Tales from the forest

Inspiration, stories and an insider's glimpse into the world of Scotland's forests

Tales from the forest

Welcome to the Forestry Commission Scotland blog. Here you'll find inspiration, stories and an insider's glimpse into the world of Scotland's forests.

Lek It Be: Black Grouse mating season begins

Black Grouse 3

The photo above, taken last week by one of our rangers in the North Highlands, shows a black grouse, with its unmistakable postbox-red crest and blue-black feathers. The ‘lekking’ season is when black grouse breed, and a few of our destinations have been affected - Carrick Forest Drive in Galloway Forest Park has seen a delay to planned roadworks in order to give the grouse population room to manoeuvre. “Not wanting to get in the way of love, we have decided to keep the forest drive closed for a few weeks,” reports ranger Lucy Hadley, who is on the lookout for these rarely-spotted birds in her district.

Sadly, the black grouse population is the fastest-declining in the UK. As an endangered species, we want to do everything we can to support the native breeding population. The larger cousin of the black grouse, the capercaillie, is near-extinct in Scotland, and we don’t want to see that happening to the black grouse.

To throw some more light on the mating habits, characteristics and best places to spot black grouse, we spoke to Environment Forester and bird expert Gareth Ventress. Read what he has to say below, and find out all about the mysterious and dramatic lekking display.

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Home to Roost: Return of the Ospreys

Ospreys have returned to their nests at The Lodge in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Kirroughtree in Galloway Forest Park, and at Glentress in Tweed Valley Forest Park. As regular readers of our blog will know, these beautiful birds of prey migrate from Africa back to Scotland each year to breed and raise their young, returning to warmer climes in Autumn.

Our feathered friends

Now is the time of year to see these magnificent birds in their natural habitat, as they tend to stay in Scotland until August or September, depending on the temperature. Over at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, our colleagues run an in-depth blog monitoring the osprey pairs and chicks, and already there have been some exciting developments, with new pairs forming, and old alliances being challenged. Updated weekly, it’s a great introduction to the different birds who nest in the Tweed Valley, and a brilliant educational resource, with GPS data on their flight paths and migration habits and some stunning photography.

Osprey LK0

One of last year’s new chicks born in the Tweed Valley, LK0, who has yet to return for 2018...

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Space Is The Place: Stargazing in Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park


One of the darkest places in Scotland, Galloway Forest Park became the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009. With light pollution in cities impacting wildlife habitats, human health and biodiversity, finding places to enjoy the majesty of the night sky can be a challenge.

For visitors to Scotland however, Dark Sky events at our Visitor Centre in Kirroughtree offer the perfect chance to stargaze. Whether you’re an experienced telescope owner, night-time photography enthusiast, or just keen to uncover the night sky’s mysteries, the park is for you. Here, you can spot over 7000 stars and planets with the naked eye. You can even see the bright, silvery band of the Milky Way - often hidden by the lights of the cities.

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Top ten archaeology sites in Scotland's forests

township ruin

Scotland’s forests hold many secrets. Tales of the past echo in the stillness of the trees and ruins remain as a testament to days gone by.

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Top ten perfect picnic spots

family picnic

They say you should plan your meals, but never a picnic - and this is doubly true in Scotland, where even during peak summer time our weather can be changeable! Below, we've got suggestions for easy-to-access picnic spots near you, suggestions for snacks, main meals and drinks, and even some ideas for alternative activities and destinations, in case it starts to rain cats and dogs.

Find the perfect picnic place

The key to planning your picnic is to pack light - take only what you need, and what's easy to carry. Because picnic planning is usually weather-dependent, and often a spontaneous decision spurred on by promising blue skies, we've tried to make your life simple with a few suggestions - make sure you’ve got the essentials ready for a truly great day out.

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Rob Mulholland's Skytower, Rawyards, Airdrie


Image: Ashley Coombes / Rob Mulholland

A new video of the visually striking Skytower sculpture at Rawyards near Airdrie has surfaced online this week, courtesy of YouTube channel Above Scotland. Created by artist Rob Mulholland in 2013, the 6-metre high sculpture was designed with the help of the local community, with assistance from children at local primary schools Clarkston and St Serf’s.

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Walking into 2018: Four forest trails to explore


mapreaders small

For many of us, the start of a new year means making resolutions to get fit and active, and spend more time enjoying the outdoors. A little forward planning can help you stick to your new exercise programme – and the advantages of exercising outdoors cannot be overstated. With no costly gym memberships to worry about, and all of Scotland’s breathtaking natural beauty to explore, getting active in the new year can feed the soul as much as it helps condition the body.

To help you get 2018 off to a great start, we asked some of our colleagues out in the sticks to recommend their favourite new year walk. Whether you’re looking for a challenging climb, a gentle amble through the woods, or a stunning view, we’ve got a recommendation for you! Have fun, dress warmly, and away you go.

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Show Us Your Baubles!

xmas tree blog

Have you bought a beautiful, natural Christmas Tree from us this year? Share the love on social media - once your tree is safely home and decorated to perfection, take a picture with your loved ones and share it with us on Twitter using the hashtag #ShowUsYourBaubles.

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Introducing the Forest Family Bags

forest family bags mfg 041

Having a healthy relationship with the outdoors is an absolutely vital part of a child’s life. Outdoor play promotes good health, natural curiosity and environmental awareness, while providing an exciting alternative to more sedentary activities. In a world increasingly saturated with passive entertainment media and electronic distractions, the Forestry Commission want to help kids get back to nature - and families are the focus of our new project, the Forest Family Bag.

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