Here at Crathes Castle we have great trails and even better wildlife – the Coy Burn is the perfect place to enjoy both. Like every good walk, the Coy Burn trail covers a varied landscape and begins beside rolling fields. Beech, oak and larch trees give a fine display of vibrant colours in autumn, and walking on the forest floor creates the happy sound of crunching leaves on top of a carpet of pine needles, acorns and cones. As the days draw in, there is a notable difference in birdsong – the noisy chatter of the blackbird, mistle thrush and wren, among others, quietens down to allow the robin’s melancholic song to echo through the glade.
Although it may seem quiet in the forest with many animals starting hibernation, late autumn is an important time for others to prepare for winter. Flighty red squirrels, busily jumping along the Scots pines’ canopy, collect nuts and seeds to store away for a leaner day. Their homes can be spotted high in the trees, where they build roundish twig balls called dreys. During the colder months they usually venture out of their nests around midday, when the sun is at its warmest. Deer, rabbits and foxes, often searching for food and fattening up for the seasonal change, can also be spotted by keen-eyed and quiet walkers.
Descending through the forest’s dappled light towards the gentle flow of the Coy Burn, the trail follows the water for a short while on a meandering path by the bank. This is the perfect place for a four-legged friend to have a paddle! The burn is home to otters at certain times of the year, although they are elusive like our resident pine martens. With a range of about 12 miles, otters are fast and agile swimmers. They live by the water’s edge in holts and are known for their inquisitive, playful and intelligent personality. Look out for their sleek appearance under the water or for their distinctive prints along the banks after a light snowfall.
As the sun begins to fade and the day turns to dusk, the last stretch across the glistening fields should not be without a glance skywards. Buzzards, with their cat-like call, and red kites, with their distinctive V-shaped tail, have often been spotted here perched on a post or swooping into the distance. If you are lucky, a long eerie screech or a twit-twoo may echo in the distance, but we make no promises!
We now bid our Highland cows good night and leave our badgers to wake up to another night of foraging. The chill in the air brings an even more wintry feel. The New Year is not far away and the festivities are almost upon us – we hope it won’t be too long before the boots are pulled on to walk along our Coy Burn trail once again.