This year we've drawn inspiration from the landscape of the Cairngorms National Park in our big build - The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne. The Park is home to snowy mountains, verdant forests, picturesque lochs and winding rivers and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Britain - fertile ground for us LEGO builders.
But the National Park is also one of the best places in the country for nature and is home to around a quarter of Britain's rare animal, insect, lichen, fungi and insect species. Some of the Park's beasties are truly iconic, so we've obviously decided to include a few of them in our model.
Now some animals, such as cats, already have some pretty decent LEGO moulds so including species such as the Scottish Wildcat has been pretty straightforward. However, others need to be built from scratch and here's where this blog comes in, because we're going to show you how to build them too!
What's a capercaillie?, you might ask; and you could be forgiven for doing so given that around 80% of the UK's population live within the National Park. Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) are Britain's largest grouse species and are at home in Scottish native pinewood forests, a rare and vulnerable habitat, but one that still exists in the Cairngorms. Over the last 40 years the UK population declined so rapidly that it is now at very real risk of extinction and is a 'Red List' species.
An interesting bit of trivia is that the name capercaillie is derived from the Gaelic capall coille, which roughly translates as 'horse of the wood'.
Here's how you can build one out of LEGO.
The Cairngorms are home to 14 raptors (18 if you include owls), including hen harriers, kestrel and golden eagle. Some are resident all year, while others, fly thousands of miles to breed or winter there. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are one of the long distance travellers and have been one of the area's real conservation successes. In Britain, the osprey went extinct in 1916 but returned in 1954, choosing Loch Garten as their home. Since then their numbers have grown considerable and pairs still return to the Loch Garten site, which is now managed as part of the award winning RSPB Loch Garten nature reserve.
Osprey are large birds, with adult reaching more than 60 cm in length and 180 cm across the wings. Its diet consists largely of fish and in the summer months they can often be seen fishing in one of the National Park's lochs and lochans. For the best chance of seeing them, head to RSPB Loch Garten, who have a visitor centre that looks out onto a regular nesting site.
Grouse are a pretty common throughout the Cairngorms and can be found on moorland, montane scrub and in and around the edges of woodlands. Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) get their name from the all-black colour of the male birds, which have a distinctive red wattle over the eye and a lyre-shaped tail which is fanned out and raised to show white under-tail feathers when displaying.
Historically, the natural habitat of the black grouse is likely to have been clearings in and at the edges of woodlands, however habitat loss and overgrazing have resulted in severe population declines which make this a Red List species.
Build your own in LEGO:
There are two species of native deer living the Cairngorms; Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus). The former is the UK's largest wild land mammal and is seen as central to the cultural and natural heritage of the Highlands. The latter are less high profile but are popular with wildlife spotters and are valued for venison.
In LEGO terms there's very little to differentiate between Red and Roe deer, so our instructions are basically for whatever species you like best.
There are of course lots of other Highland animals that can be built out of LEGO pieces - check out Cairngorms Nature for info and inspiration - then just let your imagination run wild! Don't forget to show us what you've got!
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You can also spot all of these animals and more on our model the Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne, which is on display at Stirling Castle until February 2nd 2018. Find out more:
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