About two years ago, I started to become a lot more interested in the flowers, trees, animals, bugs, fungi, and geology that I encountered on my backpacking trips. I became an amateur naturalist. This added a whole new dimension to my walks and led to hours of research and entertainment after I got home.
Since I’m going to be walking across Scotland in a few months, I decided to get a jump start on learning about the environment that I’d be passing through. I contacted Chris Townsend via Facebook and asked him what I should read. Chris has written a few books about hiking in Scotland and the US which are filled with this kind of detail. It really fills out the narrative and it’s pretty darn interesting.
He recommended Hostile Habitats – Scotland’s Mountain Environment: A Hillwalkers’ Guide to Wildlife and the Landscape and it turned out to be an awesome book. Unfortunately, it is too heavy to bring along on my walk, but it’s been a great read and given me all kinds of tips about what to look for and photograph when I’m out and about.
Hostile Habitats is written by a dozen experts and covers:
- Mountain Climate
- Rock Identification
- Land form Identification
- Vegetation Cover
- Invertebrate Life
- Mountain Birds
- Mammals, Reptile, Amphibians, and Fish
- Human History and it’s impact on Scotland
Despite being written by different authors, the text flows uniformly and is extremely well edited, with excellent photos and diagrams throughout.
While I’ve been to Scotland many times and have even walked in the Highlands, this book taught me all about the different ecosystems and the complex inter-relationships between weather, tectonics, and industrialization that have created the Scottish Mountains we have today.
Having finished this book there are a few things I will be specifically looking for on my route and hope to photograph including different rock types, birds, and bugs. Honestly these things never would have interested me before, but this book has given me a whole new appreciation for their beauty and role in the alpine wonderland of the Scottish hills.
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