Loch Garten – Conservation Haven
Located near the Boat of Garten village in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Garten falls within the Strathspey area of Scotland’s renowned Cairngorms National Park. The freshwater loch, with its ancient Caledonian pine forests, is home to a thriving population of ospreys, with the Loch Garten Osprey Centre offering visitors the ideal opportunity to observe these fascinating birds up-close in their natural habitat, by means of modern technology and discreetly placed CCTV cameras. Ospreys in Britain had become extinct as breeding birds in the early 20th century. But, thanks to two breeding birds relocating from Scandinavia to Loch Garten in 1954, and assisted by the RSPB and other conservation organizations, the species has recovered and continues to be closely monitored.
Other birds to be found in around Loch Garten include crested tits and blue tits that come down from the tall pine trees to the strategically placed feeders, and goldeneye ducks that nest along the water’s edge and feed on the loch. Scottish crossbills can be seen perched high in the trees, stripping seeds from pinecones, while visitors are also likely to see woodpeckers, crossbills, wigeons, siskins, chaffinches, sandpipers and buzzards – depending on the season. A big attraction at Loch Garten is Scotland’s largest grouse – the capercaillie. During breeding season in the months of April and May, early morning visitors may be fortunate enough to see the spectacular capercaillie communal lek.
There are a number of trails to be explored at Loch Garten, most of which are accessible by wheelchair. The trails are marked and color coded, with the blue trail linking the centre with the public transport serving Speyside Way. The Loch Garten Osprey Centre is all on one level, with viewing slots for observing the ospreys and interpretative materials placed at a level to accommodate wheelchair users and children. Visitors can enjoy live CCTV footage of the birds in their nests, while staff is on hand to answer questions and provide additional information. Telescopes and binoculars are also available for visitors to scan the surroundings for wildlife.
Although the Loch Garten Osprey Centre closes during the winter months, the park and trails remain accessible to the public. Winter residents of the park include goldeneye ducks, goosanders, mallards and teals. Other creatures that may be spotted in the park include roe deer, otters and red squirrels.