It’s National Red Squirrel Week!
I didn’t see my first red squirrel until I was eighteen, but since then I’ve been extremely lucky with sightings of these gorgeous mammals and they’ve been a firm favourite of mine ever since. I often see them while walking my dog through the forest and the first giveaway signs that I’ve found one are the sounds of rapid scrabbling overhead and the occasional thud of a pinecone as it hits the floor. At this time of year, red squirrels are hard at work finding food to see them through the winter. Instead of large caches, squirrels are scatter-hoarders, which means they store each item separately. Unlike grey squirrels, red squirrels can’t easily digest acorns and instead feed on hazelnuts and seeds from many different trees including pine, larch and spruce. Their diet also consists of fungi, fruits and even birds’ eggs if they get the opportunity.
This week, I was very pleased to see two of my red squirrel images featured in BBC Wildlife magazine’s new Red Squirrel Guide, written by ‘Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels’. Both photos were taken in Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, where I’ve had some very close encounters with these animals! While I’ve seen plenty of adults, my next challenge is to spot some red squirrel babies, which are called kits.
Before the introduction of grey squirrels into Britain, there were millions of red squirrels. Nowadays there are thought to be around 120,000 left in Scotland, which is 75% of the UK population. As part of National Red Squirrel Week, ‘Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels’ are encouraging people all over Scotland to take part in the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey from the 21st to 27th September. All you have to do is go for a walk in the woods and if you see either a red or grey squirrel then submit your sighting on the website. Even after the Squirrel Survey has finished, you can still submit sightings throughout the year.
It won’t be long before the red squirrels near me start growing their ear tufts, which I can’t wait to see!