Pipistrelle bats can be regularly seen
Pipistrelle bats can be regularly seen

The wildlife roaming the streets of our cities

At first glance, Scotland’s capital city may not seem like a haven for wildlife, but look a little closer and there’s plenty to be found.

From the skies, to the sea, to the cobbled streets of the city itself, there’s a wild side of Edinburgh just waiting to be explored.

The term urban wildlife brings to mind perhaps the best known and most controversial animal seen in our city: the fox. With myriad gardens to explore and thousands of bins to pillage, the numbers of these sly critters are rising rapidly and they are growing in boldness, prompting a debate on the best way to deal with them.

Deer are another regular visitor to the city centre with sightings of roe deer on Corstorphine Hill and around Barnton now commonplace. Sticking mainly to green spaces such as golf courses, they occasionally wander into roads or railway lines after being spooked by dogs and walkers.

Pipistrelle bats can be regularly seen

Just last year, a young deer in the city made national headlines when the SSPCA were called out to attend to the animal, which appeared to be in shock by tram tracks. Once secured in a crate, the animal was then taken (by tram of course) to safety, before being nursed back to health by the charity.

The city’s mammals are not limited to the ground, with bats being a common sight around the city both in parks and above the streets. They venture out at dusk in search of night flying insects and moths from their roosts in the roofs of city tenements.

Pipistrelle bats are the most common and can be seen around St Margaret’s Loch in Holyrood Park, the Hermitage of Braid nature reserve and over Blackford Pond.

Keen bird watchers can also spot the occasional bird of prey over the city with regular sightings of sparrowhawks; over 100 of their nests are dotted around Edinburgh.

As in most cities, pigeons are a regular sight and are often viewed as pests. The Scottish Parliament has become so fed up with them that hawks and falcons are regularly brought in to fly over the buildings in order to deter the birds from making them their homes.

Otters have been spotted in Edinburgh

The city beaches are another excellent place to spot wildlife. The Firth of Forth is home to plenty of marine mammals.

Seals are a common sight and have even been known to make their way onto Portobello beach. Dolphins and harbour porpoises also regularly make an appearance in the waters off the city and earlier this year a pod of at least three humpback whales was spotted frolicking off the coast.

It’s not just the outskirts of Edinburgh which is teeming with wildlife. The capital’s only natural freshwater loch is in Duddingston and supports the largest reedbed in the city, which is an important area for breeding and wintering wildfowl.

Species of birds include the water rail, great crested grebe, tufted duck, mute swan and mallard, while otters have even been spotted swimming along the shore in winter.