St Kilda. A remote, windswept archipelago in the storm-tossed seas 160 kilometres west of mainland Scotland. This scattering of rugged islands is famed for its birdlife. Nesting on and around its sea cliffs – the tallest in Britain, up to 426 m – are a huge variety of seabirds, including fulmars, gannets, puffins, guillemots, storm petrels, razorbills, shearwaters and skuas.
In recent decades, Britain has seen the reintroductions and translocations of many animals, from red kites and great bustards to pine martens and natterjack toads. But the pioneering Scottish Beaver Trial has been, if anything, even more significant than any of those. It was the first time a licensed, government-sanctioned project returned an extinct mammal to the wild in the UK.
In this new series of articles, The Nature Nook will be taking a look at a variety of legendary creatures from around the world, along with the animals that may have inspired them. For our first foray into the realm of myth and magic, we’ll be focusing on the famous unicorn. Although today it is considered a pure, gentle creature of fantasy, the unicorn in ancient times was described as a tough, violent beast, capable of running through an armoured warrior with its single horn.
Beavers are some of the greatest construction workers in the mammalian world. They are dam-builders, lumberjacks, engineers, architects and transport planners all rolled into one. They have, perhaps, a bigger deliberate impact on their surroundings than any other animal besides humans, and they can easily reconfigure their environment to suit their needs.