If you’ve ever watched a wildlife documentary or any of the various Springwatch/Autumnwatch type programmes you may well have marvelled at the scenes and maybe wished you too could experience some of this?
Well you can and without leaving the UK. This country is still home to some wildlife spectacles that are unique and which offer an experience second to none. Obviously a visit to a nature reserve is usually a good starting point however like a lot of things there’s a huge variety of reserves and habitats on offer and which will dictate what you see and when. A reserve which is busy in Spring and Summer with breeding birds may not be the same in Winter or Autumn.
One great example of this is the RSPB reserve at Fowlsheugh on the east coast of Scotland just south of Stonehaven. In the Summer months these 300 foot cliffs teem with tens of thousands of birds – a genuine seabird city but away from these months it’s a different experience – a lot quieter (and less smelly!)
On our recent roadtrip we planned a stop to search for the star bird here – the Puffin - which in late July is really at the end of its breeding cycle and ready to fly off to sea for the Winter.
After eventually finding the small car park – it isn’t signposted but the sat nav directions work and getting some info from a very kind lady on the current location of the Puffins we set off for a mile walk along the cliff top paths. It didn’t take long to get to the heart of the action with Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes by the thousand, clinging on to the cliff face, many still with chicks clinging on even harder.
The sound of Kittiwake calls in particular filled the air, the smell of tons of guano (bird poo!) assaulted our noses but the sight of row upon row of birds interacting with one another as a community and hundreds in the air at any one time was spectacular.
We did find our star bird - in fact we saw about a dozen Puffins – exactly where we were told they’d be - and enjoyed watching them for a good half hour or so. If there are birds with more character than these tiny auks we’ve yet to see one.
So, a genuine wildlife spectacle a mile or so off a busy main route in Scotland and one that wouldn’t look out of place on something like Life on Earth.
Tips – always do your homework, find the best times both seasonal and time of day, tidetimes especially can be crucial at some sites. Visit websites and use the internet – there’s a lot of info out there from the various wildlife organisations to, well, people like us! Also, when you’re there ask people too. We’ll always put people onto birds or other animals if we can see them and they may be struggling. Most of all though enjoy the spectacle in front of you – the sight, sound and size of nature.
More info at RSPB.org.uk .