National Big 5 voting

A North East biodiversity group is asking local people to vote for the area’s Big 5 favourite wildlife animal, after a national Big 5 vote crowned the golden eagle as Scotland’s favourite wildlife recently.

Members of the North East Local Biodiversity Action Plan (NELBAP) Partnership chose the bottlenose dolphin, small blue butterfly, pine marten, hedgehog and common toad as the NE Big 5 this year. Now they are now asking people to vote for their favourite.

The creatures chosen for the North East are quite an amazing mix.

Aberdeen is the only major city in the UK where dolphins are regularly seen at the mouth of its busy harbour. Bottlenose dolphins travel at speeds of up to 18 miles an hour.

They travel in social groups and communicate with each other by a complex system of squeaks and whistles.

The small blue butterfly is experiencing a major decline, and it’s urgent to get an up-to-date picture of where this butterfly can still be found so that help can be targeted to the right places.

This is the UK’s smallest resident butterfly, found from northern Scotland to the south of England.

But outside of its strongholds in the south of England, colonies are often isolated pockets.

After a long period of persecution, pine martens have been doing better in recent times and last year, one was seen in woodland on the outskirts of Aberdeen.

They have a wide diet, with a preference for mice and berries, and some recent research has shown that that they may also be rather partial to the non-native grey squirrel, which may help recovery of native red squirrels.

Hedgehogs are a favourite for many in the UK, and are the only British mammal with spines.

They eat all kinds of things: worms, slugs, and frogs during long forages at night.

Where hedgehogs naturally occur, we think of them as common. But evidence from elsewhere suggests they are in decline.

Last but not least in the NE Big Five is the common toad. These toads secrete an irritant from their skin that prevents most predators from wanting to eat them, and can live up to 40 years.

Like the hedgehog, there isn’t a very accurate picture of how common toads are doing, and hope people will help record sightings.

One of the NELBAP’s Partners, Ewen Cameron of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said: “We find that people really want to know what’s in their own backyard, and

“I’m really curious to find out which wildlife is particularly special to people in the North East.

“We’re hoping that the NE Big 5 vote will get people thinking about their favourites and, from there, out enjoying the outdoors, trying to spot some of our terrific wildlife.”

Rose Toney, the NELBAP’s Co-ordinator, added: “After a lot of deliberation, we choose these five as they’re all special to the North East, and we need more reliable information on almost all of them.”

To vote in the North East Big 5 contest, go to

Voting ends on Friday, December 13.