THE last of the autumn talks of the Leek Group of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust was given by Nick Martin on the Secret Wildlife of the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms National Park, 10 years old this year, is 4,500 square kilometres in area, twice that of the Lake District and contains five of the six highest mountains in Britain.
On the mountain tops, where temperatures can drop to -20 degrees centigrade, Snow Buntings can be found throughout the year.
With snow laying for several months many creatures have adapted to this by developing a white winter plumage.
Ptarmigan, cryptically speckled during summer as they hide in the boulder fields, in winter turn white to camouflage themselves against their predators, the fox and Golden eagle.
Arctic hare likewise assume a winter white coat. This change in colour is instigated by day length so if snow doesn't arrive as usual such creatures become very vulnerable as they stand out from the dark heather.
The Cairngorms was made a Special Protection Area solely due to its population of Golden eagles.
The eagle population is stable but depends on a good food supply of weasels, young deer, foxes, grouse and hares.
Another unusual bird of the high tops is the dotterel, where the female is the more colourful but it is the male which rears the chicks while the female heads north to find another mate for a second brood.
Lower down on the moorland areas oystercatchers, lapwings, snipe, curlew and red grouse can be found feeding amongst the cottongrass.
While Red deer are common two herds of Reindeer have been established since the 1950s.
Feral goats can be found roaming the moorland nibbling any tree saplings that manage to get a hold.
Coming lower down the mountain still you find the Scots pine forests.
Here such birds as Tree pipit, Siskin, Coal tits and Crossbills are common but Crested tits are found only in certain areas.
The majestic Capercaille is rare and much work is being instigated to safeguard its future.
Red squirrel, with their beautiful ear tufts and bushy tail, are widespread.
The Wild cat has been in decline for many years due to its interbreeding with feral cats, there's thought to be less than 500 true Wild cats left in the wild.
The streams flowing down the mountainside are very clean and full of invertebrates allowing Dippers to flourish.
The lochs are home to many of our rarer breeding birds. On the smaller lochs Red-throated divers and Slavonian grebe (with its golden ear tufts and trill calls) nest on the edges while on the larger lochs Black-throated divers prevail.
Ospreys are now commonly found feeding over the larger lochs.
A very informative and entertaining talk about the wildlife of one of Britain's most beautiful and spectacular regions.
Sponsors for the evening were A&C Vehicle Services Ltd, Burton Street, Leek, 01538 398227.
A total of £220 was raised at our Coffee Morning held on 22nd November at Trinity Church, Derby Street, Leek. Our grateful thanks go to all who contributed.
The next talk for the group will take place on Tuesday 14th January at St. Paul's Church Centre, Novi Lane at 7.30pm when accomplished and popular speaker Dr. Peter Thomas of Keele University returns to Leek to give an illustrated talk entitled '' Can a tree live for 5,000 years?''
Admission £2.50 (includes refreshments) All are welcome, you do not need to be a member to attend our events.