Scenery, Wildlife and Environment
Alford lies at 150m above sea level in the Howe of Alford, amidst farmland, woods and hills, close to the River Don. There is a very wide range of wildlife here, and expansive views. Most wildlife habitats are influenced by human land use, and farming and forestry are important in the area. Much of the Howe of Alford is agricultural land. Most farms are mixed, with livestock (mainly cattle and sheep), grass and cereals, and scattered woodlands; many farms have also created wildlife areas. Nearby hills rise to 533m, and higher ground is dominated by heather moorland and blanket bog, along with plantations of Scots Pine, spruce and larch.
Wildlife – birds
Well over 100 species of bird can be seen around Alford during the year, with many more turning up as casual visitors. In summer, wading birds such as Oystercatchers and Lapwings are widespread, and Skylarks, Yellowhammers and other farmland birds are still quite common here. On nearby hills, some of the largest colonies of Common Gulls in the world are found. Birds of prey such as Buzzards are widespread, and Ospreys can be seen fishing near Alford, taking their prey to nests further afield. In winter, groups of Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans from Iceland are frequent, and in one wood near Alford, there is one of the largest winter roosts of Rooks and Jackdaws in Scotland.
Wildlife – other animals
Alford is very rich in mammals, with over 25 species found within a few miles of the village. Red Squirrels are common in surrounding woods, and Otters are present on every burn and river. Roe Deer are abundant in woods, with Red Deer on the hills. The Scottish wildcat is also present though rarely seen. Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bats are found in Haughton and Murray Parks. There are various amphibians or reptiles, with only Common Frog, Common Toad, Palmate Newt and Common Lizard being found regularly. Sea Trout, Brown Trout and Salmon are present in the River Don. A very large range of invertebrates is present in the area, but in general there is little information about them. However, many butterflies and moths have been recorded, along with a few dragonfly species such as the Common Hawker.
Wildlife – flowers
The flora of the area is ‘boreal’ in nature – that is, containing many species more typical of Scandinavia than in other parts of the UK. Species such as the scarce Twinflower can be found in Scots pine woodlands, and overall there are hundreds of kinds of wildflower in the Alford area. A wide range of mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi can also be seen, though there is much yet to be learned about these.
More information about Wildlife and Environment in Alford and Aberdeenshire
You can find out more about wildlife in the area by visiting the website for the North East Scotland Biological Records Centre nesbrec.org and also send in your wildlife sightings to NESBReC. Many animals and plants in the Alford area are scarce and declining. Find out about biodiversity action plans in North East Scotland at nesbiodiversity. Bird distributions in Aberdeenshire and Moray are being recorded in detail as part of a 5-year project – see nescotlandbirdatlas.
Other local wildlife organisations:
Scottish Natural Heritage – SNH – the government nature conservation body has an office for North East Scotland in Aberdeen.
RSPB Scotland – RSPB Scotland – has a local group of young wildlife explorers in Kemnay, and a regional office in Aberdeen.
Scottish Wildlife Trust – Scottish Wildlife Trust – has a local WATCH group for youngsters interested in wildlife, in Monymusk.
Find out about wildlife in woodland from the Forestry Commission Scotland – Forestry Commission – which has local offices at Tillyfourie and Huntly.