From Dolphins to Red Deer: Incredible Aberdeen Wildlife

By: Anna Millar

December 3, 2013

Anyone who caught Disney Pixar’s ridiculously successful movie Brave will understand why filmmakers used much of the Highlands of Scotland as a blueprint for their mystical setting. In parts lush and green, in others mysterious and barren, the story of this flame-haired princess used the jutting cliffs, hidden enclaves and languishing waters of Scotland as its dramatic backdrop. Off-screen, the northeast landscape, in and around Aberdeen, offers just as much inspiration for those seeking out real life Aberdeen wildlife and adventure – with hares, deer, ospreys and wild goose to be admired on land in their natural habitat, and dolphins, otters (and even the odd killer whale) to beguile out at sea.


Aberdeen Wildlife | Dolphin

Dolphin watching off the coast of Aberdeen © Ian Hay

Timed right, dolphin watching in and around Aberdeen can be glorious, as bottlenose dolphins dance and chirrup away around the Moray Firth, and local harbour porpoise and seals play nearby. Organised boat trips can be picked up from Buckie Harbour, with local sea men on hand to offer great insider knowledge and guide you to the top spots – boats like the Gemini Explorer head out year-round. Although less likely than a dolphin sighting, minke whales have been seen around the area, and even the odd glimpse of a killer whale was reported in early 2013, just off the Aberdeen coast.


Aberdeen Wildlife | Heron

A majestic heron takes wing © Glenlivet Wildlife

Back on shore, the possibilities are plenty. The whole north east coast from Fraserburgh to St Cyrus offers fertile ground for twitchers and sea lovers alike, with its rocky shores, estuaries, salt marshes and sandy beaches – but we have a few firm favourites that seldom disappoint. The Loch of Strathbeg near Fraserburgh and Forvie National Nature Reserve (just 12 miles north of Aberdeen centre) is known for its gorgeous pink-footed geese, black tailed godwits, mute swans, and Eider ducks. A bird watcher’s paradise, over 250 species of birds have been recorded in and around the Loch of Strathbeg, and the visitor centre has some great observation hubs. North of Aberdeen at the Forvie Centre, flora and fauna fans can walk around some top-notch local tracks and discover some of the 300-odd flowering plants.


Aberdeen Wildlife | Roe Deer

A roe deer kid hides in the grass © Glenlivet Wildlife

While it’s possible to go it alone, with some easily traversed, well-signposted walks available, some of the best organised wildlife and safari tours around Aberdeen and the northeast are great bang for your buck – and worth the effort to get the inside scoop from people who know both the history and hottest mountain spots from which to search out Scotland’s beautiful birds and beasts.


Aberdeen Wildlife | Snipe

A snipe, one of Scotland’s sea bird species © Glenlivet Wildlife

The UK’s largest, the Cairngorms National Park is vast and extraordinary in its scope. Its heather moors and vast forest ranges offer ample opportunity to spot red and black grouse, golden eagles, red deer stags, osprey, terns, pine martens and more. Glenlivet Wildlife based in Tomnavoulin in Moray is a great shout for those seeking specially organised tours in Glenlivet and the Cairngorms, with different packages available to bring you the best wildlife around in any given season.

Header Image © Glenlivet Wildlife

Written by Anna Millar

Virgin Atlantic Little Red operates direct flights to Aberdeen from London Heathrow. Book your flight today.

Have you experienced the incredible Aberdeen wildlife? What was your most exciting sighting? Let us know in the comments.


Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.

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