Recently I had a short trip to the west coast of Scotland to visit Knapdale, home of the Scottish beaver trial. The area was certainly one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Scotland and the abundance of nature was very impressive.
Four beaver families were released in Knapdale forest during May 2008, followed by five years of research into the effects of such a reintroduction. This monitoring contributed some important information and on November 24th 2016, the Scottish government announced its landmark decision that beavers are to remain in Scotland as a protected species. This was a historical event, marking the first reintroduction of a mammal to the UK. You can find out why beavers are such a valuable species here.
Unfortunately (but through no lack of effort) we didn’t get to see any beavers – however signs of their presence were very notable. It’s hard to miss the partially gnawn trees as you walk around the trail and we even saw some beaver tracks at the water’s edge. An impressive lodge can be seen when walking around the larger of the two beaver lochs, as well as very obvious changes in the landscape.
Beavers create wetland habitats which are important for a whole plethora of species. The photo below shows an area recently dammed and flooded by the beavers of loch Collie-Barh. In the coming years these birch trees will decompose creating a new pond and opening up the wood. The two lochs were teeming with insect life which was also obvious by the amount of bats feeding at dusk.
The nearby tiny village of Crinan was beautifully situated on the edge of a sea loch, but also enveloped in woodland. It’s so satisfying to see hills covered in trees as opposed to barren wastelands. The area was so green and lush with plenty of native trees and wildflowers for nature to thrive. I was also very delighted to photograph some obliging common blue butterflies which we spotted hunkering down in the grass.
The Scottish beaver trial and its partners are now trying to reinforce the small beaver population at Knapdale; to ensure a healthy and stable population for the years to come. So I’ll certainly be back in the future for another attempt at catching sight of these wonderful creatures.