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Aberdeen City & Shire

Crathes Castle, Garden & Estate

Crathes Castle Estate is a natural area of great scenic beauty. It’s extremely biodiverse, with many protected and uncommon species making their home here. Below are our top five wildlife picks to look out for when you’re out and about on our trails. Each entry has a ‘how easy to see?’ rating, a fun fact and a top tip for when and where to look.

Pine marten

Once a threatened species due to being hunted for their fur, pine martens are now recovering well across the north-east of Scotland and are frequently caught on trail cameras at Crathes.

These large mammals (about the size of a cat) are related to ferrets – they have dark brown fur with a large bushy tail.

Fact: Each pine marten has a unique cream-coloured bib.

A pine marten sits on some grass, looking intently ahead. It has a dark brown head and body, with a yellowy throat and bib. The insides of its ears are also cream.

How easy is it to spot?

DIFFICULT

Pine martens are present all year round but are elusive – look for pine marten scat on woodland paths as a reliable sign that they have recently been in the area.

Roe deer

A group of four roe deer stand by a hedge that is covered in thick snow. The ground also has a deep blanket of snow. Three are grazing, but one remains alert with its head looking to the right.

Roe deer can sometimes be seen crossing the paths and tracks at Crathes, especially in the early morning.

In autumn, the males (bucks) grow antlers, which are soon covered in a soft velvet material. Evidence of these young bucks can be seen in the damage caused to small trees by bucks ‘fraying’ (a sort of threshing motion to remove the velvet from their antlers).

Fact: The female has a heart-shaped white tail, whilst the male has a kidney-shaped tail.

How easy is it to spot?

EASY

Roe deer are seen all year round – look for them browsing at the edges of woodland.

Red squirrel

At Crathes we are lucky to have a healthy population of red squirrels. They live in dreys high up in trees, usually near the trunk. Look for a twiggy structure, similar to a bird nest but ball-shaped. With recent storms, things will have been tough for this popular mammal.

They are highly adapted to their surroundings, with a bushy tail that serves both as a balancer and a ‘parachute’ to slow them as they jump through the air. Their sharp-clawed back feet can turn 180 degrees to grip the bark as they climb up or down trees.

Fact: Red squirrels are members of the rodent family, so their teeth never stop growing.

Red squirrel jumping across a tree in Crathes Castle Estate

How easy is it to spot?

EASY

Red squirrels can be seen all year round in the woodland.

Woodcock

A very round, mottled brown, bird squats on the ground. It has a very long, straight bill, and a large black eye.

The woodcock is not the sort of bird you expect to see in woodlands – with its dumpy body and long bill, it feels more like a moorland bird – but in early morning or early evening you may see one in a wooded glade.

It’s often only noticed when startled, as it takes off in a jerky, bat-like flight. The woodcock is quite agile though, wending its way through thick trees. Also listen for its ‘roding’ – at dusk, the woodcock flies low through the woods making a drumming sound by pointing its tail feather downwards. This forms part of its mating ritual.

Fact: The woodcock’s long bill helps it forage for invertebrates in wetter woodland areas.

How easy is it to spot?

MEDIUM

Woodcocks are present all year round in the woodland.

Wool carder bee

Walk around the wildlife garden and you may be lucky enough to see a wool carder bee. This bee had not been found this far north until recently spotted at Crathes.

The males are large and use their size to bump, head-butt and bustle other bees away from their territory. They can’t sting but they do have barbs on their tails. Look for a bee with a line of bright yellow spots on the abdomen.

Fact: The wool carder bee takes its name from its habit of scraping the hairs from plants like lamb’s ear to make its nest.

A bee perches on a leaf. The bee is quite round and has a line of yellow spots running along its side.

How easy is it to spot?

DIFFICULT

Wool carder bees are present from May–September in the wildlife garden.