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Scotland is a place filled with breath-taking sceneries, from seemingly unending lush hills to glistening lochs and clear blue seas. Many people visit the country just to see and experience these iconic natural vistas. But aside from the splendid views, tourists also visit Scotland for some wildlife thrills.
For the past years, this country has been marketing itself as Europe’s premier wildlife destination. Indeed, it is a must-visit place for wildlife enthusiasts since it houses over 900,000 species. Its diverse fauna features both native animals as well as some rare species. Whether you are a lover of birds or marine animals, Scotland certainly has some exciting adventures for you to experience.
If you wish to visit Scotland and go on a wildlife adventure, read on to learn about the animals you’ll find here.
Seabirds and Birds of Prey
Scotland has a rich population of seabirds. According to records, there are 24 seabird species that breed in the country. One of the most popular seabirds found in Scotland is the puffin. These colourful auk species start arriving in the country as early as March to breed. St. Kilda is said to be the home of Scotland’s largest single puffin colony, while the Isle of May has the fastest growing one.
Meanwhile, if you wish to get up close and personal with puffins, head to Shetland which is known to have seven large colonies of this bird species. There’s also a place in the Isle of Mull that’s highly recommended for puffin-watching.
Aside from puffins, gannets are also in abundance here. In fact, the largest gannet colony in the world is found at Bass Rock. Situated east of Scotland in the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock hosts over 150,000 gannets. Due to the sheer abundance of this seabird species (and the accumulation of guano), the island turns white and looks like a floating iceberg.
Birders do not just troop to Scotland for the seabirds; they also come here to get a glimpse of the different birds of prey. In fact, in the UK, Scotland is the only place where you’ll see the iconic golden eagle. Known as the second biggest bird of prey in Britain, the golden eagle is usually seen in Scottish highlands and islands. Cairngorms and Isle of Harris are some of the recommended places of eagle-spotting.
Dolphins and Whales
Even Scottish waters feature a wealth of exciting marine wildlife – dolphins, whales and sharks. Moray Firth coast is home to one of the three resident dolphin pods in the UK. The pod is composed of approximately 200 bottlenose dolphins. This is said to be the biggest dolphin pod in the UK. In addition, these are noted as some of the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world.
Since they are residents here, these adorable cetaceans can be seen all throughout the year. Black Isle near Inverness is one of the highly recommended spots for land-based dolphin-watching. You can also opt to take boat tours if you want to see these marine mammals up close.
Whales are also seasonal visitors in this northernmost territory. The minke whale, a type of baleen whale, is the most common whale species found in Scotland. Other types of whales found here include the humpback, sperm and pilot whales. Due to the increased sightings of this cetacean species, whale-watching has been a popular activity in Scotland. The east coast of the Shetland Islands receives frequent minke whale visitors from May to September. Meanwhile, the Outer Hebrides is what you need to explore if you are in search of humpback and sperm whales.
Sharks and Seals
Aside from cetaceans, sharks are also found in Scotland. The basking shark, the second largest fish in the world, is a seasonal visitor. The best time to see sharks in Scotland is from April to October. During these months, there are boat tours which head to a popular basking shark hotspot.
Scotland is also famous for its harbour seals. In fact, the harbour seal is one of the country’s most iconic animals. They can be seen all year round but the ideal time to look for them is in June and July. During these months, seals haul out to give birth which makes spotting them easier.
Beavers and Otters
For 400 years, beavers were extinct in Scotland. In 2009, they were reintroduced into the wild. This reintroduction project was successful; beaver numbers increased and their reach widened. Knapdale Forest in Argyll was the site where these semiaquatic rodents were first released. A total of 16 Eurasian beavers were introduced here from 2009 to 2014. Currently, Knapdale has a Beaver Detective Trail where visitors could look for signs of and watch beavers.
Just like the golden eagles, otters became extinct in England and Wales but managed to survive in Scotland. These playful mammals are part of Scotland’s so-called Big Five, along with the golden eagles, red deer, harbour seals and red squirrels. Spotting otters can be challenging as they are shy and secretive. Hence, joining wildlife tours led by experts like the Big Five is a good option if you wish to see this animal.
Red Squirrels and Red Deer
Scotland is the last stronghold of the red squirrels in the UK. According to reports, around 75% of Britain’s red squirrel is found here. You can find these adorable animals in the pine forests of Dumfries and Galloway as well as the Highlands. In Cairngorms National Park, particularly in Glenmore Forest Park, they can be regularly seen along the trails busily eating nuts.
The red deer is the UK’s largest land mammal. They are fairly abundant in Scotland and in other parts of the UK. They can be seen roaming around Scottish grassland, woodland, moorland and mountainsides. You can visit deer parks or go on a guided deer-watching tour to see this native deer.
Bottlenose dolphins hoto by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith
Bottlenose dolphins hoto by Len2040