David Adam Gallery
David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Invermark estate at the head of Glen Esk in Angus has corners where no man goes, yet it hosts several popular walking routes that satisfy the need to experience the great outdoors for many visitors. Wind slapped Mount Keen is the most frequented summit but the circuit around majestic Craig Maskeldie from Loch Lee to the Falls of Unich grows in popularity year on year and, of course, the walk to the loch past the fortified tower house of Invermark is legendary.
This huge estate, of some 55,000 acres, seems to absorb many of the demands placed on it, either from leisure visitors, deer management, game bird shooting, wildlife tours, micro hydro-electric schemes, fishing, farming or forestry, and despite the increase in visitors there is limited conflict generated between these diverse uses. Inadequate car parking, picnic littering, fire lighting and uncontrolled dogs are all frequent complaints at peak visitor times but the majority of visitors do respect the place as being special to the Angus glen heritage.
Nevertheless, the demands placed on wild nature by these activities must surely have an effect, but is it a positive or negative result overall. Leisure visitors usually keep to certain path routes avoiding the open moorland habitats where wildlife, in the main, is left undisturbed. Sightings of grouse, waders, deer and some raptors are frequently recorded by hill walkers, but some of those would not acknowledge wildlife, or the looking for it, as the reason for their visit.
Deer management and stalking takes place throughout the estate from July until February to control numbers of Red Deer plus, importantly, to generate income from stag and hind stalking sport. Extensive grazing of any vegetative regeneration and associated peatland erosion would occur without some lethal control of deer numbers, and because of sheep, rabbit, hare and deer grazing the implementation of wire marked, fence enclosures for new forest planting is essential.
Game bird shooting, in particular lucrative driven grouse shooting, has taken place on this estate for generations. A photograph of Invermark outdoor staff taken before the First World War shows a count of 27 men ..... nowadays the count is down to about 8 and, realistically, this would seem to be a bare minimum to manage a huge acreage of moor. Incidentally, back then in the 'good old days' of the '27' there were three eagle nest sites on Invermark, now there are only two.
The nurturing of grouse to shoot, on any estate, leads to conflict with predators like the wily Red Fox or Stoat, but sometimes with raptors and corvid species like the Raven. Fox control is usually an uphill battle for all grouse moors and today I came across a few wandering fox tracks that just go on and on for miles over hill top snow, and beyond into those remote corners where no man goes.
Some raptors, like Golden Eagles, have co-existed with grouse shooting quite happily on this estate and many eagle chicks have fledged over the years, in fact Invermark might just hold a Scottish record for producing, on two separate occasions in the past decade, nests containing three chicks that have successfully fledged; a very rare thing for eagles that indicates a plentiful prey source.
Today, I witness a supplementary food source for both eagles and corvids. A flurry of black winged activity is taking place over a certain hill that led me to presume that the estate had been deer stalking there during a recent snowy period leaving the gralloch, or innards, behind. Dozens of Ravens gathered to feast with some carrying carrion tat away with them, but the bonus rose above the hill in the shape of two, full cropped, female Golden Eagles that respectfully jousted each other for dominance whilst being cheekily mobbed by the Raven gang.
The traditional shooting estate aspect to Invermark has merged into a future proof diversification through native forest planting, peatland restoration and micro hydro-electric generation ..... fortunately wind-turbines have not raised their ugly heads into the eagle soaring skies. The changes that re-wilders, conservationists and land use campaigners expect from a 'new' Scotland might just have been happening on this estate for a wee while ..... in a round about sort of way.
Many of the hill tracks used for management are still 'old fashioned' or not there at all when compared to the more extensive, floating track developments on neighbouring grouse only estates like Hunthill or Millden and, because of that, there exists more of a visual amenity between the natural landscape and access enabled moorland; much of Invermark lies within the Cairngorms National Park with all of its associated regulations.
Many ill advised critics of self-managed shooting estates in Scotland desire or dream of a land where forests abound, where nature finds a balance between rows of wind-turbines, where wildlife tourism supports the local economy, where phone holstered rangers have taken over from game-keepers, or where any wrong doing means a licence rebuke. My reality, of experiencing the good and the bad from shooting estates in the Angus glens for the past fifty years, precludes that dream-land.
Today, under the glower of an ever changing sky, I look into the far away corners of this estate, all covered in snow, and see inhospitable places untouched by the hand of man. Vast, high peatlands gouged by weather and time with their dark past entombed maybe only in a name, like Wolf Hill ..... and they need no re-wilding. In history, we are not that far away from a time when the kings of Scotland hunted in the glens on horseback with dogs at their side, and brazed venison oozed over plates in the banqueting hall of Invermark castle.
The eagles that witnessed ancient history are still here building up nests that survived the changes of those centuries, and I have no worries. Ultimately the land will dictate its own future to man and beast. So will Invermark's wild nature win out in the end, despite all the positive or negative problems facing it? I think so, yes. Nature abhors a vacuum and will find a compensating balance given time ..... Time, an essential factor that those impatient for change are reluctant to give or even recognise.
We live in a fast and furious, media controlled existence where, 'We changed that', or, 'I achieved this', has become more important than truth ..... more important than traditional livelihoods ..... more important than nature itself. Should, 'We changed that', really read, 'We changed that by lying', or should, 'I achieved this', really read, 'I achieved this by misrepresenting data statistics'.
Nature's future is in the hands of those who stitch up the truth to fit hidden agendas and the innocent always suffer. Being blamed for an alleged and defamatory 'wrong' is one of the worst things to suffer in life without recourse to a defence; for example, satellite tagged raptors that 'vanish' suspiciously near or on grouse moors is a favourite weapon used by anti-shooting campaigners. I know, through this blog, that writing anything can be intentionally and erroneously misinterpreted by some; I have suffered many 'slings and arrows' from those connected to local raptor study groups and raptor persecution web pages.
Like the eagles who instinctively build up their nests year on year, we can only build a new future by learning from the past, understanding mistakes, evaluating regrets and making amends instead of being constantly punished by the hand of those who are disconnected and remote.
I wonder what these wild lads, pictured below, would say about licensing grouse moors, raptor persecution and re-wilding ..... and mind, they had plenty of Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Golden Eagles to contend with, and fewer tracks with no mechanised transport, but the philosophy was different then ..... or was it?
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 6 December 2020 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
My other web pages;
David Adam Sketchbook
David Adam Gallery
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.