My day with Dr Adam


The lay-by that Dr Adam Watson told me to meet him at was between Strachan and the Slug Road: writes reporter Andrew J Douglas.

I felt like my ability to find it may be a test but spotted a small car and headed towards it.

A man with a full white beard and matching hair appeared from the vehicle as I entered the car park and waved at me. I recognised him from the internet as ‘Mr Cairngorms.’

After quickly apologising for being late, Dr Watson said: “I never mind being kept waiting, as long as I have my binoculars.”

He had a pair of old weather beaten ones, which he passed over immediately and encouraged me to use as he began educating me about the land in front, which stretched all the way to the cairgorms.

Adam has an unrivalled ability to explain scientific data in language that anyone could understand.

I made mention of this and asked him to tell me a little of his childhood and how his love of nature began.

“My earliest memory is of snow falling from the sky and just being fascinated,” he replied.

When he started school in Turriff he found his own study more interesting than what the curriculum had to offer.

He explained: “I read Seton Gordon’s The Cairngorm Hills of Scotland when I was nine.

‘‘That is what started the love for the Cairngorms and the hills.”

The young Adam wrote to author, Gordon, and was surprised and thrilled when the writer replied with notes and photographs.

This correspondence lasted until Seton Gordon’s death and the pair worked together in the field, beginning Dr Watson’s study of eagles.

After teaching me some basic tips on navigation to help if I got lost in the hills, we discussed his decision to study zoology and settling in Royal Deeside: “So much of where we end up comes down to father wanted me to be a lawyer.

‘‘I wouldn’t have liked to be a lawyer, I was too damn curious.”

After gaining his Phd in 1956, Dr Watson was involved in a new scheme teaching in schools rather than serving in the military for national service, although he was singled out by military intelligence as a potential operative.

After his service, Dr Watson dedicated his life to the study of Scotland’s flora and fauna and is arguably its greatest expert.

He has written over 20 books and has contributed work of untold value to science to which a newspaper profile could never do justice.

Dr Watson lives in Banchory with his wife and their dog, Henry II.

His new book ‘Hill Birds in the north east Highlands’ is available in Yeadon’s bookshop and online at