WHERE TO WATCH GROUSE?
Any visit to the Highlands in spring and summer will also give you a great chance to catch up with the UK’S four species of grouse, maybe even in one day. Here’s how to find them…
RED GROUSE: Commonest of the four, and found among the heather in many areas of open moorland – you might even see them skimming across moorland roads. Dark brown with a reddish tinge, the males have bright red ‘eyebrows’, and make a loud, nasal bark. Large groups possible, as well as single birds.
BLACK GROUSE: Larger than Red Grouse, and usually found on woodland edges or in clear-felled areas. Males are blue-black with red brows and white under tails, which they fan prominently when displaying to each other at leks. They continue to do this even when females aren’t present – early morning is the best time to look for them.
PTARMIGAN: In summer, they will have lost much if not all of their white plumage, so can be hard to find among the rocks and boulders of their mountaintop homes. Cairngorm remains the best place to look – always stick to the paths and slowly scan ridgelines and near horizons for a tell-tale head moving. If approached, they often sit tight.
CAPERCAILLIE: Found in conifer forest, where they often perch on low branches, they’re our largest grouse by far. The male is purple-black with a large, long tail fanned in display, while the female has an orange-brown throat and rufous tail. You may get lucky and stumble upon birds at sites around places such as Abernethy Forest (look on woodland rides at first light), but your best chance is as part of an organised tour.
MEMORABLE SIGHT An encounter with a cock Capercaillie won’t be forgotten in a hurry