The Scottish Highlands are home to some of the UK's most remarkable wildlife. With the semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent this week we took a look at some of the Highlands' most talented wild residents and the adaptations that enable them to thrive in this unforgiving place.
This impressive raptor has many adaptations that allow it to perform it’s special talent of catching the fish on which it exclusively feeds - a behaviour which has entranced 14 million Facebook viewers and counting!
Using sharp eyesight to spot the fish, osprey dive feet-first from heights of over 100 feet to grab their prey. Their long, curved talons are equipped with short spines called spicules for an unbreakable hold on wet, slippery fish and their wings contain more feathers and are longer and thinner than other predatory birds, giving them enough power to lift off with a fish that may match them in weight! Finally, they have a reversible outer toe to shift the fish into a head-first position for flight, giving minimal drag on the return journey to the nest.
2. GREY SEALS
While every other Highland bird and mammal completes their breeding cycle by the end of summer, grey seals are an exception to the rule and pup in the autumn. In order to survive the overwhelming Highland winter, the grey seal pups have to grow up fast and their special talent is weight gain! Their mother’s milk contains 50% fat so the growing pups gain two kilos a day, trebling their weight in just three weeks and developing a vital insulating blubber layer that will protect them against the winter’s worst.
3. RED SQUIRRELS
Red squirrels spend nearly 90% of their lives in the treetops and they’re superbly adapted to climb and leap. Their short, sharp claws provide excellent grip while their long hind limbs are adapted for leaping. Their ankles can rotate 180° allowing them to climb down a tree head first and their tail, often the same length as their body, gives perfect balance.
4. BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS
Forget sword swallowers, the Highlands has vomiting dolphins! Some individuals in the Moray Firth population regurgitate and re-swallow their salmon supper in order to get the gigantic fish, weighing 20 pounds or more, to finally slip down the throat.
Check out WDC Officer, Charlie Philips’ blogpost for an excellent guide to seeing the dolphins yourself at Channonry Point.