montage of foxes, a thistle and a kestrel
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Natural History

The West Highland Way passes through a wide range of different terrains, ranging from lowland moors, through dense woodland and rolling hills, to high mountainous regions. This variety of environments provides habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species, both flora and fauna. Some species are more common than others and some are rarely seen. If you are lucky enough to spot one of the rarer varieties, consider yourself privileged.

In recent years, great changes have taken place in the West Highland regions, which have had a dramatic effect on the wildlife population. Since the end of World War II, the change from horse drawn farm machinery to mechanical farming has seen around half of the hedgerows being torn up to make way for larger fields. Half of the lowland peat bogs have gone, as have over a third of all heather moors. All of this has meant a reduction in wildlife habitats and the use of chemical pesticides has further decimated the numbers of wild birds in particular. In the last 25 years, the numbers of skylark, bullfinch and linnets have fallen by almost two thirds while partridges are down by three quarters. Bird of prey numbers are also on the decrease, partly due to the erosion of their food chain and partly due to poisoning by estate owners to protect grouse stocks.

In the last few years, there has been a change of heart among governments and landowners, with nature conservation coming very much to the fore. Farmers are being encouraged to set aside areas of land as wildlife habitats and this is leading to a gradual increase in numbers. It is important that walkers and other countryside users respect this attempt to reverse the damage done by previous generations and do everything possible to maintain the improvements already made..