Working for FSC Scotland has given me an opportunity like no other to experience the natural places of Scotland, to become ever more aware of the extensive array of terrestrial and marine wildlife that the UK has to offer and to be truly astonished at the variety that can be viewed from the doorsteps of our field centres. I never would have thought seeing porpoises and seals would feel so common place on my journey to and from work. Staff at Millport and Kindrogan get to see, first hand, day in day out, the amazing wildlife surrounding the Cairngorms and West coast of Scotland… So I have asked them to share! Below is the top ten countdown of our current staffs favourite photographed wildlife, all taken either from one of our two sites or whilst out with visiting groups.
The grounds of Kindrogan and surrounding area are home to many deer; roe, red and fallow. The fallow deer are by far the most sighted and can be viewed on a daily basis from the centre. Kindrogan is in fact at the northern most point at which they live. In the photograph above is a female deer walking past the accommodation and main house. This was taken by one of our tutors in summer. From the Cateran Trail red deer can also be sighted, as photographed below by Jack Lucas. The Cateran Trail is a gorgeous walk though forest and field from Kindrogan’s track to Kirkmichael, the nearest village. We often take primary groups along this route.
2. Minke Whale
A very special sighting. This photograph was taken by Dr Phillip Cowie, our Higher Education Team Leader whilst out with a group on FSC Millport’s research vessel Actinia. Minke whales are just one of the marine mammals that can be viewed off the shores of the Isle of Cumbrae. Join Phillip this August for an introduction to marine mammals and surveying techniques. You will have the chance to spend significant time on our research vessel out in the Firth of Clyde, exploring, surveying and with the opportunity to get photographs like this one.
3. Red Squirrel
As the more common and non-native grey squirrel has not yet reached the area surrounding Kindrogan the red squirrels are free from their competing cousin and can survive and thrive. The photograph on the right was taken by Emanuel one of our education assistants from the window of Kindrogan’s dining hall. We have many feeders around site including ones positioned so you can even watch wildlife whilst eating you breakfast. You can really get up close and personal with the wildlife, just have look at Sarah’s photograph (bottom right) also taken from a window in the main house.
There is something really special about watching these huge birds circling above a shoal of fish until they spot their prey and dive ferociously into the water. Gannets can reach diving speeds of up to 100 kmph and have a wing span of up to two metres. Impressive birds which can be viewed from the windows of several of our classrooms at FSC Millport.
5. Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan
Mountain hare can be spotted at one of our glaciation sites. Glen Clova, which is around an hour away from Kindrogan, has a large population of this species. Anybody with a keen eye can spot them as they scatter in their snowy, winter habitat, perfectly camouflaged. In summer their coats will turn from white back to brown. Below is a mountain hare on the slopes of Cairngorm taken by one of our tutors on her Ipad whilst out exploring the area and accompanying another tutor on some Mountain Leader training.
Another sighting from a day exploring the Cairngorms! Photographed above are a male (left) and female (right) ptarmigan in full winter plumage. Similar to the hares, in summer they have a darker coat. Following winter Ptarmigans will begin to moult their feathers to a mixture of grey, brown and black. A male in transition is shown below. A short distance away from Kindrogan Field Centre are many accessible mountains where you can find these in their preferred upland habitat. Highland dwellers, these are a hardy bird to say the least.
6. Humpback Whale
This photograph was taken on Sunday 17th April 2016 from the Isle of Cumbrae. A rare and amazing sight! I am truly envious of Phillip managing to capture this beautiful whale breaching the water just off our shores. Sighting were also made two days earlier from Largs on the mainland.
7. Common Toad
This mating pair were photographed at Kindrogan’s pond. Toads will return to the same ponds year on year to mate. The male’s grasp on the female, as you can see above, is known as an ‘Amplexus’. During the amplexus the male toad will externally fertilize the eggs as they are released by the female.
8. Smooth Newt
The newt above was photographed by our OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) representatives, Matt Keyse. OPAL work alongside the Field Studies Council to bring outdoor experiences to children in more economically deprived areas. This newt was photographed after being found in a pond on one of these sessions in Glasgow. There are always exciting wildlife discoveries to be made, even in the city.
If you’re interested in photography and have taken any wildlife photos in Glasgow you may want to take a look at OPAL’s current photography competition. For more information click here. Closing date is the 11th of July.
9. Greater Spotted Woodpecker
This striking bird can be viewed at Kindrogan Field Centre on one of the many bird feeders distributed around the site. Kindrogan is a haven for birds, take a look at our website for information on courses. Click here.
10. Basking shark
The photograph above was taken in October of 2015 of a basking shark that was feeding on zooplankton out in the Firth of Clyde across from Millport Field Centre. As I was cycling back from a lunch break I noticed a large group of staff and guests standing looking out to sea. As my colleague called over to inform me of what they were watching, I am unashamed to admit I almost fell off my bike. This gentle giant circled for around 40 minutes gracefully feeding before swimming back out to sea. The photograph above is my own, captured after hurriedly cycling back to my house for my camera.
Below is a juvenile basking shark shot from our research vessel Actinia by Phillip Cowie. When fully grown these giant fish can reach the length of a double-decker bus (around 6-8 metres!)
These photographs give a small taster of the wildlife that can be found surrounding our centres. We’d love you to join us and discover more for yourselves.