Looking for Scotlands amazing wildlife
Scotland, those who have visited it, those who have seen photographs of it and those who have had dreams of visiting all say that Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, people come to visit the cities, the ancient castles and older standing stones, but most of all the outstanding beauty of the mountains, valleys, the seascapes of the outstanding cliff and beaches. Mostly the amazing array of creatures that live within Scotland in fact there are six amphibians and four land reptiles are native to Scotland, but many species of invertebrates live here that are otherwise rare in the rest of the United Kingdom. An estimated 14,000 species of insect, including rare bees and butterflies protected by conservation action plans, inhabit Scotland. Just taking a walk within on of Scotland’s glens or on to a valley floor will keep you stopping and looking all day, from the Golden Eagle to the smallest of insect. Isle of Mull is the Golden Eagle capital of Scotland, apart from being a beautiful island there are award winning hides to watch the Eagles from.
If its bird life that interests you another place to visit is the Isle of May, the best time to the see array of sea birds including puffins, razorbills, terns and shags is in the summer, there are sailings from Anstruther to the Isle, check sailing times as during spells of high winds or bad weather they may be cancelled, going in the later months will if the pupping of grey seals. Staying with sea birds and if you are keen to see them up close a trip to St Kilda which is now a UNESCO Reserve, National Nature Reserve, Ancient Monument and a World Heritage Site which is allowing the island to flourish. St Kilda has the largest colony of fulmars in the UK and also The St Kilda field mouse is unique to and related to the wood mouse and possible made its way on boats of the Vikings.
Another rare bird and a subspecies of the UK Wren is the St Kilda Wren and possible less than 120 left, so the protection of St Kilda is extremely important and is also important that we all do our best to protect these animals.
Montrose Basin in the East coast on the edge of the town of Montrose is a tidal basin and a site SSI (Site of Scientific Interest) the habitats including the mud, fresh water, sea water, brackish water, saltmarsh, reed bed, unimproved grassland and arable land. Animals as well as birds are seen throughout the year otters and seals as well as Sea Eagles congregate feeding on the vast amount of food including salmon which is abundant. The most spectacular site is the arrival Canadian Pink Footed Geese migrated in from Canada in the tens of thousands, (2017 total 80,000) arrive on the Basin during the second half of September, the sound of their arrival the sound of the wind passing through the feathers as they flap their huge wings as well as their calling, the arrival when darkness has arrived it is ghostly and if you are not knowing what this is, it can be very spooky. Your host once heard them arrive in the darkness but fog forced flew so low it felt like they were only feet away, it was almost mystical. Mute swans sail so gracefully where the Basin meets the River South Esk, the large reed beds are home to wading birds and Kingfishers hunt and hover about the river and Basin, Waders dipping in the shallows. The eider duck has shown a gradual increase in numbers wintering on the Basin since the early 1960s. Whereas counts once peaked at 200-300, nowadays 1700-2000+ are regular. Maximum numbers of oystercatchers feed on the Basin's mud and sand flats between October and March when up to 4000 may be present and so many more which you can be read about here
A few times a year there are evening walks around the Basin which is about 3 miles and some areas can make it difficult if mobility is not your strongest attribute.
The Basin has a selection of hides for public use and a very informative visitors centre where you can get ideas of what to see and do, the south of the Basin you will find a small car park and a quiet walk along the Basin and if you are feeling energetic you can walk along the river to the Bridge of Dun, where you will find a restored train station where the steam train runs are weekends to and from the Cathedral City of Brechin. This part of the Basin is ideal for a quiet walk or a family picnic, but check first as sometimes the farmer allows his cattle to roam, if you wish to walk while the cattle are in the area try and avoid startling the cattle as these animal can be dangerous if frightened. Enjoy the wildlife common and rare birds as well as insects, the lifeblood of any environment are the insects. They are low on the food-chain and hence provide the food source for many higher organisms. They also provide vital services in pollination and pest control. Take a visit to the Basin; you will fall in love with the place.You cannot visit Scotland and not visit one of the largest of the UK national country parks, The Cairngorms National Park. This park is an amazing space, space that you are free to wander to your heart’s content, like the rest of Scotland it’s an amazing place to be, full of wildlife to be seen, valleys to explore, mountains and hills to climb and ancient monuments to learn the histories of the turbulent and the peaceful times of Scotland The park which covers 1,748 sq miles, which cover five regions of, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Angus and Perth and Kinross, each region having it’s on beauty and story coastal and mountain. The Cairngorms National Park is special because it contains the best arctic-alpine landforms, habitats and species in Britain, as well as extensive slopes and hills, and wide, fertile straths. It contains the best arctic-alpine landforms, habitats and species in Britain. This is one of the few places where wild nature is so easy to see and many of the plants and animals living here are at the extreme edges of their geographical ranges.
