A view of the Old Tower at Drum Castle, standing beside the Jacobean extension of the castle. The tower is square with battlements. A large area of mown grass is in the foreground.
Aberdeen City & Shire

Drum Castle, Garden & Estate

The Old Wood of Drum is one of the crown jewels in the North East’s natural world. It is the last large remnant of a great oak wood that was gifted by Robert the Bruce to Drum Castle. Its long history means it’s an extremely biodiverse area, full of fascinating species.

These are our top wildlife picks to look out for when you’re out and about on our trails. Each entry has an ‘easy to see’ rating, a fun fact and a top tip for when and where to look.

Oak tree

The outstanding feature of the Old Wood is the oaks themselves, and this kind of open woodland pasture in particular. The oak trees here were planted in the lifetime of those who fought in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. These oaks have withstood storms like the 1953 gale, and their wood has been sold to make ships and castle beams.

Oaks are an incredibly important wildlife habitat as well, with over 300 species connected or depending on them. Look closely, amid the colourful lichens, and you can imagine their life stories.

Fact: As oaks age, they shrink – they lose their top branches and become squat sculptures, with tapering drum-like trunks.

Tall oak trees grow in an old woodland.

How easy is it to spot?


Oak trees can be seen all year round, all around you!


Closely associated with oaks, jays are spectacular birds. These showy members of the crow family are sometimes heard before they’re seen – a raucous noise in the woods often is their territorial shrieking. These birds are russet, grey and white.

Jays are important for oakwoods’ survival because they bury acorns away from the tree. They can carry five acorns at a time, both in their beak and down their gullet. The ones they forget to eat become the mighty oaks of tomorrow.

Fact: The shining tail feathers of jays were once prized by fishermen for making fishing flies.

A jay bird sits on an old wooden branch in woodland. It has a pinky-red body with a bright blue stripe on its wing. It also has black and white wing and tail feathers.

How easy is it to spot?


Jays are present all year round in the oak woodland.

Red kite

Persecuted almost to extinction in the UK, the red kite has now become a conservation success story. Re-introduced in Scotland just a stone’s throw from Drum, it’s now a familiar sight in the North-East skies.

Sometimes seen in family groups, the red kite still manages to take your breath away – effortlessly gliding and wheeling on thermals, it steers itself with its distinctive forked tail, all the while looking with keen eyes for the small mammals and carrion it feeds upon.

Fact: Red kites have a wingspan of up to 185cm.

A red kite is shown in flight, against a bright blue sky. It has a brick red tummy, pale wings with black tips, and a clearly forked tail.

How easy is it to spot?


Red kites can be seen all year round in the skies above the Old Wood.

Buff-tip moth

Although it’s a night-flying creature, you may be lucky enough to encounter the buff-tip moth during your visit. If you do, then you will need to be sharp-eyed since, when it’s resting, it looks just like a birch twig.

The buff-tip moth is a marvel of adaptation and evolution; its sophisticated camouflage protects it from predation. It uses the buff-coloured hairs on its abdomen and scales on its wings to replicate the twig. Its body and wings elsewhere are nearly the same grey-brown colouring and texture of birch bark.

Fact: Buff-tip moth caterpillars are found in groups, and feed on birch, hazel and oak.

A moth is camouflaged to look almost exactly like a stubby twig. It perches on a very similar-looking actual twig. It has tiny furs coming out of its face.

How easy is it to spot?


Buff-tip moths are present May–September on the ground, among twigs.

Gold dust lichen

This lichen (Chrysothrix candelaris) is one of the 300 species that love the old oak trees. It is powdery and yellow or gold-coloured.

Its common name depends on how positively you view this lichen – either mustard powder lichen or gold dust lichen! It’s found between the cracks of the bark.

Fact: Lichens are actually made up of two organisms – a fungus and algae – which work together as one.

A yellowy-green lichen grows in a band around the silvery grey bark of an old oak tree.

How easy is it to spot?


Gold dust lichen can be seen all year round in the Old Wood of Drum.