21 December, 2020
More people flock to Highlands national nature reserves in 2020
NatureScot’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in the Highlands saw an upsurge in visitors in 2020, as part of over a million estimated visitors to NNRs across Scotland. The figure is an increase from an estimated 650,000 in recent years.
The increase, initially due to lockdown, was followed by continued interest and enthusiasm across the nation for spending time in nature in this difficult year.
Winter is a wonderful time to continue that habit. There’s plenty to see on nature reserves in the Highlands, from golden eagles and red deer to black grouse and large flocks of geese.
NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska: “People throughout Scotland have been enjoying spending time outdoors more than ever in 2020. Nature is helping us all cope with anxiety throughout this difficult time and strengthening our resilience. I’d encourage people to get out and enjoy their local national nature reserves over the holiday season, following the latest government guidelines. Our nature reserve staff have highlighted some spectacular sights to see on our reserves this winter.”
Here are reserve staff’s top picks for enjoying NatureScot’s nature reserves this winter.
At Loch Fleet, wintering ducks and geese congregate in their thousands, including greylag and pink footed geese, curlew, dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, oystercatcher, wigeon, and mallard. Common seals can be seen from the roadside hauled out on the sand banks a low tide. Rarer sights of otters, merlin, red kite and peregrine can also be seen. It’s a feast for the senses to head down at sunset to watch and listen to the huge flocks of birds returning to roost.
Walk around the lower trails at Creag Meagaidh reserve to see large flocks of finches, such as chaffinches, brambling, linnet and goldfinches, feeding on wildlife-friendly crops. There are also a wide range of woodland birds. In the morning, look for black grouse which have a strong population on the reserve. The higher path is likely to have snow at this time of year, but offers amazing views, with possible sightings of red deer, raven and golden eagle.
At Dell Woods in Abernethy nature reserve, take a winter walk among the pines from the village of Nethy Bridge. This is a great place to see the pinewood specialists including crested tit, crossbills and red squirrels. There are a network of easy-graded footpaths that meander through the pinewoods and are perfect for a crisp winter walk.
Another wonderful option is to visit the majestic Beinn Eighe reserve in Wester Ross, where lochs and mountains combine to create a dramatic landscape. Enjoy an easy low-level walk with views to the high ridges or take the Mountain Trail, one of the only way-marked mountain paths in Scotland, into the heart of the hills with stunning views.
Francesca has some final words of advice for those visiting nature reserves: “It’s been amazing to see so many people enjoying our reserves this year, but we’d also like to remind people to protect our reserves for future generations. For example please don’t litter or light campfires, as these can damage plants, trees and wildlife.”
- NatureScot Media
- 0131 316 2655
Notes to editors
There are 43 National Nature Reserves in Scotland. These are special places that look after some of the best of Scotland’s nature on behalf of everyone who lives or visits Scotland, and they provide unique opportunities to visit, enjoy and learn more about Scotland’s nature. For more information, see see https://www.nature.scot/enjoying-outdoors/scotlands-national-nature-reserves
NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at www.nature.scot or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nature_scot
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