One of the best activities to look forward to when planning a UK holiday is wildlife spotting. Many BCH Camping
customers are wildlife enthusiasts, keen to spend time with the family, observing wildlife in their own habitat. Surprisingly, however, there are many species of wildlife that go under the radar because many of us don’t realise that they can be found on our shores.
According to research conducted by holiday company, Snaptrip, 82% of Brits are unaware that you can see the likes of orcas, humpback whales, coatis, hoopoe birds and sand lizards in the UK. What about other species such as common lizards, adders, grass snakes, pine martins, sea eagles and so on?
Many UK campsites are located near moorland, oceans and forests so we have put together a wildlife guide so you know what to look for when you are on your travels in the UK.
Which rare wildlife are we keen to see?
Out of the 20 rarest animals in the UK, the survey found Brits would most like to see:
Killer whale / orca (39%)
The killer whale, or orca, is to be found in all major seas and oceans of the world. In the UK, pods of killer whales have been spotted off the west coast of Scotland, off the coast of Northumberland, in the Moray Firth in North East Scotland, and off the coast of Cornwall.
The beloved dolphin, a favourite with children, is more accessible than many people think. The Moray Firth, to the North East of Scotland, and Cardigan Bay, West Wales are great places to see them. They can pop up anywhere around UK coasts, but are most common in the South and South West.
Golden eagle (34%)
The Golden Eagle is the national bird of Germany, Mexico and Afghanistan, and is the top predator in the Scottish countryside. They can be seen high in the sky in upland areas and remote glens in the north and west of Scotland. The best places to be sure of seeing a golden eagle are the Eagle Observatory on the Isle of Harris, Findhorn Valley Inverness-shire, Glen More on the Isle of Mull and the RSPB Oa Nature Reserve, Islay.
Humpback whale (32%)
The Humpback Whale is a large baleen whale, reaching up to 18m long, usually found alone or in pairs. They can be seen at sea, to the west of the UK and Ireland, especially during spring and autumn migrations. They are more common off the Shetland Isles and Hebrides, but increasingly seen in the northern North Sea.
Red squirrel (18%)
Red squirrels are mostly found in forests in the north of the UK, particularly in Scotland, the Lake District and Northumberland. As a protected species they are also found in nature reserves further south in England and Wales, including Formby Merseyside, Anglesey, Brownsea Island in Dorset, and the Isle of Wight.
Other wildlife to be found around the UK
There are many other species of wildlife to see around the UK, many of which may not be the first to come to mind when setting out to observe the fascinating residents of our countryside.
Here are a few that you should perhaps consider looking for (some of these may surprise you):
The common lizard is found around heathland, moorland and grassland between March and October. The lizard is the only reptile native to Ireland, and can also be found in Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex and Surrey on heathland at dune sites.
The adder prefers woodland, heathland and moorland coastal habitats, and can be found in the New Forest, west Wales and south west England. It is widespread in Scotland but absent from the Outer Hebrides, the Central Lowlands and the Northern Isles.
The grass snake, widespread in England and Wales, is our longest snake, but it's harmless! It prefers wetland habitats, but can also be found in dry grasslands. During the summer, grass snakes can be spotted near ponds or swimming in the water.
Pine martins are nocturnal so quite difficult to spot. They’re mostly found in the north of the UK, particularly the Highlands of Scotland, preferring woodland habitats and living in tree holes, old squirrel dreys or old birds' nests.
Sea eagle / white tailed eagle
Because of its love of lochs and coastal areas, the UK’s largest bird of prey is to be found predominantly along the west coast of Scotland. Regular sightings of sea eagles are reported on the ferry crossing from Glenelg to Kylerhea on Skye, and on boat trips from Tayvallich, Crinan and Loch Sween to the Gulf of Corryvreckan.
The basking shark is the second largest fish in our oceans, with the whale shark being the biggest. They are most commonly seen in the summer off the Isle of Man, Cornwall and the Inner Hebrides from cliffs, but your best chance of seeing a basking shark is by taking a boat trip.
The sand lizard is extremely rare due to the loss of its sandy heath and dune habitats. Between April and October, you might be lucky and see them in sandy heathlands and sand dunes in Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Merseyside. They’re currently being reintroduced into other areas in the South East, South West and Wales.
This much-loved, distinctive bird with a brightly coloured bill, orange feet and waddling walk, can be found nesting in cracks in rocks along the coast, or on islands in the likes of Yorkshire, Northumberland, Aberdeenshire, South West England and Wales.
The Scottish wildcat is also known as the Highlands tiger. Native to Scotland, this mammal looks very much like a tabby cat but it’s a ferocious hunter. They are most active at dawn and dusk. The Scottish wildcat is extremely rare, but can be found in Morvern, Strathpeffer, Northern Strathspey, Angus Glens, and Strathbogie.
Hoopoes have conspicuous crests on their heads which comprises 28 feathers and can open into a fan. The hoopoe bird doesn't breed in the UK, but as many as 100 birds can turn up in spring during their migration to Europe from Africa. At this time, Hoopoes can be spotted along the south coast. They are not usually found far inland although they have turned up as far north as Shetland.
The coati is a member of the raccoon family, most commonly spotted in northern England. Also known as the Brazilian aardvark, 10 to 12 coati have been spotted in Cumbria over the last few years. Cumbria Wildlife Trust say coati have been breeding, having escaped captivity.
Wallabies can be seen on Inchconnachan, a small island in Loch Lomond, Scotland. They were deliberately introduced in the 1920s and have successfully lived there since. To get there you will need to hire a speedboat or kayak. There is also a small colony of wallabies on the Isle of Man (descended from a pair that escaped a local wildlife park), and there have been occasional sightings in Ashdown Forest, Norfolk, Buckinghamshire and the Peak District.
Enjoy the wildlife and share your experiences
We hope we’ve given you some inspiration to seek out rare species of wildlife on your holiday or days out. There really is so much to see, and wildlife can give so much enjoyment to the little people in your party.
If you come across any other wildlife you think our subscribers would enjoy visiting, let us know
. In the meantime, should you need any camping
equipment for your excursions, we’d be happy to help.