Cairngorm National Park is a Category 5 protected landscape (sustainable development area) that has farmed and managed landscapes in which tourism is encouraged and encouraged it is from walking festivals, camping, climbing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, pony trekking, geocaching then you have the wildlife spotting from Golden Eagles to the smallest of insects, slow worms and the UK only poisonous snake, the Adder but the chances of seeing an Adder is slim, your host has never seen one in the wild, which is a good thing as they are left alone to do what snakes do best, but saying that still watch out for them while in the heather as you don’t want to put your boots on one.
The amount of natural wildlife and sea level and to the tips of the mountain is vast and there is some much information that a quick search will bring the wealth of information but going here if you have children explains it the best. or for those older You will find that many of the estates run tours to see the different wildlife, use the tourist information offices you will find in most towns and cities.
Gairloch is a village, civil parish and community on the shores of Loch Gairloch in Wester Ross, in the North-West Highlands of Scotland which is a popular tourist destination in the summer months. If you have an interest in all things nautical and wildlife of the sea then sailing from here on the tour boats to sea whales, seals. Daily boat trips between March and October where we monitor and survey Herbridian wildlife including Harbour Porpoises, Whales, Grey and Common Seals and Dolphins, plus a huge variety of seabirds including White Tailed Eagles, Golden Eagles, Black-Throated Divers, Great Northern Divers to name but a few. You can find out more information here.
More of Scotland’s famous wildlife both in the air and aquatic can be found, firstly at the fish ladders at the Pitlochry dam, in the autumn month you can watch the salmon power their bodies out the water, as the salmon enter fresh water the stop feeding putting all its energy for swim long distances and are exhausted by the time they arrive but still have enough energy for reproduction. Some species must jump again and again to get up and over waterfalls in their stream. Only the fittest fish make it to the spawning grounds. When the female salmon arrive the spawning process begins. It is the female that initiates spawning by digging a shallow nest for her eggs in the gravel. She does this by turning slightly on one side and fanning her tail. This disturbs the gravel and much of it is pushed downstream by the current. The depression in the gravel is called ‘A Redd’ and will be the nest for the salmon eggs.
The female will lay the eggs about two to ten thousand of them about the size of a pea and the males release the sperm (milt) and they are mixed externally. Salmon die after spawning. The females may guard their nests for a week or two after spawning if they still are alive. They get weaker each day and eventually are washed downstream and end up on the river banks.
While in the area why not visit the Red Kite Centre, Doune with these large, beautiful birds of prey with a huge wing span and the hides give you and ideal place to watch them and photograph them as the rangers give a demonstration on the habits of these birds along with the feeding of these stunning birds. The farm lies on the Braes of Doune in the area of Central Scotland where the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have reintroduced the red kite. It is with their help that Red Kite Centre are providing a facility for enjoying the birds in comfort but without the risk of disturbing what is still a fragile population. Because they are a working farm, booking is highly recommended, go to their website and you will find all the information there phone them on 01786 841373.
If you are travelling over by the Moray Firth or looking for a day out then nothing could be better that a day out on the water to watch the most northerly population of beautiful Bottled Nosed Dolphins, these highly intelligent and friendly animals travel the area in their pods feeding on the schools of fish in these highly fertile coastal waters. Bottle-nosed Dolphins are thought to be one of the most intelligent animals. They are easily taught to perform tricks and are often seen in aquaria; Flipper was a Bottle-nosed Dolphin too. These dolphins are also known to help those needing aid – often rescuing people from drowning or shark attack. These dolphins are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, listed under CITES Appendix II and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Also protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995, by visiting these dolphins you will be educated, astonished, you will find that they will stay in your memories for the rest of your life. For more information you can visit the Dolphin Centre which is free to enter, their website can be found here http://dolphincentre.whales.org/ open March 2018 and 7 days a week in April. You cannot come to Scotland and not seeing one of nature’s stunning creatures. It’s not just Bottled Nose which can be seen in Scotland coastal water harbour porpoise, Minke Whales, White Beaked Dolphin, Risso Dolphin, Common Whales as well as the spectacular Orca which has the common name of Killer Whale.
