What is the rarest mammal in Britain? The pine marten, perhaps? The red squirrel? Water vole? Well, a 2018 study led by The Mammal Society, which determined that one in five British mammals face a high risk of extinction here, identified three species as the most endangered. One was the Scottish wildcat, which we’ve already covered on this blog; the rather vague estimate of between 30 and 430 pure, or almost pure, wildcats still live in the remote corners of the Scottish Highlands.
With an estimated population of over 40 million, the European mole is one of the most common mammals in the British Isles. Yet it is one that we hardly, if ever, see. The only clues that might give away its presence are the odd clumps of soil that we call molehills. Of course, it’s hardly surprising that the mole is so elusive because it spends virtually the whole of its short but active life underground, safely hidden from predators above.
The quintessential Christmas bird, especially if Christmas cards are anything to go by, must surely be the robin. Small, approachable and endearingly dumpy, the robin is one of Britain’s best-loved birds, regularly topping any opinion poll that is carried out to find the nation’s favourite – most recently in 2015 when it received 34% of the votes (the runner-up, the barn owl, only received 12%).
When we think of parasites, we tend to think of tapeworms within our bodies, or fleas on our pets, or perhaps even wasps that lay eggs inside caterpillars. We almost certainly wouldn’t think of plants engaging in such sinister behaviour – yet the truth is that many plants have highly parasitic lifestyles.