Orkney - Natural History

Natural History

Orkney has an abundance of wildlife especially of Grey and Common Seals and seabirds such as Puffins, Kittiwakes, Tysties, Ravens, and Bonxies. Whales, dolphins, Otters are also seen around the coasts. Inland the Orkney Vole, a distinct subspecies of the Common Vole is an endemic. There are five distinct varieties, found on the islands of Sanday, Westray, Rousay, South Ronaldsay, and the Mainland, all the more remarkable as the species is absent on mainland Britain.

The coastline is well-known for its colourful flowers including Sea Aster, Sea Squill, Sea Thrift, Common Sea-lavender, Bell and Common Heather. The Scottish Primrose is found only on the coasts of Orkney and nearby Caithness and Sutherland. Although stands of trees are generally rare, a small forest named Happy Valley with 700 trees and lush gardens was created from a boggy hillside near Stenness during the second half of the 20th century.

The North Ronaldsay Sheep is an unusual breed of domesticated animal, subsisting largely on a diet of seaweed, since they are confined to the foreshore for most of the year to conserve the limited grazing inland.

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