As you travel around Scotland you will find organisations dedicated to the protection of these precious creatures so on your travels please visit these centres, leave a donation. while on the beaches and you see an litter especially plastics as the animals mistake the plastic for While on the beach and you see and rubbish especially plastic, please lift it and put it in the nearest bin as the sea creatures mistake it for food such as squid or cuttlefish and it slowly and painfully kills them. If you do spot any of the animals please contact The Sea Watch Foundation http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk
Isle of Skye Acclaimed as the ‘Best marine wildlife watching destination in Europe’; and the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The island's peninsulas radiate from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillins, the rocky slopes of which provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country. Skye has a wide range of animals and insects in a dramatic landscape which will keep you busy spotting, from the grey seals around its coast to the playful Otters. Otters are often seen around Glendale on Skye, and Milovaig is one of the best places to watch them, in the clear blue waters of Loch Pooltiel, laying on their backs in floating with an shellfish on its chest and using a stone as a tool to crack it open, watch the young trying to follow the adult and learning to do the same. Going to the Neist Coast on one of the many boat trips you will find around the island. The usual array of sea creature of dolphins, common and grey seals, Orcas and the great Basking Shark Adults typically reach 6–8 metres in length. They are usually greyish-brown, with mottled skin. The caudal fin has a strong lateral keel and a crescent shape, they have a huge mouth open while it swims filtering plankton, and the Basking is one of only three plankton feeding whale-sharks.
On land there is a stunning array of butterflies and moths some 90 of them some which have returned to the island after believing that they have been wiped out, this goes to prove that the air is clean and plenty of food for the retuning moths and butterflies. The wildlife is so immense even the Dinosaurs lived here; Isle of Skye is one of the best for the Middle Jurassic dinosaurs that can be found, the best fossil hunting place in the whole of the UK and is a dream destination for many collectors.
There are two types of eagles on Skye and they are the Sea Eagle and the Golden Eagle, watching the Sea Eagle fishing for salmon on the lochs is an amazing sight and you will find both lochs and hides to watch the Sea Eagle and there are centres where you can find information you will need.
Red Deer are the largest land mammal in the UK and are mainly found in Scotland, with the largest population in the West Coast Highlands and Skye.
In the summer months Red Deer will be on the higher ground grazing and have a dark red/brown coat (hence their name). In the winter there coat turns darker and slightly grey in colour. Try and not approach them especially in the rutting season as they can become very aggressive while being challenged for a mate
The Puffin is a small sea bird that is made famous by its brightly coloured parrot-like bill. They are a diving bird and an impressive swimmer, highly manoeuvrable underwater when hunting fish. These birds are found high on the sea cliffs and are difficult to spot. The best way to spot the Puffins is to get on one of the many boat trips around the island. While out on the boat the Gannets the largest sea bird in Scotland with an adult bird having a wing span of up to 6 foot. Gannets are famous for the way they catch fish. When they spot a shoal of fish from the air they tuck their wings back and dive into the water at high speed, when there is a flock of them they are amazing to watch as they act like a dart and better than any professional human diver.
One of rarest and most elusive animals and lives its life on Skye as well as other secluded forested area of Scotland is Pine Martin, a member if the weasel family and about the size of your family cat, hunts small animals such as mice, frogs, birds and anything else that passes his direction, they are a recent addition to Skye’s wild animal population with the erection of the Skye Bridge where before the island was protected by being an island, so keep your eyes open around Sleat.
Many of the other islands have plenty of wildlife much the same as Skye and there are plenty of ways to see around the other islands, some even have guides so island safaris can be a much better way to see the island than trying to find your way around. The Tourist Office will have plenty of information and Highland Scene Adventures is also building a guide to the ‘best of’ from around Scotland.
If for some reason you are not able to get about and look for the animals in the wild then within the Cairngorms National Park not far from Newtonmore you will find the Highland Wildlife park, this park is the next best thing to the wild and the park is superbly laid out and viewing the animals from viewing platforms with wheelchair accessibility is ideal, there are fantastic range of beautifully cared for animals and with the main aim is conservation. Your host has visited this park on many occasions and each visit your hosts find something new. The well-educated staff have the knowledge about each animal and talks and demonstrations are given at set times around the park.
