Pete Cairns

Award-winning nature photographer Peter Cairns has done more than most to promote the Cairngorms as a world class wildlife destination through his extensive library of evocative images, books and ground-breaking conservation projects. But Pete is not only an outstanding photographer. An extensive range of photo tours allows him to pass on his knowledge, expertise and passion for the National Park from his own backyard, which is itself turning into a wildlife haven.

"We’re very lucky to live on an old farm alongside the River Feshie, one of the most dynamic spate rivers in Europe. 20 years ago we set about doing our bit to rewild our small piece of the Cairngorms. When we arrived the place was littered with old cars and had been grazed bare. It was a sign of the times and being ‘biodiversity farmers’, which is what we’ve become, was a ridiculous notion.


Fast-forward a couple of decades and Ballintean in Glenfeshie is a very different place. The vole-rich meadows support breeding kestrels, barn owls and buzzards. A pair of ospreys are now enjoying their tenth year on an artificial platform we erected. Goldeneye, tawny owls, crested tits and starlings have all found the nest boxes provided and pine martens and red squirrels are regularly seen in the surrounding woodland. And trees, there are trees. And flowers. And insects.


Of course not all of this is down to us. The surrounding landscape is coming back to life thanks to the work of neighbouring landowners. Our humble plot is just a small piece in a bigger jigsaw. And that’s why we do what we do: to make sure that our piece of the jigsaw is in good order; to make sure it contributes to the greater whole.


There’s no doubt that on a summer’s evening with woodcock roding overhead and bats flitting around, there’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be felt from helping nature recover. To be honest, we’ve done nothing other than light a few blue touch papers here and there and then sit back and let nature regain a foothold.


Before I’m accused of portraying myself as some sort of halo-wearing green hero, a love of wild nature is not our only motivation: nature pays our bills. People pay us to come and stay here; they pay us to photograph red squirrels and ospreys and, in turn we pay others. In our case biodiversity farming makes economic sense.


The great thing about the Nature Jigsaw is that we can all put our own piece in it – big or small. Making that jigsaw whole again is everyone’s job. There’s one more thing: passion. If you have a passion for nature, spread it around. If you’re a visitor to the Cairngorms or you’re lucky enough to live here, be passionate about Cairngorms Nature. It costs nothing and it helps build jigsaws".


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