One of Scotland’s most endangered birds is to find support in the most unlikely of quarters.
Mountain bikers in the Cairngorms have been invited to get involved in capercaillie conservation by devising their own solutions to protect its habitat.
The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project (CCP) and Developing Mountain Biking Scotland are partnering to help riders come up with workable solutions to help them share the landscape with the birds.
CCP is funded by the National Lottery and has made £100,000 available to support a programme of work that could include repairing trails which have become impassable for bikers and reduce the need to build new trails in areas that are home to the capercaillie.
To develop their solutions, riders are being invited to become part of an action planning group, with those interested in participating asked to apply through cairngormscapercaillie.scot.
A recent survey of riders in the Cairngorms National Park, the last remaining stronghold for capercaillie in the UK, revealed almost all riders feel responsible for the environment they ride in and are willing to change behaviours to help protect it.
CCP project manager Carolyn Robertson said: “Capercaillie forests are shared spaces for people and nature, so this isn’t about finding ways to shut riders out.
“Ultimately, it is about riders identifying and owning their own solutions for capercaillie.
“Building trust so we can share information more openly is a big part of that, to help riders develop a more meaningful understanding of the environment they use.
“If we get it right for capercaillie, other species will also benefit and clearly riders want to help, so we’re putting the power and decision-making into their hands.”
Ruari Watt is Highland development coordinator of Develop Mountain Biking in Scotland and said the community–led approach to conservation could be rolled out in other areas.
“The local mountain biking community are proud of the environment they ride in and we’re really keen to involve local riders of all abilities in this exciting opportunity,” he said.
“If we can make this community-led approach work in the Cairngorms National Park we can replicate this approach anywhere. It’s got huge potential.”
Local volunteers will be involved in implementing the bikers’ proposals, including Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association.
The association’s Andy Singh said: “We are excited to be involved.
“We are already working alongside the project’s community ranger to help us make more informed decisions regarding trails in capercaillie habitats and to assist with our goal of creating sustainable trails while minimising our footprint in more sensitive areas.”