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Archive for March, 2014

 

Swans on the loch. South west Scotland

Swans on the loch. South west Scotland

March 3rd has been designated as World Wildlife Day by the United Nations General Assembly. Its purpose is to both celebrate, and raise awareness of, our wonderful flora and fauna, and the date is the anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973.  Our increasing human population and its demands on fragile ecosystems and their non-human inhabitants can make for very depressing reading.  But here at Wood Elf Towers we have decided to celebrate the fabulous diversity of wildlife that we have here in Scotland, and we’d like to share it with everyone too, so we hope you enjoy the photos!

Red deer

Red deer, north west Scotland

Red deer, north west Scotland

These two fabulous stags were photographed on a lovely June day in Arnisdale on the west coast of Scotland, an area more commonly associated with Gavin Maxwell of Ring of Bright Water fame.  About 350,000 Red deer live in Scotland, and it is the country’s largest land mammal. Males, identified by their impressive antlers as on this photograph, weigh around 190kg, whilst females are slightly lighter at 120kg.  They can live for up to 18 years.  Originally Red deer lived in and on the edge of woodlands, but with increasing habitat losses, red deer have now adapted to open hillsides. There’s more about Red deer in this Forestry Commission article.

 

The Common Spotted Orchid  Dactylorhiza ssps.

Spotted orchid, Scotland

Spotted orchid, Scotland

This lovely flower can be seen frequently in boggy areas, by streams and in mountain areas flowering from June – August. It is varies hugely in colour and height, and is generally anything from pale pink to deep lilac.  There are two very similar species, D. fuchsia and D. maculata, the major distinguishing feature being the whether they are growing on acidic or alkali soils.  This photo was taken on the west coast of Scotland which has predominantly (though not exclusively!) peaty, acidic soils. You can read more about Common spotted orchids at this website.

 

Guillemots

Juvenile guillemot, Isle of Skye

Juvenile guillemot, Isle of Skye

The guillemot is a sociable bird, living in huge seabird cities on sheer cliff faces, like those that are found on the west coast of Scotland.  However there is concern over falling numbers, and the guillemot has been awarded an ‘amber’ conservation status by the RSPB. This guillemot is probably a juvenile, judging by the down around its beak; it was spotted on the pier steps at Portree on the Isle of Skye, probably having been washed up there after heavy storms.  It seemed to like the steep concrete steps and didn’t seem too bothered by me photographing it!

 

Cushion starfish

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Cushion starfish, north west Scotland

Our underwater environment is a truly spectacular, colourful and jaw-droppingly amazing place.  It urgently deserves a lot more protection and appreciation than we currently give it (but that’s for another blog post!).  As a scuba diver exploring Scottish waters, I was frequently asked by curious passers-by exactly why I was diving (for fun) in murky, grey,  freezing cold seas. Well, perhaps this photo tells you why.  The cushion starfish is not particularly rare, in fact it is particularly abundant in Scottish waters.  But it is a fine example of the technicolour glory of our underwater environment!

 

Red squirrel

Red squirrel, south west Scotland

Red squirrel, south west Scotland

After centuries of persecution by bounty hunters, habitat loss, and now squirrel pox and competition from grey squirrels, the recent come-back of the red squirrel in parts of Scotland is a result of some great conservation work by Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and the Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), who launched Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) in 2009, a partnership project to take action to save Scotland’s red squirrels.  We are lucky here in SW Scotland to have a thriving population of red squirrels, frequent visitors to our garden to raid the squirrel box for seeds and then bury them all in the lawn!  We also help with surveying and monitoring local woodlands for red squirrel populations too.  See more about this wonderful project at the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels web site.

So as you can see, although there’s a lot to worry about, there’s plenty to celebrate on World Wildlife Day!

All photos Copyright  © Susan Hall 2014

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