Tuesday, 20 May 2014

7 Special Scottish Wildlife Experiences

Scotland is a great place to watch wildlife, with an array of iconic species to be found throughout the country, from eagles on the West Coast, to pine martens in the forests of the Cairngorms.

With better weather and longer days, Spring is a fantastic time to try and track down the species you most want to see, but it’s important to always remember to watch wildlife correctly, to avoid disturbance. We recommend signing up with one of these expert wildlife watching operators who’ll make sure that everything is done properly whilst ensuring you have a truly special wildlife experience that you won’t forget.

1.  Get up close and personal with pine marten and badger in the Cairngorms

As dusk descends on Speyside Wildlife’s purpose built hide, nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, you can settle down for an evening of wildlife watching, with the chance of seeing pine marten and badger, amongst other nocturnal species. With the animals coming right up to the hide’s windows, you’ll be hard pressed to find a closer wildlife encounter, and the expert guide will keep you informed about everything you see. More information and online booking can be found on Speyside Wildlife’s website.

2. Spot dolphins from shore at Spey Bay 

With regular sightings of the world's largest bottlenose dolphins, the Scottish Dolphin Centre, at the mouth of the River Spey, is one of the best places to go dolphin watching in the UK. Every day throughout the summer you can join the land-based dolphin watching excursions to look out for this active and playful cetacean. Visit the Scottish Dolphin Centre’s website to find out more.

3. Watch white-tailed eagles on Mull

Also known as the sea eagle, the white-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in the UK and the fourth largest eagle in the world, with a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters in length! Having been successfully reintroduced to the west coast of Scotland in the 1970s, breeding pairs can now be found on the islands of Skye and Rum, as well as the Isle of Mull, where Mull Eagle Watch offer ranger-led visits from April-October to view this impressive bird of prey. Between May and July you can hope to see eagle chicks in the nest and the visits also offer a good chance of seeing other wildlife, including golden eagles. For more information on how to book, visit the Mull Eagle Watch website.

4. Swim with basking sharks on the West Coast

The basking shark is the second largest fish in the World and the biggest found in Scottish waters. It’s a special treat to catch a glimpse of one of these rare giants, but Basking Shark Scotland offer the chance to do just that, and more! Their mission is to provide interactions with basking sharks and their excursions allow for the possibility of boat-based or in-water swimming experiences. Don’t worry though, although the sharks’ mouths can be up to 1 metre wide, thankfully they only eat tiny plankton! Visit Basking Shark Scotland’s website to find out more.

5. Take a walking wildlife tour on the Black Isle

For a wildlife experience on your own two feet, look no further than Red Kite Tours, who’s wildlife watching excursions on the Black Isle are primarily walking based. They believe this is not only better for the environment, but also gives you a better opportunity to see the wildlife around you, which could include, as their name suggests, Red Kite. Visit their website to find out more.

6. Combine wildlife with culture on Orkney 

If wildlife and culture are your bag, then head north to Orkney to combine some great wildlife watching with fascinating Neolithic history. Orcadian Wildlife offer all-inclusive, tailor-made tours for small groups, with wildlife highlights including seabirds, birds of prey, whales and dolphins, plus a host of ancient monuments, which take you back over 5,000 years. Find our more on the Orcadian Wildlife website.

7. Photograph Ospreys in Glenfeshie

This is one for more serious wildlife photographers, who have the patience and skill to capture these charismatic raptors. Using Northshots’ specially built hide, which overlooks natural perches with a clean background, it’s possibly to get both feeding and flight shots of this magnificent fish-eating eagle. But shots like this don’t come quickly, and photographers should be prepared to spend a minimum of 5 hours in the hide. To find out more visit Northshots’ website.