year on the estate and take their care and responsibility very seriously.” Also breeding on the estate are the UK’s speediest raptors, peregrine falcons, and they take to the sky along with merlins, kestrels and buzzards. After nightfall, tawny owls and the occasional barn owl might be seen hunting out their prey, their silent wings beating through the cool night air. And it’s not just the land and the skies that


are teeming with wildlife; the River Dee runs right through the estate, from its source high in the Cairngorm Mountains out into the


North Sea at Aberdeen. Te Dee takes a dramatic journey through Mar Lodge’s spectacular alpine environment, giving visitors some of the most stunning vistas – passing through the impressive mountain pass of the Lairig Ghru and the spectacular rocky gorge at Linn of Dee. Many species of conservation importance can be found here, from the Atlantic salmon to the ever-popular and elusive otter, the much depleted water vole and the handsome goosander duck.


Tanks to Scottish WildlifeTrust, Cairngorms National Park, NTS and Scottish Natural Heritage


HOSTELS TO VISIT


Cairngorm Lodge Tel: 01479 861238 Aviemore Tel: 01479 810345 Braemar Tel: 01339 741659 Tomintoul Tel: 01807 580 364


Book online at: www.hostelling scotland.com


2012 SCOTTISH HOSTELLER 35


Spot them


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