Biodiversity is the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or place. More and more we are understanding its importance and variety, and a few hundred words cannot do justice to our region’s nature as any kind of list will miss someone’s favourites. However, to attempt it, here are a few highlights.
Our woodlands are rich with life including crossbills and pine martens, and the region is still home to a thriving red squirrel population. Some of Scotland’s ancient pine forests are still found here.
At the right time of year our rivers see salmon coming inland to spawn, and at a few well-known spots they can be seen leaping falls to get to their spawning grounds.
A night time visit might reveal Daubenton’s bats hunting for insects just above the water surface.
Up in the hills, dippers can often be seen between their hunting expeditions below the water.
Our mountains host ptarmigan and mountain hare who change their plumage/coats with the seasons. Mountain flowers include the rare alpine sow-thistle and the woolly willow.
Our Upland Heathland and Grasslands
Upland heathland and grasslands may seem relatively empty. However, patience may allow a short-eared owl or a hen harrier to be spotted. A few sites still harbour a rich flora and orchids such as lesser butterfly orchid can still make a show.
Even in the agricultural areas there is still wildlife to see. There are still a few corn buntings if you know where to look, but some of the less intensively used areas still host wading birds such as lapwing.
Coastal habitats range from steep cliffs through to large expanses of sand dunes. Whilst some of these have been destroyed by development or forestry there are good examples. Characteristic species include oyster plant growing on shingle, purple milk vetch on dunes, as well as the wading birds, such as curlew, redshank and lapwing, that congregate on estuaries like the Ythan.
Spotting marine biodiversity is not easy, but bottlenose dolphins often appear along the shore and in Aberdeen harbour and humpback whales are becoming more frequent visitors. In the nesting season seabirds like gannets gather at sites like Troup Head along with kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills.
Principal Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute