Volunteers: Looking back on two seasons of improving habitat for capercaillie

Volunteers have so far donated over 3,000 hours of their time to help capercaillie, as part of the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project. Lots of that time has been spent helping to improve and expand over 8,000 hectares of habitat for capercaillie.

Come rain or shine, volunteers have been out and about working on a variety of tasks, including marking deer fences to prevent bird collisions; restoring bog woodland; ring-barking trees to create insect-rich deadwood; removing spruce saplings to encourage Scots pine to grow, and creating grit piles for capercaillie to use away from forest tracks.

Volunteers are all smiles at a ring-barking session

With most sessions over the past two years fully booked and over-subscribed, we’ve been heartened by the commitment and enthusiasm we’ve seen from everyone who’s joined us. And a diverse bunch, from residents to people from all corners of Scotland, a range of ages, and from all kinds of backgrounds. Some have come with lots of ecological knowledge, whilst others have been completely new to conservation. Only one or two had ever seen a capercaillie – but all wanted to help.

“[Capercaillie is] an iconic species,” said one volunteer. “Whilst I’ve never seen one in the wild I feel good being involved…”

Removing spruce saplings with a mountain view

“I’m happy to do anything I can to help [capercaillie]. It’d be such a shame to lose them.”

Cath, a volunteer
Creating grit piles for capercaillie

Teamwork, learning new skills, and working with people who cared for nature were shared highlights among many of those who fed back on their experiences. Samuel said after a day of spruce cutting at Glenmore, “I love being outdoors and this is a really great way to meet like-minded people.”

Another volunteer said they enjoyed learning a lot about capercaillie and habitat management from their host.

Volunteers and landmanagers happy with their progress marking a fence

Landmanagers across the Cairngorms, who have hosted the volunteer groups, have welcomed the popularity of the sessions and been surprised by how much work has been achieved. 

One landmanager said “I wouldn’t hesitate to get people involved again. It’s a win-win from a land management point of view, spreading positive messaging and getting people out and about.”

Peter Ferguson, Biodiversity Manager at Rothiemurchus, chatting with volunteers

From the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project to all who have volunteered so far: Thank you! Your work is such an important step in helping secure the future of the species in the UK.

Habitat volunteer sessions are continuing across the Cairngorms National Park. Want to join in? Sign up for upcoming sessions here https://cairngormscapercaillie.scot/get-involved/create-more-habitat-for-capercaillie/

Beautiful views across the National Park from a fence marking session

“I love anything to do with wildlife. If I could just do this sort of thing every day and be paid, it’d be my dream job!”

2021 volunteer
Glyn, Head Ranger on Balmoral Estate, catching the sun with volunteers

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