29th May 2020

Featured / Outdoors / Felix Gladstone

A Capercaillie Has Been Spotted at Glen Dye for The First Time In 20 Years.

9 4 mins 0

Lockdown has been a very strange time. You don’t need another article detailing that.

One wonderful thing, though, is the return of wildlife to areas that they have avoided for years. Dolphins have been spotted near Italian harbours and Wild Boar have returned to the streets of Barcelona. Whether lockdown related or not, we have had our very own return at Glen Dye. After years away, we have a Capercaillie; only one, but it’s  start and it’s a female so a male may be close behind.

The Capercaillie are quite incredible birds, the male species particularly striking. But they have been at a very real risk of extinction for a number of years now. With the return of the Capercaillie to Glen Dye we can only be filled with hope.

They belong to the Grouse family and are the biggest of their species. The male birds are primarily grey in colour, with reddish-brown wings and a white patch on the shoulder. Their head, neck and breasts are tinged with blue and the eye is surrounded by a red ring. The shape of their rear feathers is akin to that of a peacock, with slightly less colour. The females are slightly less colourful, donning a brown plumage throughout with a reddish-brown patch on the breast. They usually weigh about as much as a Turkey but have been known to weigh up to as much as seven kilograms. That’s a pretty sizeable bird.

The Capercaillie are at their most incredible during the mating season, when the male performs his mating ritual. He puts on a display called a ‘lek’ which involves some flamboyant feather displays and a few gurgles and wheezes with a few sounds -likened to corks popping- scattered in too. Apart from their sheer size, this is probably what the Capercaillie are best known for. They gather in woodland clearings to parade around, trying to win the approval of their female counterparts. A festival, of sorts.

It has been a long time since a Capercaillie has been spotted at Glen Dye, so it is fantastic news for us all. Our last resident Capercaillie was named Gordon by us. He lived up at the stables, lodging with the horses. He would frequently intercept and help himself to the their food, frightening them with a bombardment of strange yet wonderful coos and calls. He was a formidable force at times, yet our family, him and the horses struck up a healthy relationship by the end of his time at Glen Dye. A harmony of sorts developed. This perplexing bird became part of the furniture at the stables. We would absolutely welcome a new ‘Gordon’ with open arms. We do hope that it might happen, the horses’ meal times have been much less adrenaline filled since he died.

The Capercaillie has already been extinct in Scotland once, during the 18th Century. Whereafter they were re-introduced from Sweden. They have even been labelled Britain’s ‘unluckiest bird’ in the past. Perhaps this is their long-awaited stroke of luck in an inauspicious existence.

The sighting of a Capercaillie at Glen Dye is absolutely a step in the right direction. It is good to have these marvellous Grouse, cum-Turkey, cum-Peacocks back.

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Felix Gladstone

Felix Gladstone is the youngest child of Charlie and Caroline Gladstone. He is currently studying History at the University of Edinburgh and is going into his second year. He spends his spare time learning and listening to all things music, an industry he hopes to one day be involved in. During his time off university, he has been working for The Good Life Society, writing some articles along the way.

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