19th August, 2017
For such a tiny island, we have some exceptional native species – we have several species unique to the Island, and many others that are rare. Our eco-system is also expected to expand, as there have been calls to reintroduce the wolves and lynx that used to live in Britain in ancient times! British wildlife is rich and varied, and fortunately not very dangerous (at the moment!). We’ve picked out some of our favourites that we suggest visitors to the UK watch out for – however, this is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are many more beautiful animals to be spotted up and down the country…
Some of the UK’s cutest, these little squirrel’s existence has long been threatened by the Grey Squirrel, an American invader that competes for food and habitat. Red Squirrels are smaller, and sweeter, and easily recognisable due to their russet coats and tufty ears. Red Squirrels are tree dwellers, and spend much less time on the ground than their grey cousins. Due to the influx of Grey Squirrels, Red Squirrels are now endangered, and are most likely to be spotted in Northern England and Scotland, among the fir trees and in deep forest areas. The Red Squirrels also enjoy sanctuary on the Isle of Wight, where there are no Greys. If you are on our Hadrian’s Wall Tour, or our Highlands Coast to Coast tour, keep your eyes open for these rare little rodents.
A relatively recent re-introduction to Britain, the Wild Boar now thrives in the Forest of Dean and other wooded areas in the South of England. Wild Boar were a common site in the UK several centuries ago, although over-hunting drove them to extinction. The re-introduction was actually accidental, and it is thought that the groups of Wild Boar spotted in the South escaped from farms in the area. Wild Boar enjoy the British climate, having rough, wiry coats that can withstand our weather. Boar primarily eat roots, wild vegetables, and are good at snuffling out acorns. There are concerns that the Wild Boar may be threatening the mouse population, as the Boar are known to seek out the mice, not to eat them, but to steal their acorn hoards! Look out for the Boar if you are on our Dorset Beaches and the New Forest tour as there is a herd that calls the forest home here – be careful, and do keep your distance, as Wild Boar are actually considered to be a ‘dangerous species’.
Another re-introduction, the Red Kite has been one of the most successful in history. These majestic birds are now a common site over the Chiltern Hills, where they glide overhead watching for carrion and small rodents. Their distinctive forked tails and white markings on their wings sets them apart from the other birds of prey native to England. If you are on our Chiltern Challenge, you will undoubtedly see some of these beautiful birds, and those on our Thames tours might be lucky enough to spot them too.
These little carnivores were once the second most common in the UK, although today they are amongst the country’s most endangered species. Deforestation devastated the Pine Marten population, driving them to the more remote edges of Britain. These days, the best places to catch a site of these elusive animals is in the Highlands or the Lake District. For those who may have no clue what a Pine Marten looks like, they are a cute compact carnivore related to the badger and otter – their colouring is a soft brown with a yellow ‘bib’ on their throats. They are very cute.
These small baleen whales can sometimes be spotted up and down the Western coasts of the UK, and are most frequently seen off of coast of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Notable for their delicate size, and elegant movements, these little whales (typically 8 metres long give or take a few) have become a more common sighting in the North Sea, potentially due to increased food stocks brought on by climate change. If you are interested in catching a sight of these lovely visitors, consider a boat trip out to sea – they are definitely worth the effort as they are remarkably beautiful and quite friendly!