For wildlife watchers, Scotland can be a remarkable place to see some rare and spectacular sights including our own ‘Big Five’.
Red squirrels, red deer, golden eagles, otters and harbour seals are considered prize sights amongst enthusiasts but there’s an array of other wonderful creatures to look out for.
The National Trust for Scotland work to protect the habitats that support all kinds of animal and plant communities.
With careful monitoring and conservation efforts many amazing creatures can be easily seen when you visit Trust sites.
Here’s some to look out for.
Mar Lodge Estate is Britain’s largest National Nature Reserve, a wildlife wonderland in the heart of the Cairngorms. After centuries of deforestation the native Caledonian pinewood is being reborn and you can spot iconic Scottish wildlife, including red deer, red squirrels, golden eagles and black grouse.
There have been over 5000 species recorded here, many of which are rare or endangered and 30% of the UK’s Red Listed birds breed on the estate including curlew, dotterel and merlin.
Along the rivers you might catch a glimpse of a dipper, common sandpiper, wagtail and, if you’re very lucky, an otter or salmon.
The beautiful ancient pinewoods are home to birds such as black grouse, treecreeper, crossbill and redstart as well as red squirrels, pine martens and the very rare narrow-headed ant.
Golden eagles and red deer
Glencoe is another National Nature Reserve that hosts a rich variety of birdlife, from water-loving dippers, hopping from rock to rock beside the River Coe, to whooper swans, who spend the winter at Loch Achtriochtana while golden eagle nest among the more remote hilltops and corries.
In the glen you might glimpse sheep, wild mountain goats, or the Monarch of the Glen himself – a red deer stag.
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Ospreys and bats
Threave is home to healthy populations of red squirrels, bats and birds of prey. The most famous of these are the ospreys, which have been nesting on the reserve for over a decade.
Between March and September, you can visit the Osprey Viewing Platform, just beyond the boat jetty for Threave Castle. It’s staffed by volunteers who can tell you all about these magnificent birds.
Threave is also home to the Threave Bat Reserve, Scotland’s first dedicated protected habitat for these amazing animals. With eight resident species (the eighth, the Leisler’s Bat, was only verified as resident in late 2018), there are more varieties living here than anywhere else in Scotland.
During the summer (bats hibernate in winter) the conservation team of staff and volunteers use special bat detectors to record numbers and identity by sound which species are active – join in a future bat count (restrictions permitting).
The breathtaking coastal headland of St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve is famed for its seabird colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills. Get close-up views of the feathered residents at this ‘seabird city’ from spectacular cliff-top vantage points.
Tens of thousands of seabirds nest here from May to July each year.
Look out for northern gannets too – in 2017 they bred at St Abb’s Head for the first time in living memory.
This cliff-top nature reserve has fresh sea air and rugged coastal scenery aplenty. It gives you the feeling of being somewhere really wild and remote, yet it’s just off the A1.
You can easily spend hours in the summer months watching and listening to the thousands of seabirds who nest in the high cliffs.
Red Squirrels were introduced to Inverewe in March 2017 as part of a translocation project to safeguard the future of these iconic mammals.
Surveys and monitoring on the estate show that the red squirrels have settled well into their new West Highland home, as several dreys (squirrel nests) have been identified in Inverewe Garden and the surrounding woodlands.
Dreys are built in the forks of trees to provide shelter and to rear young. The establishment of the dreys and the signs of feeding areas, indicate that the squirrels are thriving.
Many visitors to Inverewe have been lucky enough to catch sight of the red squirrels as the feeders and boxes have been placed in three areas around the site: two in the garden and one on the Pinewood Trail.
Otters, porpoises and more
Kintail is a beautiful stretch of the West Highland landscape which includes towering mountains, a rocky coastline and salt marches. As a result, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
The area is home to otters: look out for them along coastlines, rivers and lochs.
Also harbour porpoises: the only porpoise species found in Scotland, and often frequent similar areas to grey seals. Sometimes confused with their dolphin cousins, porpoises tend to be much smaller, chunkier and have a smaller, triangle-shaped dorsal fin. They travel in small groups or even alone and can be recognised by their ‘rolling’ movement through the water as they surface to breathe.
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