Red squirrel on film: tick!

It’s been a mad couple of weeks, with my second year at uni finishing this week: three deadlines in four days. The last – and for me the most challenging – is a five minute documentary on anything we can think of. The vagueness could seem like a blessing, but when you have the whole world as your subject matter, it seems impossible to think of anything to fill five short minutes.

After racking of brains and chewing of fingernails, I decided to combine my project with my first visit to Eskrigg Reserve in Lockerbie. It was infamously known among Wildlife Media students for its resident red squirrels; I’d been meaning to go for the whole two years I’ve been living in Cumbria, and only now with a deadline looming did I decide to visit. I headed up the road mid morning and by late afternoon I was perched in front of the hide, sharing a small open clearing with four foraging red squirrels!

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Jim Rae, the Reserve Manager, is one of the most friendly people I’ve met, and incredibly passionate about wildlife. Upon arrival he welcomed me like our friendship went back years. He had prepared four typed pages of notes for our interview, and when I settled down later on to film the squirrels he brought me a nutcracker and a box of hazelnuts to put out food for the little rascals. I couldn’t believe, after only just seeing a wild red squirrel for the first time in Chesters two months ago, I was now spoilt for choice of animals to film.

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It is not difficult to see why people get so attached to these creatures. A lot smaller than the greys and with delightful little ear tufts, they bound across the grass like furry chestnut bullets – trying to keep them in frame was a nightmare. I’d get one in perfect focus as it paused to claim a nut, then it was off and I was filming empty grass again. I’d never been so challenged as a photographer, but their nippiness provided an excellent opportunity to test my reflexes.

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I could have stayed for hours, but I had a film to edit and countless clips to go through, 90% of which were squirrels. As of today I’m just making the finishing touches ready for the deadline on Friday. Eskrigg is a gem of a reserve, and somewhere I will definitely be revisiting over summer!

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