Wildlife in the Geopark
What other park in the UK could claim such a wide array of wildlife?
Lochaber is famous for the “Big 5” of Golden Eagles, Red Deer, Otters, Seals and Red Squirrels. However Lochaber’s wildlife is far more varied than that and includes:
- Sea Eagles
- Harbour Seals
- Bottle Noise Dolphins
- Common Dolphin
- Basking Sharks
- Minke Whales
- Orca (Killer Whales)
- Pine Martin
- Wild Cat
Where can you see the wildlife?
Lochaber has many activities and tours which give you the opportunity to spot wildlife such as paddling trips, walking days, safaris and boat trips. Visit our Activities page to learn more.
Did you know the Hebridean Whale and Dophin Trust website keeps a record of all the whale and dolphins that are spotted on the west coast of Lochaber? You’ll be amazed by how many sightings there are!
Lochaber’s landscape is home to significant bird of prey populations, and we’re lucky enough to have exceptional numbers of breeding golden eagles in the area. The coastal cliffs of the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna are home to breeding seabirds and birds of prey, including Manx shearwater and sea eagle.
Grouse make their home in Lochaber’s upland areas, with the well-camouflaged ptarmigan keeping mainly to the high rocky mountain summits.
The rich feeding grounds of the sea around Ardnamurchan and the Small Isles attract numerous types of seabirds including guillemots, gannets and Manx shearwaters, while oystercatchers, grey herons and greenshanks favour the edges of lochs, rivers and bogs.
There are significant numbers of freshwater birds too – the common scoter, red and black-throated divers all make their home in Lochaber’s freshwater lochs.
Lochaber’s woodland cover is ideal for the agile pine marten, elusive wildcat and rare red squirrel, whose main UK habitat is now limited to the Scottish Highlands.
Mountain hare live in the high hills of Lochaber (typically above 300 metres), while red deer are a much more familiar sight on hillsides in the area. Although essentially a woodland species, red deer have adapted over time to become animals of the open hill in Scotland. Roe deer in contrast are usually found on low ground in woodland.
Lochaber’s sheltered coast supports a healthy population of seals, harbour porpoises and otters. Although it is normally rare to see otters, they can sometimes be seen playing in the water and on the shores of Loch Linnhe, just minutes from Fort William town centre.
Fish & Sea Life
The two fish that Scotland is most renowned for, salmon and brown trout, are both found in the rivers of Lochaber, while Arctic charr occur in a few deep lochs. The seas around Ardnamurchan and the Small Isles also provide essential feeding grounds for basking sharks.
Insects & Invertebrates
Lochaber’s butterflies include the rare mountain ringlet butterflies found at high altitudes, and the chequered skipper, now extinct in England, which can be seen in the area’s woodlands. Fast-flowing rivers are home to invertebrates such as the freshwater pearl-mussel and insects that live on river shingle.
Boggy peatland is an ideal place to find three nationally rare dragonflies: the white-faced darter, the northern emerald and the azure hawker, which all breed in bog pools. Distinctive black and red-spotted Burnet moths live in coastal grasslands on the Isle of Eigg.
And how could we forget the common midge? With a tiny wing span of just 1.4mm, midges punch way above their weight in terms of the effect they have on humans. The best chance of avoiding midge bites is on sunny, windy days: midges are light-sensitive and take shelter in winds of more than five miles per hour.