Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

09 May 2013

Wild Scotland

Cheryl Tipp, Natural Sounds curator writes:

Can't tell your Capercaillie from your Ptarmigan? Then the British Library might be able to help. The latest title in the Library's series of wildlife & environmental audio publications, Wild Scotland, brings together the vocalisations of 30 species commonly found in this part of the world.

Several species, such as the Black-throated Diver, Crested Tit, Corncrake, Capercaillie and Pine Marten can only be found in Scotland, being absent from the rest of Britain. The Crested Tit, for example, is a highly specialised bird that is mainly restricted to the ancient Caledonian pine forests and Scot’s pine plantations of the Highlands. Likewise, the Capercaillie, a large woodland grouse that can reach almost a metre in height, is only found in the remnants of these once widespread and now vulnerable native pine forests. The Black-throated Diver, with its mournful, wailing song, only breeds in the northwest of the country, as does the secretive Corncrake. The distinctive ‘crex crex’ song of this member of the Rail family was once a familiar sound among the grasslands of Britain and much of Ireland, but changes in agricultural practices led to a dramatic population decline. Today, the Corncrake is mainly found on Orkney and the Hebrides, but conservation efforts are afoot to expand the geographical range of this bird.

Wild scotland

One of the most evocative images of Scotland is that of the Red Deer stag. This ‘monarch of the glen’ is a powerful symbol of the Scottish wildness and its bellowing roars during the annual rut are no less impressive. Another longstanding symbol of the Scottish wilderness is that of a Golden Eagle soaring over the barren moorlands and rugged mountainous ranges in search of prey. The Golden Eagle is one of Britain’s largest birds of prey and its breeding territory lies mainly in the Scottish Highlands and islands. Although mostly silent, it can be identified by its strong, yelping call. Other key species may be smaller in stature but are just as characteristic of Scotland’s wild places. The Red Squirrel is Britain’s only native squirrel species with around 75% of the UK population occurring in Scotland. This is due in part to some areas remaining free from the invasive Grey Squirrel, which has been responsible for Red Squirrel declines in other parts of Britain. The Pine Marten, though elusive and difficult to spot due to its nocturnal nature, has its stronghold in the woodlands of Scotland and is finally on the road to recovery after suffering significant persecution during the 19th century.

The majority of the recordings featured on this disc were recorded on location in various parts of Scotland. The remaining examples were recorded in England and were selected on the basis of superior audio quality or required vocalisation type. Despite being recorded in another country, all are accurate depictions of calls produced by their Scottish cousins.

Wild Scotland is designed to act both as an identification guide and an audio celebration of the many natural sounds of the country’s diverse and glorious habitats. Whether you are an armchair traveller or preparing for a holiday, this collection of field recordings showcases some of the marvellous wildlife that can be experienced in this inspiring land.

 (Wild Scotland is available from the British Library shop priced at £10.00)


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