The UK's Most Elusive Species

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The UK's Most Elusive Species

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A press release came in to the team at Nature’s Home magazine last week detailing the ten most elusive species in the UK and it got us thinking, have any of our readers seen these species out in the wild for themselves? The report was the result of data collected from the general public, but surely our dedicated members of the RSPB would result in a much higher percentage of us having seen some of these species, so we want you to let us know! Top of the list as the most elusive species sighting in the UK was the nightjar with only 4% of the UK population spotting one in the wild, and the nightjar was joined by other rarities such as the pine marten which has been seen by 5% of us (which doesn't even  include Sir David Attenborough!), and the golden eagle with just 9% of us seeing them in the wild. Other species in the list include the stoat (16%), otter (17%), cuckoo (22%), slow worm (25%), adder (29%), raven (30%), and kingfisher (34%). Let us know if you’re one of the few who have seen one or more of these species in the wild by commenting on this post below!

 Ed Marshall. The kingfisher is one of the few species from the report that I myself have managed to see and photograph in the wild here in the UK. Though I'm sure many of you out there have seen much more!

 Ed Marshall. The otter pictured here is a captive individual. Although they have made a comeback in recent years, with them now being found in every county throughout England, they still remain one of the more elusive species to see in the wild.

The reason that otters are still such a rare sighting in the UK, and for that matter why I think the results of such studies should be taken with a little pinch of salt, comes down to a number of things really. Most importantly of which I think it is because they are more active at night, and as such it requires a true dedication to seeing them in the wild if you hope to catch a glimpse. This said, it is of course possible to see them in the day if you know where to go, I always find a well-managed animal sanctuary can guarantee a sighting (though this is of course cheating!)

The golden eagle is considered the third most elusive species in the UK, with only 9% of those asked saying they had seen them in the wild. Yet there are similar points to make about these statistics. Golden Eagles are typically found soaring amongst the Scottish mountains and surrounding areas which isn't exactly where a great number of people will find themselves, unless they really plan on seeing them in the wild. The low percentage of people having seen them therefore isn't surprising to me and the same applies for nightjars. As their name might suggest, you are more likely to spot them around dusk and of a night, something that requires a certain amount of dedication by whoever wishes to see them. Even in daylight you would need the trained eyes of an expert to spot them on account of their amazing camouflage! The only time I have ever seen one was when I was on a 6 week expedition in Bolivia, so I don’t really feel like it counts for my UK species list…

 Andy Hay ( A rare view of a nightjar, and one that illustrates the wonderful camouflage of this bird.

With all this said, it is important to remember that these species should be at the top of our priority when it comes to conservation. Yes they are elusive, and this can be down to certain inherent factors to do with their behaviour or ecology, but let's not let these wonderful species reach the point where we are at risk of not seeing them in the wild here in the UK. So see how you compare to the rest of the general public, and see if this gives you the itch to get out and spot some of the UK's more elusive species!

  • I was sure the 'winner' would be Wildcat.

  • I need pine marten too. Very surprised that the kingfisher has only been observed by 34%.

  • That's a brilliant effort Vanellus! I'm with you on the otter side of things, I always see possible signs that they are there, but never the creatures themselves!

  • I do quite well with 9/10. The one I am missing is an adder. Nice to know I can outdo David Attenborough on pine marten. Would love to see an otter on my local patch, Otmoor, so far just a footprint and a chewed fish-head.