Kirsty Potter from RSPB Scotland, has this update from the lucky winners of our competition with Walkers Shortbread. Justin and Susan went on a spectacular guided safari at our Abernethy reserve and shared the stories of the day with us.

A winning visit to Abernethy

On Saturday 11 July our Walkers Shortbread competition winners visited our beautiful Abernethy reserve to take up their prize.

For a period at the end of 2014, packets of Walkers Shortbread bore a special RSPB sticker featuring a red squirrel, one of the threatened species found at Abernethy, as well as details of a special competition. Devoted Walkers Shortbread buyers were asked to enter the competition on the RSPB website to be in with the chance of winning a VIP wildlife safari at Abernethy and a weekend stay at The Boat Hotel in Boat of Garten.

Justin and Susan, from Edinburgh, were the lucky winners of the prize and were delighted to have the chance to travel to the reserve in the heart of the Cairngorms to see some fantastic wildlife, led by the extremely knowledgeable and charismatic Desmond Dugan, Abernethy’s Site Manager.

Desmond knows the reserve like the back of his hand, having lived and worked there for over 30 years. He recommended an early start that morning so that Justin and Susan had the best chance of seeing as many of the 4,500 species that live on the reserve as possible and so picked them up from the hotel at 5am. Justin commented: ‘Getting up at 4.30am on a weekend has never been so easy!’

Luckily, the weather was good and the early start certainly paid off. Justin and Susan were able to see both red and roe deer, a badger, red squirrels, red and black grouse, a kestrel, merlin and buzzard, and red-throated divers amongst many other species. To find out more about some of the incredible wildlife that calls Abernethy home, have a look at the star species section on our Abernethy page.

After the early start, Desmond dropped Justin and Susan back at the hotel for breakfast and, after a quick pit stop to refuel, the group headed back out to see more of the reserve, rounded off with a picnic lunch in a high up spot overlooking the stunning landscape of the reserve.

Justin summed up their prize, saying: 'We had an amazing time at Abernethy. It was great to be shown around by Desmond who was so knowledgeable and passionate about this beautiful part of the world.'

RSPB Scotland is very grateful to Walkers Shortbread for their support in running this competition. We are now in our second year working with Walkers and are very proud to be in partnership with such a well-known and well-loved Scottish family business.

Walkers Shortbread supports our vision of expanding Abernethy forest up to its natural tree-line. This is a long-term project which may take up to 200 years to complete but it will create a wooded landscape at Abernethy, effectively doubling the size of the existing forest habitat, mainly through the natural processes of regeneration.

The company has helped to fund an on-site tree nursery that is already allowing us to plant seedlings, grown from seed collected on the reserve, and grow them on to saplings. Over the next few years up to 100,000 young trees will be planted to enrich the pine regeneration and to create a more diverse future woodland.

This will be of benefit to all of the fantastic creatures that Justin and Susan were lucky enough to spot on the wildlife safari amongst many others, and will ensure that generations to come will have the same opportunity to enjoy the area.