Up in the trees – red squirrels
Cute, tufty eared red squirrels are the UK's only native squirrel species and they are a delight to watch. Their ears and tails aren’t only good looking, they’re practical as well – squirrels use their ears to communicate and their bushy tails help with balancing and other tasks. Although conifer woodlands are their natural habitat, they can also be seen in parks and gardens in various areas across Scotland. You can spot them amongst the woodlands of the central Highlands and the Cairngorms National Park, as well as in Aberdeenshire in eastern Scotland and Dumfries & Galloway in the south.
Hiding in the forest – capercaillies
Did you know that male capercaillies are roughly the size of a turkey? Although they are large, you’d be incredibly lucky to spot these shy and elusive birds in the wild in the UK. Scotland’s old Caledonian Forest is ideally suited to them, but as this dense ancient woodland has depleted, the numbers of capercaillies have declined too. The best way to find capercaillies is to join a specialised wildlife tour or head to the RSPB Loch Garten reserve in Abernethy Forest in the Cairngorms National Park. You might hear their distinctive calls - one of which is a sound reminiscent of a clip-clopping horse, hence its Gaelic name capull coille, which means ‘horse of the woods’.
By the water – otters and seals
These two adorable species will really put a smile on your face. Harbour seals can be seen lolling on rocks along Scotland’s shoreline when the tide is out, especially along the west coast. Hop aboard a boat tour to visit a seal colony and you might get to see other wonderful marine mammals too, such as porpoises, bottlenose dolphins and whales.
By the water – otters and seals
Although Eurasian otters are becoming increasingly common in Scottish waters, spotting these shy animals can still be tricky. Look out for webbed footprints along riverbanks and keep quiet so as not to disturb them. Locations such as Kylerhea Marine Hide on the Isle of Skye are ideal for searching them out.
Amongst the hills – red deer
It’s truly magical to see a herd of red deer galloping through the mist on a Scottish hillside, or to spot a solitary stag standing proudly as he surveys the landscape. During summer months they can be found on Scotland's hills and remote glens, while in winter they’ll come lower to find food. In autumn you can join rangers on a tour to see the spectacular rut in nature reserves such as Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross.
Stretching from Fort William and the Cairngorms National Park in the south to Caithness and Sutherland in the very north of the Scottish mainland, the Highlands are home to all kinds of marvellous animals.
Want to know more? For videos, amazing animal pictures, fascinating facts and tips about spotting wildlife in Scotland, look no further than VisitScotland’s Scottish Wildlife Series which covers all of these animals and the adorable puffin too.
All images credit: VisitScotland ©Neil McIntyre
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