European Otter – April

©Nick Sidle – Full Screen Image

Out of the sea for a short time, whilst hunting along the coast on a rising tide, just after dawn at North Kessock on The Black Isle in Ross and Cromarty, Highland Scotland.

Otters are shy and elusive animals and difficult to see but patience and getting up early can be rewarded. There are many stories about them, including the one recorded by J Wentworth Day writing in 1937, who described a belief on the West Coast that there were ‘Otter Altars’, flat rocks by the sea worn flat by centuries of use as dining tables by Otters on migration. Scientifically this is dubious, Otters do not really migrate and even for a well used rock, their numbers would be unlikely to erode the surface till it was flat. This is almost certainly a case of confusing cause and effect and association. Otters do not start by using pointed rocks and make them flat. They do however like to come out of the water to eat, often do this at preferred sites and convenient, already flat, rocks are very likely to be used again and again.

This otter is on the East side of Highlands and was found this morning in the traditional territories of Clan Mackenzie.


Gallery – Scotland’s Clans and Families

Gallery – Clan Mackenzie

Gallery – Black Isle

Gallery – Scotland’s Mammals

European Otter – Lutra lutra

Capercaillie – April

©Nick Sidle – Full Screen Image

The Capercaillie is a very large Grouse like bird long associated with the native woodlands of Scotland. Over hunting and habitat loss meant it ceased to be found in the country by the late 1700’s but later reintroductions from Sweden have meant that it is once again part of the wild backdrop to the Scottish landscape.

The name Capercaillie appears with various spellings but all seem to stem from the Gaelic, although there is more than one possible root there as well. The most widely quoted is Capall coille meaning Horse of the Woods, believed to refer to the sheer size of the bird and the calls of the male in spring which, with a little imagination, could be said to sound like a horse, and a phrase in its more routine song, which can be described as ‘tik-up’, resembling the sound of a horse’s hooves. An alternative Gaelic base is Gabhar-coille, The Goat of the Wood, possibly coming from the male’s goat-like beard and, especially this time of the year, belligerence. Males display and compete ferociously with each other for females but have been known to show aggression to people and even vehicles that stray into what they see as their part of the forest in spring.

Capercaillie are declining in numbers again and great efforts are being made to keep them as part of the Scottish wild forest. This one is in part of the Cairngorms National Park, which put it in the traditional lands of the Macpherson clan but all the great Scottish families would have been familiar with this majestic bird in their ancestral homelands in past centuries.

Gallery – Scotland’s Clans and Families

Gallery – Clan Macpherson

Gallery – Cairngorms National Park

Gallery – Scotland’s Birds


Western Capercaillie – Tetrao urogallus

Glen Garry – April

©Nick Sidle – Full screen image

Loch Poulary and Beinn Bheag, Glen Garry, Inverness-shire, Highland Scotland.

Glen Garry is the ancestral land of the MacDonnell of Glen Garry Clan. Many were displaced in the Highland clearances and later depopulation and found themselves in Canada where, because of them, there is now a Glengarry County and Loch Garry in Ontario.

Gallery – Scotland’s Clans and Families

Gallery – Clan MacDonnell