The main attractions some which are not native to Scotland or have been at one time. The park has two stunning Amur Tigers which have been at the park for a number of years and in 2013 the park announced the birth of two cubs. Talk is given on these animals so you will learn all about them and their struggle to survive in the wild. Animals which were once part of Scotland’s wildlife was the Wolves, Wolf Wood which is the area of the park dedicated to the European Grey Wolf which could have been found all over the Northern Hemisphere, but because of humans hunting and encroaching onto the territory by taking the timber and clearing large areas that they have become endangered. There has been talk of reintroducing wolves back into the Highlands of Scotland to help keep the population of deer down but has met with opposition, but the wolf was here first and your host believes it would be good for the Highlands. In recent years’ legal protection and land use change has helped some populations to recover. However, some subspecies and regional populations are still at risk as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
The arctic fox is now extinct in Scotland but was found here up to the last Ice Age. Nowadays, it lives throughout the Arctic region, with Scandinavian animals migrating south to the Baltic coast for the winter. The Arctic fox is generally unprotected throughout most of its range; however in Sweden, Finland, and Norway, it has been fully protected for over 60 years. In Greenland, Svalbard, Canada, Russia and Alaska where trapping for fur is common, it is controlled by well-enforced laws requiring trapping permits and specifying a limit in each trapping season.
For more information on the wildlife park, how to get there and what else it has to offer and for you to see go here http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk
The most visited place outside of the main cities is Loch Ness and the wildlife surrounding this beautiful stretch of water with its legend of the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie the first written account of seeing with the Loch Ness Monster of Adamnan in 565 A.D. He describes St. Columba's sighting of a monster in the Loch. In the loch there is more water than in all the lakes in the rest of the UK and it is so deep dark and cold that diving it is almost impossible. St. Columba came across the story of how Nessie came out the water murdered a man and then slipped back into the depths of St. Columba borrowed a boat and rowed out into the centre of the loch which is a hard row, the stood up in the boat and ordered in the name of the Almighty to stop killing and not to plague the locals again. It seems that after the St. Columba ordered the beastie to stop eating the locals, so Nessie has stuck to fish as no humans or sheep has gone missing since then. Nessie has been seen many, many times countryside either on the road or skimming along the top or poking his head out, but those who have seen Nessie believe what they have seen and thousands of people a year come to visit the loch for its beauty of the surrounding mountains and wildlife and of course you cannot visit the loch without looking for the monster, so hope on one of the pleasure boats and see what you can see.
The Loch Ness Monster sometimes over shadows what is real about the area, turn your back on the loch and look towards the hills and mountains to what the area has in the ways of wildlife. If you really want to find wildlife you will find a favourite in the Red Squirrel jumping between trees looking for food to eat just now and for the winter, hoping that the grey ones are not about as they don’t hibernate and they find the Reds winter store and steal it, then after the Reds wake there is nothing for them, many starve.
The Red Stag, Monarch of the Glen standing proudly looking over the herd of females it has fought other males for control. The Red Stag stunning fight to control a territory and the females, they start with the roar, early morning warning the other males, two come together, is neither back down then it’s a fight to win, the winner takes the herd parading his harem into the mountains for the new life it will bring.
Hiding away, not coming out until dusk, looking for grubs and worms, the Badger with its white strip is a shy animal but again one of Scotland’s wild animal and looking for them takes a bit of time. Badger setts can be found in almost every environment from the densest of forest to a busy city where ever they can find a quiet area rich in its food then it will make a sett. For more information about Badgers in Scotland there is a wonderful website which you will find here http://www.scottishbadgers.org.uk
There is so much more to see in Scotland from the Borders to the furthest islands, there is so much knowledge in visitor’s centres and hardworking rangers and a brigade of volunteers that give up their spare time to make sure that the wildlife of Scotland is protected. If you wish to visit Scotland and work as a volunteer for the time you are here you can find plenty of information online about schemes and they just don’t cover wildlife but working to repair tracks for walkers, building dry stone dykes, cleaning beaches and scheme working on historic buildings. If have a skill then you can use it.
Scottish Wild Life Trust: Here
National Trust for Scotland: Here
Scottish Dolphin Centre: Here
The Conservation Volunteers in Scotland: Here