Badgers, squirrels, seals and other mammals
The forest floor carpeted with moss / an Oystercatcher on the shore at Culbin, Morayshire.
Culbin is home to a great many mammals of all sizes but many are seldom seen. You'll need patience and a willingness to sit, watch and wait - but there are few places better to do this than Culbin.
Early morning and at dusk are good times for wildlife watching.
Roe deer can be found anywhere in the forest but are surprisingly hard to see.
The roe is a relatively small deer, with a body length of 95-135 cm. Only the males have antlers, which are lost during winter but re-grow in time for the summer mating season.
Red squirrel is native to Scotland, but its future is increasingly uncertain as the introduced American grey squirrel expands its range.
Culbin is an important haven for red squirrels which are seed eaters and favour pine cones. They’re quite elusive and spend much of their time in the tree canopy but look out for chewed pine cones resembling an apple core and you’ll know they’re about.
Here and there you'll see what looks like a narrow path worn in the sand, moss or lichen. It’s created by badgers.
Culbin’s light, sandy soil makes digging a sett below tree-roots an easy job, and at dusk you might spot a badger trotting purposefully along one of these habitual routes to look for beetles, slugs, ants or other foodstuffs.
These delightful mammals, at home on land or in fresh or salt water, use the deep drainage ditches running through west Culbin as aquatic motorways to fast-track between the sea and freshwater pools and lochs inland.
Early morning is the best time to see them. They’re quite secretive though and a sighting is a very rare treat.
Findhorn Bay Seal Colony
It’s unusual not to see a glossy black seal head poking curiously from the fish-rich estuary waters of the Findhorn. Culbin has two seal species: grey seals and common seals, curiously a good deal rarer now than their grey cousins.
You can sometimes see these blubbery mammals dozing in the sun on the sands below, and the sand is often criss-crossed with ruts where they have moved their heavy bodies. Once in the water, the seals become agile, expert hunters, much to the annoyance of local humans with a rod and a line.
Bats are our only true flying mammals. Their leathery wings have hooked ‘fingers’ enabling them to move around easily in hollow trees and crevices where they roost in the daytime.
Culbin has brown long-eared bats (pictured) and two kinds of pipistrelle bat, a main difference being the sound frequency (45khz and 55 khz) they use for finding their prey. Bats find food by bouncing sound ‘clicks’ off prey as they fly through the air. As the bat approaches its target the clicks become closer together, until it makes a sound like smacking lips.
There are bat boxes in the trees near Cloddymoss Pond, Dragonfly Pond and the Gravelpit Ponds. On summer evenings at dusk you’ll see and hear the bats come out to feed on the nutritious insect life flying above the ponds.