One of the great things about the Cairngorms National Park is our wildlife. Not only is it part of our life support system providing us with clear air, water and food, our wildlife is fascinating and beautiful too.
It also provides jobs. People plough many millions of pounds into our local economy when they come on holiday to enjoy our wildlife spectacles. Binocular and cameras at the ready and accompanied by knowledgeable guides they rise early from their beds to inhabit hides to get the best views.
This came to mind recently when driving to a morning meeting in the Park and my progress was halted by a group of Black grouse displaying in the middle of the public road. A comfy seat, music on the CD and a wildlife show most folk only see on the TV, this bit of free wildlife tourism left me with a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
There will be plenty for you to smile about if you join in the Cairngorms Nature Festival on the May 16-17 during a weekend of nature based fun in Ballater, Aviemore, Tomintoul and Blair Atholl. Whatever your age, you can have fun with many different activities and events from bird ringing to 4×4 safaris. TV wildlife presenter Nick Baker will be the special guest at a Bio-Blitz in Boat of Garten and later in the hall he will share his many wildlife experiences from around the world.
Boat Hall, at the end of April also saw over 100 wildlife professionals gather for the Cairngorms Nature annual conference. Joining them to listen to a number of presentations I was struck by the wide range of exciting and important wildlife projects that are going on around the Park and the committed people involved in their success.
We heard about scientists doing their work more effectively with the support of foresters, farmers, bailiffs and keepers and about the small army of volunteer naturalists recording wildlife across the park. Social media, including Cairngorms Nature Facebook postings and You tube videos, is one of the new digital tools helping thousands of people worldwide celebrate National Park wildlife and landscapes – a market that more tourism businesses in the Park might profitably engage with.
Finally, along with many others, I was greatly saddened by the recent loss of the wildlife champion that was Dick Balharry. A friend for almost 40 years, he gave me my first job in the Cairngorms and enough memories of pine martens, deer stalking and highly competitive croquet games to really make me smile. Farewell Dick.