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Capercaillie (1 Viewer)

TheSeagull

Well-known member
How difficult is it to get Capercaillie without going on one of the RSPB Caper-watches? I can easily get to Loch Garten but the chances of making it there before 11am are slim and caper-watch runs from 5:30-8am :eek!:
 

gropperwinch

Well-known member
as a southern boy I have only been to Loch Garten once, but are there not facilities on the reserve for staying overnight, or atleast close to it?
 

Joseph N

Lothian Young Birder
Caperwatches are probably you're only hope unless you're lucky enough to have one straying across your path whilst you are walking around. The last time I tried for Capercallie I wasn't with caperwatch and I didn't see one. Basically 8 times out of 10 you it is likely you won't see one unless your on a caperwatch.

Can I ask, when do Caperwatches go on until? Is it just the spring? I've never been on one and would like to when I visit Speyside in a couple of months time. ;)
 

wintibird

André Weiss
Opus Editor
I was there last summer and had the luck to see a female when walking through Rothiemurchus forest. But that was roughly around 6.00 am;)

André
 

Capercaillie71

Well-known member
Caperwatch usually runs from early April to mid-May. It is the only real chance of seeing Capercaillie displaying, as visiting a Capercaillie lek requires a Schedule 1 licence, and birdwatchers should avoid looking for them away from Loch Garten at this time of year.

There is a slim chance of seeing capercaillie at Loch Garten later in the morning - I've been there when one was still displaying at 11am, although not on that occasion visible from the hide.

Away from the display period, the best chance of seeing one is between November and February. Take a walk around somewhere like Anagach woods at Grantown-on-Spey and you may be lucky and get a flight view or better:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=107910
 

TheSeagull

Well-known member
Getting up early isn't the problem, it's getting up early enough to make it to Loch Garten from Aberdeen by 5:30am :-O Last time it took me 4 hours to get there. Anyway I guess I'll give up hope until I happen to have an overnight stay somewhere close by.
 

JTweedie

Well-known member
I'm thinking of going up this Sunday or next weekend. The last caper-watch is on 21 May. I'm thinking of driving up overnight, spending the morning there and then coming back home in the afternoon. It takes roughly 3 hours to get there, but by travelling up at night the roads should be much quieter.
 

Joseph N

Lothian Young Birder
Thanks for the information folks, there's a good possibility I'll be heading there before that date but I'm not 100%, its that against going when the Dotterel are back at their breeding grounds... ;)
 

JTweedie

Well-known member
I've decided to head up to Loch Garten tonight - I'll leave Glasgow around 2am, and should get to Boat of Garten around 5am.

Hopefully I'll get good sightings, these will be my first Capercaillies. Also hope to be lucky enough to see some Crested Tits too. That would be 2 lifers in one day.
 

Marmot

Well-known member
Looking at the blog for Loch Garten it sounds an excellent time for the Capers as they had 2 male squaring up and causing a rumpus.
Taken from the blog today......

Open Warfare!!

Well today has seen high drama at Loch Garten. The centre has been full of stunned visitors watching the field of battle, as rarely have we had such a clash of titans in full view of the centre.

Luckily I am not talking about our Osprey pair who have been following their daily routine of incubating the three eggs on the nest. Instead, I refer to an epic struggle between two male capercaillie, the largest member of the grouse family. The birds were circling each other and charging forward, challenging, then backing off again. Things have now quietened down, but both birds are still out there…is this just a lull in the fighting??
 

JTweedie

Well-known member
What a tiring day! I got up at 1.30am and by 2am, I was on the road. Roadworks in a lot of places on the way up, but luckily not much traffic at that time so I made good headway.

Just past Pitlochry on the A9, I saw my first ever Barn Owl flying from one side of the road to the other. Ironic considering I had been thinking why I never see them when so many report seeing them from the road at night.

Got into Loch Garten around 5.15am, a small queue had formed, but I was only about 5th. Most of the birds were on song and a Red Squirrel was running along the branches just above my head. Before long we all got to go in, with reports that the Capers were displaying well. I got to the hide and all of a sudden we had about 30-40 people there and it was a bit of a scrum. All we had were people getting in people's way, all trying to see the birds. I have to say, I think many of the people who were there claiming to be seeing the birds were just deceiving themselves. I was getting increasingly frustrated by people saying "they're there" but I couldn't see a thing, especially as people were barging past other people and putting their heads right in front of bins/scopes.

I was determined to see the bird, so I stayed for the full duration of Caper-watch. After the first very busy half-hour, most of the people left, and the birds were inactive for a long while, but around 7.30am they started moving again and I was finally able to see one - my first Capercaillie! It was so incredibly hard to see it even using the scope, it was right behind some trees and the focus had to be absolutely bang on and I had to point the scope in the right place at the right time. I'm glad I didn't give up, but I'm also glad I didn't kid myself on like many of them I believe.

Other birds showing well included the Ospreys, with the male out collecting moss for the nest. Lots of Siskins, Coat Tits, Chaffinches in front of the hide, with Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and I could hear singing Willow Warblers. Right in front of the hide, high up in a tree was a Wood Warbler, my first for the year. I doubt many people noticed this during the scrum.

At the close of Caper-watch, there were only a few people left. I had a look out over Loch Garten to see what was about, Common Sandpipers showing well, as was a group of Goldeneye. It was almost a who's who of Highland birds! I also got more very close-up views of the Red Squirrel as it climbed a tree that had a couple of Goldcrests on it.

I then took a drive up to Cairn Gorm. The place was incredibly busy with skiers and snowboarders, with loads of snow still on the mountains. Took the railway up to the top and saw my first ever Snow Buntings from there, Ptarmigan on the nearby hillside, and Mountain Hares showing well too.
 
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JTweedie

Well-known member
Just to add to the above, I think the RSPB should put in place a booking system for Caper-watch. It's unacceptable to have 30-40 people all barging each other out the way trying to get a slim sighting. Perhaps limit each watch to 10 people, give every visitor a quality experience and increased chances of good viewings.

I'm not saying they all were, but I think many of the people there were tourists. One couple even left after 10 minutes, I head the guy saying "now we've seen it, want to go?"

Maybe they could also do special mornings for members only as well.
 

Marmot

Well-known member
Just to add to the above, I think the RSPB should put in place a booking system for Caper-watch. It's unacceptable to have 30-40 people all barging each other out the way trying to get a slim sighting. Perhaps limit each watch to 10 people, give every visitor a quality experience and increased chances of good viewings.

I'm not saying they all were, but I think many of the people there were tourists. One couple even left after 10 minutes, I head the guy saying "now we've seen it, want to go?"

Maybe they could also do special mornings for members only as well.

I agree when we first went they seemed quite civilised and people were taken in small groups to the side hide but over the years these groups seem to have go bigger in numbers and as you said end up in everyones manners flying out the window, I actually got pushed out the way and ricked a muscle in my back due to some inconsiderate sods last time I went and I vowed to Ian never to go again on the Caper watch...I think they should have a raffle ticket book and give you a ticket as you pay and then call you in groups of 12 [lowest numbers first] for approx 10 mins and then the next group go in... if you want to go back you wait until all have been around once and then you can stay for longer. There are probably some at the moment that end up staying the whole time at the front.
 

hampers

Hampers
When I visited last week it was definitely a case of I'm at the window and that's where I'm staying. Hard to know what, if, anything could be done to improve it. Perhaps a big sign saying consider others and remember your manners, although I doubt it would have any effect. The day I was there the numbers seemed to be made up of largely birders. I'd rather have paid a fiver, pre-booked, and there only been the number of people that could stand at the viewing points.

Phil
 

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