It has occurred to us that having now lived here for some months we might have some useful advice to give on a couple of the smaller denizens of Scotland, creatures whose very abundance keeps them well away from any travel brochure, but who nevertheless will be well known to anyone who has visited these parts. There are really just two worthy of note so I’ll deal with them in alphabetical order.
is most likely to appear in the cool indirect light of dusk, especially when the air is not moving above a gentle breeze. They are especially fond of sheltered valleys, woodland and forest areas. They are quite small, are competent but not strong flyers, dislike strong sunlight and prefer dark coloured clothing to light (although I have seen them completed naked so don’t take this too seriously). If you have a choice, give the ladies of the species a wide berth as they seem to be heavily into motherhood and with this in mind will single-mindedly seek all the nourishment they can get wherever they can get it. The chaps don’t go in for that sort of thing at all, being far too preoccupied with courting and dating the ladies – so to speak – which makes them generally OK to have around, if a little distracted.
For the connoisseur who just can’t wait to get these little charmers in their sights there is a useful website which will provide up to the minute information on where to see the best ones in the biggest numbers, anywhere in Scotland.
is an altogether more sedentary beast.
These little dears are related to spiders and have never learnt to fly but strangely neither do they run or jump about much either, even when they are young. This might cast them as being over-weight or unfit, but as it happens they are invariably very slim (flat) and as difficult to spot without your reading glasses as any young money spider. The best way to observe them is get them to hitch a ride on your skin, something they are perfectly happy to do as they have harpoon-like mouth parts to help them stay there, these also helping them to suck up any fluid they find beneath their little feet, like blood. Once there, no matter how much you scratch their tiny bottoms, they just hang on and never seem to mind.
Here is one of the chaps (the girls always wear red shorts) with its little barbed head fully embedded in the skin of a willing volunteer. (Don’t ostriches do this in sand?)
To be sure of not missing these delightful little creatures just take a stroll through some tall vegetation, bracken for example, preferably with bare legs, arms or better still, tummy and I promise you they will soon make themselves at home on you.
Oh and they can infect you with Lyme disease which is not a very nice thing to have.
OK so perhaps these little darlin’s are not everyone’s cup of tea so maybe you’d be happier with something bigger, like the dolphins which seem to have made Oban Bay their home. The regular comings and goings of the CalMac ferries, the many trip boats, the dozens of moored or anchored boats with dinghies coming and going at all times, none of this seems to bother them as they frolic about, sometimes breaking clear of the sea but generally more restrained, each one showing only a glimpse of black fin before diving again. Difficult to observe (they reserve their best jumps for when you glance away), frustrating to photograph and impossible to cuddle, they are the very essence of animal freedom, choosing to engage with our world on their terms, or not at all.