It has become a running joke that I’m pretty unlucky when it comes to seeing certain species. Examples include otters, badgers and deer, despite the fact that I now live in Scotland, which is essentially the deer capital of the UK! But, if there’s one animal that I have an affinity for, it’s the red squirrel. There’s something irresistible about their fluffy tails, tiny hands and beady eyes. And of course they all have completely different personalities. I will never not be excited by red squirrels, no matter how many times I see one. I must have thousands of photos of them by now but I always take more, and this weekend was no exception.
My friend Steve and I visited Lossiemouth for some wildlife watching in a beautiful patch of coniferous woodland by the estuary. Within ten minutes of arriving I was gazing down my telephoto lens at a red squirrel as it clutched a monkey nut in its paws. Despite the flurry of coal, great and blue tits, I would happily have just watched the squirrels until a particularly special bird caught my eye: the crested tit. In Britain, these birds are mostly confined to the Caledonian forests and Scots pine plantations of Scotland. The punky hairdo is perhaps the most striking feature of the crested tit but their bright red eyes are pretty amazing too! I couldn’t believe I was so close to such an uncommon and beautiful British bird.
As well as squirrels and cresties, we were surrounded by dozens of other birds including another favourite of mine: the long tailed tit. The proportions of this bird are what I love most about them. They have a body like a golf ball with a spoon handle sticking out one end and the sharp nib of a bill out the other. What a bird! And where there’s one, there are nearly always more and I often hear them before I see them. Their alarm call sounds frog-like and the trees erupt with soft ribbits whenever I pass by.
I am in my element in the forest. It’s my favourite wild place to visit and I absolutely loved getting such close-up views of some fantastic species. After a couple of hours the afternoon sun began to fade and a chilly breeze had us packing up and heading home, though I’d definitely be back soon.