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Issue 90 - Editor's View

Scotland Magazine Issue 90
December 2016

 

This article is 12 months old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Editor's View

Christopher Coates on Scotland's varied wildlife

Over the centuries, humans have tamed most of Scotland’s wild places and put the environment to work for their own purposes. Famously, only scant portions of the ancient Caledonian Forest, the temperate rainforest that once covered much of the nation’s landmass, remains to this day and those pockets that have survived usually did so simply because the local geography hindered agricultural activity. Inevitably, in bringing Scotland’s landscape to heel humans have also wreaked havoc in delicate ecosystems that support great varieties of flora and fauna, such as the now critically endangered capercaillie and Scottish wildcat, while the hunting of other animals – such as wolves and beavers – led to the complete extinction of native populations.

Thankfully, there are some success stories. Beaver reintroduction in Argyll and Perthshire has gone outstandingly well, while populations of osprey and red kite have also begun to stabilise as a direct result of the years of hard work put in by a number of conservation projects. However, the stars of this issue are considerably bigger creatures – true titans of the air. Nic Davies, a wildlife conservationist and photographer based on the Isle of Mull, brings us face to face with Scotland’s largest bird of prey: the white-tailed eagle. Completely by accident, I too had the privilege of witnessing the majesty of these birds firsthand (albeit at a distance) during a recent day trip to the island. Needless to say, it was an experience that I’ve found myself dwelling upon in many a quiet moment since.

Likewise, our region of focus for this issue, the tranquil and oft-forgotten Galloway, is also one of great natural beauty and is home to a plethora of wildlife. While visiting, you may spot red squirrel; black grouse; red and roe deer; otter; nightjar; and – if you’re really lucky – maybe even one or two of the endangered birds mentioned already. But that’s not all that this area has to offer. The birthplace of Christianity in Scotland can be found at Whithorn and, if you take a moment to look up, you’ll see why Galloway Forest Park was designated as the UK’s first Dark Sky Park. It's one of only three such parks in Europe and on a clear night it seems that all of creation is stretched out before you.

Finally, as mentioned in the previous issue, since taking over as Managing Editor I’ve been positively overwhelmed by the number of kind messages received from readers – some of which will be chosen to appear in our new letters pages, which will begin in the next issue. However, feedback comes in all forms and I’d particularly like to thank one enthusiastic subscriber, Stella, who brought to my attention a very important – but missing – number ‘1’ in the previous issue’s 'Tales of the Tweed.' Eagle-eyed Stella noted that St Cuthbert’s religious awakening took place in AD651 not AD65 – divine or not, that would’ve made him very long-lived indeed!

With the record duly set straight, I would like to conclude by wishing you all the very best for the year ahead.