Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross has visited RSPB Scotland's Abernethy nature reserve in Strathspey - and came face-to-face with an ancient 400-year old pine tree. The RSPB reserve contains some of the most important remaining parts of Scotland's Caledonian pine forest but the conservation charity is keen to increase the size of the forest through a 200-year vision to expand the forest to the natural tree line, including high-altitude mountain woodland. It is estimated that only 1% of Scotland's original Caledonian pine forests still exist.
Mr Ross visited the reserve with his wife Krystle and pet dalmation, Murphy, where they met RSPB site manager Jeremy Roberts who briefed them on the RSPB's ambitions for the forest.
Mr Ross said, "It was amazing to stand beside a tree that has stood at Abernethy since the time of King James the Sixth. And I was very impressed to learn about how the RSPB wants to provide the woodlands with a sustainable future so that future generations can experience such an inspiring and beautiful place. Expanding the woodland to the natural tree-line will create more habitat for the many special species that live here including, of course, the capercaillie. Although we didn't see one it was reassuring to learn that expanding the pinewood should help to ensure that this very rare bird survives into the future in Scotland."
Mr Ross was briefed on the current population of the capercaillie and the threats to its survival, including disturbance by people and dogs that are allowed to roam off the lead. "As a dog owner myself I believe that people who visit special places like Abernethy which have breeding capercaillie should act responsibly and ensure that their dogs are on a lead. We made sure that our dalmation, Murphy, was kept on his lead and he seemed to enjoy his visit!"
Mr Roberts added, "It was great to meet Douglas and Krystle, not to mention Murphy, and show them what we are doing here. Looking after Abernethy is a responsibility that RSPB Scotland takes very seriously. We hope that our work here will be an inspiration for other land managers and that by working across the Cairngorms, and beyond, we can make this an even better place for the amazing wildlife that makes its home here."