The Scottish Natural Heritage have launched a wildlife campaign called the Big 5. They are aiming to encourage as many people as possible to go outdoors and spot their chosen Big 5 wild animals, the red deer, otter, red squirrel, golden eagle and common seal. The initiative is also being back by VisitScotland and is part of the wider Year of Natural Scotland 2013 celebrations. Do you agree with the chosen Big 5? We’re wondering why the Scottish wildcat has been missed off this list. Of course, SNH will have chosen iconic Scottish wild animals that can be more easily spotted by people but surely part of this campaign should be highlighting the Scottish animals that are most vulnerable? The Scottish wildcat is one of the most endangered animal in the UK. Part of the Big 5 project is to get people chatting about wild animals and there will be a vote for the people’s Big 5. In fact, SNH say that choosing the Big Five was not an easy job. They agree there are many other species that could have been chosen, as well as regional nominations, and they hope that children and adults will make their views known on Facebook, Twitter and by casting a Big 5 vote. Ian Jardine, SNH Chief Executive, said: “Most people will be aware of the animals selected for the Scotland's Big 5 campaign, but many may not have seen them in their natural habitat. We have chosen animals that most people, if they want, can see in many parts of Scotland at almost any time of year. “In setting out to discover Scotland’s Big 5, we hope more people will come to enjoy and value Scotland’s rich and diverse wildlife and scenery.”
How to spot Scotland’s Big 5
Planning, patience and “going quietly” will reap the rewards of spotting Scotland’s Big 5. All five species can be spotted in a number of locations across Scotland, including several of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves and the two national parks, Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. In Taynish National Nature Reserve in Argyll there is the chance to spot all five in one place, if you’re lucky. SNH has also launched a Smartphone app - Scotland’s Big 5 - that offers details on how best to spot each of the Big 5 and where to find them. Leaflets and online information are also available. A free Big 5 Funbook for children is available from SNH in English and Gaelic. The Funbook includes information, facts, puzzles and spotting tips for all Scotland’s Big 5 species.
Where to walk with wildlife
Wildlife and walking go very well together. At walking pace and peace you have a far greater chance of spotting wild animals because animals are less disturbed by walkers than other forms of transport. Red squirrels: The south of Scotland is the best place to see red squirrels. A walk on trails at Drumlanrig Castle, paths at Balloch Wood, Creetown or Eskrigg Nature Reserve. Red deer: The Perthshire hill ranges and peaks, such as Ben Lawers massif, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin, Glen Lyon hills, Rannoch area, Beinn a Ghlo, near Blair Atholl, are great places to spot red deer between spring and autumn. In autumn, you will hear and see rutting activity in many Perthshire glens, including upper Glen Lyon, Glen Tilt, Glen Ample and Glen Almond. Otter: For the best sightings of otter, it’s Scotland’s islands that are the destination of choice. On Shetland, there’s a strong population and many are active at day and night. The Kylerhea Otter Haven, south of Broadford, on the island of Skye, is another fabulous otter spotting location. Golden eagle: The Findhorn Valley is reportedly a good place to spot golden eagles. Follow the 10-mile single track road to Coignafearn, where you can park and walk on into the valley or down by the River Findhorn. This valley is known as the ‘Valley of the Raptors". The Isle of Mull, off Scotland’s west cost, is another great place to spot golden eagles. Common seal: Tenstmuir, in Fife, is renowned as a superb place for spotting seals. Other top breeding places for seals in Scotland include the Orkney and, to a lesser degree, the Shetland Islands, the Hebrides, including North Rona, and the Monach Isles, which is the second largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world. Seals are also born at some sites on the Scottish mainland each year, for example at the sea caves around Helmsdale and at Loch Eriboll.