Happy St. Andrews Day! It’s Scotland’s national day, and as we celebrate with shortbread, oatcakes, and clootie dumplings, we thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to appreciate some of the greatest wilderness areas in the United Kingdom. From the Shetland Islands to the Scottish Borders, Scotland is home to some incredible species, many of which are found nowhere else in the UK.
Pine marten (Martes martes)
One of Scotland’s most elusive species, the pine marten was once persecuted to the edge of extinction in the UK. Although it remains one of our rarest mammals, the pine marten is becoming more widespread in Scotland, and sightings are being investigated in Wales.
Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)
These unexpectedly large birds are famed for the male’s spectacular spring display, during which they produce a series of odd calls, including sounds like the popping of corks. Wide-scale forest clearance and hunting caused the capercaillie to become extinct in Britain in the 18th century. Birds from Sweden were reintroduced in the 19th century, and this bird now survives in the Cairngorm region of Scotland.
Mountain hare (Lepus timidus)
The mountain hare is another mammal native to the Scottish Highlands, and the only species in the Leporidae family (hares and rabbits) native to the UK. Populations have been released elsewhere in the UK, mainly for shooting, and mountain hares can now be found in the Scottish Borders, south-west Scotland, the Peak District and the Isle of Man.
Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)
The ptarmigan is possibly Britain’s hardiest bird, living high on Scottish mountainsides in rocky terrain with very little vegetation. The ptarmigan is the only bird in Britain to turn white during winter, enabling this bird to blend in perfectly with a snowy winter’s landscape.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
The Atlantic salmon run is a spectacular sight in Scotland. As the fish head upstream against the current to spawn, they display spectacular feats of strength to leap up waterfalls and many other obstacles. Sadly for this charismatic species, Atlantic salmon numbers are only reasonably healthy in four countries: Norway, Ireland, Iceland and Scotland.
Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
With heather dominating Scottish heaths, bogs and moorland, it’s no wonder this resilient shrub is an iconic symbol of Scotland. Heather has been used as fodder, fuel, thatch, bedding for livestock and humans, a packing material, and to make ropes, brooms and even beer.
Unfortunately, a lack of reliable pictures and footage means that the most renowned Scottish species has yet to be profiled on ARKive. We couldn’t write a blog about Scotland’s wildlife without mentioning the Loch Ness Monster though!
Happy St. Andrews Day!
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher