THE HERMITAGE

For­est birding in a former aris­to­cratic re­treat

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - JOHN MILES

This stretch of mag­i­cal Perthshire for­est was orig­i­nally de­signed as a plea­sure ground in the 18th Cen­tury for the Dukes of Atholl. Dou­glas Firs tower over the paths lead­ing to the roar­ing Black Linn Falls, where the River Braan crashes down into the deep, foam­ing pools be­low. Over­look­ing the water­fall is the pic­turesque folly known as Os­sian’s Hall, built in 1757 as the fo­cal point in an ex­ten­sive de­signed land­scape. With the firs dom­i­nat­ing the first part of the walk, it may make it hard hunt­ing for birds, but the river should sup­ply both Dip­per and Grey Wag­tail, along with Goosander chas­ing the small fish. Dou­glas Fir cones pro­vide food for Cross­bills, Siskin and even Red Squir­rels. The new clear fell across the river has the po­ten­tial of adding some good spring mi­grants like Cuckoo, Tree Pipit and also Whitethroat. Oak wood­land sur­vives on steep sides of the river and may add a few in­ter­est­ing species like Pied Fly­catcher and Red­start. Gold­crests love these conifers and may be eas­ier once you reach a younger plan­ta­tion, where both Wil­low War­bler and red­poll were found on my visit. With open ar­eas, scan for rap­tors with Buz­zard, Goshawk and Spar­rowhawk likely along with Osprey and Red Kite. Au­tumn sees the re­turn­ing salmon leap­ing up the falls and onto their spawn­ing grounds. An Ot­ter hunt­ing them is a good bet on an evening walk. Both Pine Marten and Roe Deer are likely.

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