The Low Ground
At each end of the Way there are short sections of the path along the cliff tops. Here there are masses of Sea Pinks and other flowers in the summer months attracting a greater range of butterflies than elsewhere on the route. Out at sea the most conspicuous large seabirds are the Gannets, those in the west nesting on Ailsa Craig (and Scar Rocks,Luce Bay) and those in the east on the Bass Rock.
Man in The Uplands
The open moorland sections owe their present appearance to man’s activities: forest clearance and the introduction of cattle and sheep grazing.
The grouse moors in the Lowthers and Lammermuirs are managed intensively to create the ideal habitat for Red Grouse which are shot on 12 August and the following weeks.
By careful burning of small patches of heather a mosaic type habitat is created offering nutritious young shoots for the birds to feed on and larger plants for birds to find shelter and nest in.
Much of the landscape adjacent to the Way is continually changing. Where the route passes through coniferous forest improvements are being made by opening up viewpoints and modifying the forest edges.
When the mature trees are harvested, new planting schemes will be designed with the walker in mind, offering a greater variety of tree species, more open space and here and there, where possible, small ponds may be created.
The conifers have their own specialist types of wildlife. Look out for Siskins and Common Crossbills feeding on the seeds in the cones. Barn Owls hunt some of the open areas in late evening and Shorteared Owls breed in the younger plantations and open moorlands, usually flying about during the day.
Farming and Wildlife
Sheep on the hills are predominantly Scottish Blackface or Cheviots but other breeds and crossbred sheep may be seen here and there along the Way.
Look out for the Belted Galloway, an uncommon distinctive local breed of cattle kept for its beef and dairy value. The more numerous black or dun- coloured Galloway Cattle are a different breed reared exclusively for beef production.
Early in the year Ravens build large stick nests either on precipitous cliff faces or in tall isolated trees.
From late March to April the first Wheatears arrive in the hills after spending the winter in Africa. They are easily recognised by their conspicuous white rumps as they flit from boulder to boulder or perch upon the dykes (dry stone walls).