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21 Feb 2022

Spring wildlife

A wheatear - a small sparrow-sized bird with a blue back, white tummy, orange throat and black stripes on its wing - sits on a fence post.
Wheatear | Photo: Roland IJdema/Shutterstock
As the days lengthen and warm, it’s a lovely time of year to spot some of our seasonal visitors as well as our much-loved resident species.

Black grouse

Where: Mar Lodge Estate NNR

In the heart of the Cairngorms, the ancient pinewoods of Mar Lodge Estate are home to the rare black grouse. Early mornings in springtime provide the best opportunity to see their famous, swaggering courtship displays known as leks, which take place in open areas away from the woods. This fascinating show of prowess by the male birds sees them fan out their white tail feathers, emit courtship calls and perform energetic displays. This builds into a frenzy of activity before the females eventually decide on a partner with which to mate.

Also at: West Affric, Grey Mare’s Tail, Ben Lawers NNR, Ben Lomond

A black grouse walks towards the camera across frosty grass. Its black tail is fanned out wide with white feathers at the very rear. It has red stripes on the top of its head.
Black grouse | Photo: Rob Hume

Golden eagle

Where: Kintail, Torridon, West Affric

The early months of the year provide the best opportunity to witness the undulating display flight of golden eagles. These huge birds of prey – twice the size of a buzzard – are usually seen above mountains and moorland, particularly across the north and west Highlands. Golden eagles can live for over three decades and usually pair for life, occupying large home ranges. Our rangers work alongside local volunteers to monitor eagles across the Highlands.

Also at: Inverewe, Falls of Glomach, St Kilda, Iona, Brodick Country Park, Glencoe NNR, Mar Lodge Estate NNR

A golden eagle sitting on snowy ground.
Golden eagle


Where: Inverewe

In 2020, the otter was named Scotland’s favourite creature in the Trust’s Scottish Animal World Cup, following 11 weeks of head-to-head competition in public votes. One of the best places to see this hugely popular but shy semi-aquatic mammal is Inverewe in Wester Ross. Stay as quiet as possible and remain downwind, as otters have an acute sense of smell and excellent hearing. Watch out for them from the Inverewe bird hide or take a boat trip from the jetty to spot them around the peninsula.

Also at: The Hermitage, Killiecrankie, Linn of Tummel, Mar Lodge Estate NNR, Kintail, Glencoe NNR, Unst & Yell

An otter curled up on a bed of seaweed by the shore. Its head is turned towards the camera and it is watching.


Where: St Abb’s Head NNR

They may be small, but wheatears have plenty of stamina! One of the earliest migrants to arrive at St Abb’s Head in the spring, male wheatears seem to stake their claim on breeding territory in late March, followed by females in April. These mainly ground-dwelling birds have travelled a very long distance – all the way from sub-Saharan Africa, the longest migration of any small bird in the world. The male has a grey back with black wings and an orange front. The female sports more muted shades of buff, grey and brown. Both have a distinctive white rump, seen in flight.

Also at: Grey Mare’s Tail, Mar Lodge Estate NNR, Glencoe NNR, Ben Lomond, Torridon, Canna

A wheatear - a small sparrow-sized bird with a blue back, white tummy, orange throat and black stripes on its wing - sits on a fence post.
Wheatear | Photo: Roland IJdema/Shutterstock


Where: Threave Garden & Estate

Bats start to emerge from hibernation in March, becoming fully active in April and May when they emerge to feed most nights. Threave Estate has Scotland’s first dedicated bat reserve and is home to eight different species, but bats can be seen at many different Trust places, including our historic buildings and natural heritage sites. Several countryside rangers, ecologists and building surveyors are specially trained to care for bats, inspect roosts and look after any strays. We also conduct surveys to learn more about bat behaviour and ensure that our maintenance work doesn’t disrupt their homes.

Also at: Inverewe, Hill of Tarvit Mansion, Haddo House

A pipistrelle bat rests on a brick surface, its wings tucked into its furry body.
Pipistrelle bat

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