Wild Scotland: Highlands
Spring is the most unpredictable of all seasons in the Highlands. It's all about timing. Red squirrels, osprey, roe deer and dippers make the most of this fleeting opportunity to raise a family. In the Caledonian pine forest, capercaillie perform a striking display to compete for breeding rights while, on the forest floor, a timberman beetle searches for a mate with antennae four times the length of its body. In the Moray Firth, a pod of bottlenose dolphins gathers to feed on the spring run of salmon; it's a bounty but only if they can swallow it.
By midsummer, the sun rules here for nearly 18 hours a day. For the animals of the Highlands, it's a race to raise their families before the nights close in and the autumn storms arrive. Golden eagles and Slavonian grebes work together in pairs while otters and pine martens are single mothers, hunting ceaselessly to feed their young. As summer draws to an end, the guillemot chicks of Handa Island face a death-defying leap as they tumble to the sea, fledging from 400-foot cliffs.
Autumn And Winter+
With the brief summer now passed, the animals of the Highlands are in for the long haul. Only the toughest will survive the Highlands' darkest and most overwhelming season. Reindeer, ptmarigan and mountain hare are well adapted to these extreme conditions while red squirrels and crested tits are pushed to the limit. Atlantic salmon return to spawn in the rivers in which they were born while on the Orkney island of Copinsay, grey seals haul onto the beaches to breed and give birth.
Wild animals and people have always lived side by side in the Highlands. Over the centuries, many of the riches of these wild places were lost as forests were cut down and wild animals driven to extinction. But now the balance is changing. There have been success stories - osprey and red kite are thriving in Highlands after years of persecution. But for others, like the Scottish wildcat, there is still much more to be done. If we can learn to respect and take responsibility for this place, then the Highlands have every chance of staying wild and wonderful, for people and for animals.