The varied habitats of the Ardeer Peninsula make it a fantastic place for mammals, and some of our largest mammals can be seen quite easily.

Foxes and Roe Deer can be spotted right down at the tip of the peninsula near the “Big Idea”.

A good viewpoint is at Irvine Harbour where the Rivers Irvine and Garnock meet.

Whilst in the area, remember to check the water for seals. The Common Seal can be seen swimming with just its head poking up, and sometimes they “haul out” of the water to rest.

The Otter is a more elusive mammal, and although they are present at Ardeer, their presence is more often revealed by finding tracks and signs. Otters have a distinctive five-toed print, and they leave “spraints” at significant points in the landscape.

A spraint is a distinctive black slimy dropping containing the remains of their last meal.

Spraints reveal the otters changing hunting behaviour – in spring they are full of amphibian bones from freshwater pools, and at other times they contain crushed crab shells from tidal areas.

A glimpse of an Otter may be a rewarding moment in long hours of mammal watching – but it does happen, yet other much more common mammals are almost completely invisible.

Ardeer Peninsula has incredibly good populations of tiny little mammals like mice, voles and shrews but they are very rarely seen, and the various species are revealed by looking at owl pellets.

When an owl eats a small mammal, it later spits out the undigestible fur and bones in the form of an oval shaped “pellet”. The skulls can be identified, and a record made of what the owl has been eating.

Barn Owl pellets from Ardeer have revealed that they mostly eat Field Voles, with smaller numbers of Bank Vole, Wood Mouse, and Common, Pygmy and Water Shrews.

Ardeer is home to fifteen mammal species, and a little bit of work, including identifying the bats which live there, would easily take the total to twenty different mammals. This makes Ardeer a wonderful natural resource – the jewel in North Ayrshire’s crown.