With such a beautiful and varied landscape it’s no wonder that the Cairngorms National Park, in the Scottish Highlands, is a location where wildlife, and flora are specially adapted to survive and thrive in this mountain environment.
With its unique alpine, semi-tundra moorland habitat, the Cairngorms, in Scotland, host numerous mountain mammal and bird species. For example, you may find four species of the grouse family; Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Capercaillie and Ptarmigan. Dotterel return from Africa every year to breed on the high tops, but they are vulnerable to disturbance and highly protected. Other rare birds include rare visits from Snowy Owl, Purple Sandpiper and Lapland Bunting. In the forests, Scottish Crossbill, Parrot Crossbill and Crested Tit may also be found.
Nature enthusiasts will also keep their eyes peeled for the Mountain Hare, which is slightly smaller than the familiar brown hare, but turns white in the winter and survives all year on the mountain in small numbers. Pine Marten occur in the forest. This is like a large weasel and is bigger than a domestic cat. Wildcats themselves are in the area but have not been seen at this altitude. The mountain garden boasts some of the highest frogs in the UK and watercourses on the lower ground below the ski area are known to be a habitat for otters.
It’s here on Cairn Gorm that you will find the only herd of reindeer in the British Isles. The herd can often be seen roaming freely over the high ground in and around the ski area and particularly like licking the winter salt off the access road – so drive with care!
If you’re a birding enthusiast then you may have particular interest in visiting the RSPB reserves at Abernethy Forest and Loch Garten and the Insh Marshes. At Loch Garten you will find a famous pair of Ospreys present during the summer months. Don’t forget to venture into the mountain garden too, where there are some incredible plants and fauna.
If you are lucky enough to spot some of the area’s special residents please respect their home and avoid the temptation to leave treats for them. Please use the litter bins provided on site for your rubbish or take it home to dispose of it – this helps keep unwelcome scavengers and opportunists away and helps protect the indigenous wildlife.
Red squirrel are a common sight along the route leading from Aviemore up to the ski area as they dart around the ancient Caledonian Pines.