Animals in the Scottish Mountains

August 2007

Here are some of the animals I've managed to get pictures of on my hillwalking trips (links at the bottom of the page). Despite the harsh environment of the Scottish Highlands, there can be a wide variety of animals around, even on the high sub-arctic plateaux. Ptarmigan and mountain hares are widespread and easy to spot, although hares are surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of - they don't stay still long enough! The same goes for frogs, of which I have only managed to get one picture which I have displayed here (taken on the island of Jura). I have also seen small lizards in remote areas of Scotland very occasionally, but still looking for a good picture. Apparently, there are also grass snakes and adders to be seen in the scottish wilderness, but I've yet to see any of these. I have included here however, pictures of a lizard and snake I saw in the US.

The scottish mountains are infested with large packs of red deer, but I still haven't managed to get close enough to a deer to get a good picture. This may have something to do with my bright blue and yellow Berghaus jacket. In contrast, in the US and Canada you have to fight the marmots off, and I've displayed some pics of those for interest. Presumably because of their lack of fear of man and widespread distribution, marmots have been named three times - they are also called groundhogs and woodchucks.

I would love to get a a picture of an eagle, and I've seen them a few times (from my car!) but never close up or on a mountain. Common crows seem to be a feature of many summits in the Scottish Highlands - perhaps they are attracted to food left behind by careless munro-baggers. Snow Buntings are common on the Cairngorm plateaux and also seem to see walkers as a source of food. I've also yet to get a picture of a Scottish red squirrel - the only times I have ever seen them have been from my car or whilst on a bicycle. All these sightings have been in the Glen Lyon/Pitlochry area. I have included here a picture of a red squirrel I saw in Quebec, Canada, however. Seeing a Scottish wild cat would be amazing but incredibly unlikely. Large hairy caterpillars (I'm not sure what they are but they might be Drinker Moth caterpillars) are also common at certain times of the year and can often be seen crawling across paths in the mountains.

Sheep and midgies are of course, ubiquitous in the scottish hills, and are, respectively, unexciting and evil, so I'm not going to pursue pictures of those two creatures. Goats on the hill are unusual however, and I've included a picture here of some I saw on Swatte Fell in the Scottish Southern Uplands hills. I once saw a mountain goat peek its head over a boulder whilst climbing Mount Pyramid in Jasper National Park, Canada and got a real fright as I'd never seen one before and thought it was some horned monster (or the devil!). I was already spooked by thoughts of bears (of which there are loads in Jasper National Park) and the altitude (about 9000 feet) had probably scrambled my brains a bit, but it was quite frightening at the time! I did see a young brown bear on the same trip from the relative safety of my car.

I don't have a very powerful zoom lens on my camera so these pictures aren't exactly David Attenborough standard, but give some idea of what can be seen in the Scottish mountains if you keep your eyes open.

Update March 2006: I now have a half-decent picture of some red deer taken near Corrour train station on Rannoch Moor. See below.

Update April 2006: For interest, I've added a photo of a young elk I saw in Sweden.

Update June 2006: I shot a better picture of a red deer near Loch Pattack, and also another frog. I also got a picture of one of the caterpillars I mentioned above, and a large dragonfly (it could be a golden-ringed dragonfly), near Loch Maree. I also got a picture of a herd of goats I saw near the summit of the mountain Slioch, which is pretty unusual. See these pictures below.

Update April 2007: I got a slightly better picture of a mountain hare in the Monadhliath hills.

Update August 2007: I have created a new page 'Animals beyond Scotland' (link at bottom of page), and added to it many pictures of animals I saw on my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Animals in Scotland

Animals beyond Scotland