If you’ve ever been on an African safari, you’ll have heard of the Big 5 – the animals you just have to see. Well, not wanting to be outdone, we have our own Perthshire “Big 5” (and the rest)! Here’s a list of the wildlife you have to see, and how to do it. Don’t miss the news, below, of when the next osprey chicks will be hatching at Loch of the Lowes!
And check out the events for kids at the end – to encourage our next generation of wildlife enthusiasts.
Characteristics – Ospreys live near large bodies of water such as lochs, coastal areas or rivers. They eat medium-sized fish and can sometimes soar to 70 metres above the water to get a better look at their prey. The RSPB website describes the osprey’s appearance: “Seen in flight from below the osprey has white or slightly mottled underparts. The long wings are angled, bending at the ‘wrist’ which has a black patch contrasting with the white wing linings and at a distance it could be mistaken for a large gull.”
Where to spot – Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve, covering 98 hectares near Dunkeld, is the best-known osprey-spotting location in Scotland. From early April to late August, the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys, which nest just 150 metres from the observation hide. And, excitingly, the next brood of chicks could be born any day now! When will the osprey chicks hatch?
At the centre you can also see red squirrels, beavers, wildfowl, deer and various bird varieties.
Characteristics – Beavers have dense, brown or even black fur. They are stocky animals with small ears and eyes and a characteristically flattened, broad and scaly tail. They can grow up to a metre long, plus a 30cm tail, and those famous teeth gnaw through trees and logs to build their homes and dams. They’ve recently been reintroduced to Scotland and can now once again be called a native species.
Where to spot – Beavers can be seen in Perthshire at the Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve.
3. Red Deer
Characteristics – Did you know the red deer is Britain’s largest native land mammal? The spectacular-looking males have large, branching antlers that get bigger as they get older. During the Red Deer “rut”, in the autumn breeding season, males roar loudly to show their strength and claim their territory, and will fight over the females, sometimes getting injured badly. Red Deer are a beautiful dark russet-brown, which helps them stay camouflaged in autumn. They can live for up to 18 years.
Where to spot – Rannoch Moor is a fantastic place to spot red deer, with its open, heather-covered landscape and plentiful water supply. Other parts of Highland Perthshire, such as Glen Lyon, the Atholl Estates and the Tay Forest Park, are great for catching a glimpse of our antlered friends.
You could go your own way or book with a tour company such as Highland Exploration on Rannoch Moor or Highland Safaris near Aberfeldy, whose expert guides can spot these majestic creatures even when they’re beautifully camouflaged! Or try out the highly entertaining Scottish Red Deer Centre, near Aberfeldy, where the deer run towards delighted visitors, to be fed by hand.
4. Red Squirrel
Characteristics – Is there any cuter wild creature than the red squirrel? Its numbers were getting dangerously low not too long ago, but happily are on the up again thanks to a strategic protection programme.
Where to spot – Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park in Perth, which comprises Kinnoull Hill, Barnhill, Corsiehill, Deuchny and Binn Hill, has a huge variety of wildlife and is easily accessible from Perth City Centre.
David Wood, a committee member of Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park Group, says, “Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park offers a wide range of wildlife all year round, including the most iconic, the red squirrel, which can be seen in all areas. Wildlife-spotters can also see house sparrows, chaffinches, tits, crows, robins, blackbirds, thrushes, wrens, jackdaws, woodpecker and buzzards. The three most spectacular birds must be the tawny owl, jay and peregrine falcon. There’s roe deer, loads of rabbits, hares, the odd fox and even a large contingent of badgers although mainly in the dangerous steep slopes under the cliff side.”
5. Golden Eagle
Characteristics – The golden eagle is an unmistakeable sight in the skies over Perthshire. With wings spanning up to 220cm that end in fingertip-like feathers, it’s Scotland’s second largest bird of prey, with only the white-tailed eagle larger. It likes to soar and glide on air currents, holding its wings in a shallow “V”. Eagles have traditional territories and nesting places which may be used by generations.
Where to spot – Atholl Estates (home to the iconic Blair Castle), Rannoch Moor (Highland Exploration runs Land Rover tours), St Fillans (Aquila Ecology run tours), and near Aberfeldy (tour with Highland Safaris).
And the rest
As well as the wonderful creatures mentioned above, you can also see bats, buzzards, foxes, grouse, oystercatchers, pheasants, pine martens and even the odd Capercaillie!
Best times to spot wildlife
Luckily, Perthshire has plenty to see all year round, but
- Mar – Nov for red squirrels
- Apr – Aug for ospreys
- May – Aug for beavers
- All year round for wildfowl
- All year round for bird feeders & deer.
It’s not all in the countryside
You don’t even have to leave Perth to see some wonderful wildlife. Here are some examples of wildlife you can see in the city:
- Sand martins nesting in the
- Swans and ducks at the South Inch Park pond
- Otters and seals in the River Tay near the bridges
- Kingfishers at Rodney Gardens
Events for kids
Kids are natural wildlife-spotters. They love any opportunity to look for minibeasts – and larger ones too! The RSPB has a fabulous range of wildlife-spotting activities for kid in Perth and Perthshire, including:
- Quarrymill Adventures with RSPB for 8- to 12-year-olds, on selected Sundays in May through to August
- Wild Woodlands – Birds and Bugs with RSPB at Quarrymill for pre-school kids
- Incredible Insects: Bumblebee Walk at Quarrymill on Wednesday 20th June
- Big Bug Hunt at Quarrymill on Sunday 24th June
- Wild Woodlands – Annaty Burn Adventure at Quarrymill for pre-school kids on Thursday 19th July
- Chris Packham’s BioBlitz at RSPB Loch Leven – join the superstar wildlife expert for this fascinating free (but ticketed) event on Saturday 14th July.
- Wild Nights: Bat Walk – Explore the reserve at night to see and hear the different types of bats found here at RSPB Loch Leven on Sunday 26th August
Check out our wildlife map
This map shows you all of the places we’ve mentioned that are great for wildlife-spotting. We hope you enjoy exploring!
Make Perth your wildlife-spotting base
Perth is the ideal centre to base yourself for wildlife-spotting. Stay in one of our many guest houses, B&Bs or hotels, and get up early for a tasty breakfast before you head out to find your chosen animals.
- Atholl Place Self-Catering Townhouse
- Achnacarry Guest House
- Alexander Residence
- Almond Villa Guesthouse
- Auld Manse Guest House
- Auld Manse Self Catering Apartment
- Balvaird Apartment at Scone Palace
- Best Western Queens Hotel
- The Fitzroy Bed & Breakfast
- Grampian Hotel
- Hazeldene Guest House
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel
- Mercure Hotel
- Murrayshall Hotel & Golf Courses
- No 9 The Guest House Perth
- The Parklands Hotel
- Premier Inn Hotel
- The Royal George Hotel
- Salutation Hotel
- Sunbank House Hotel
- The Townhouse
- Woodlea Guest House