Summer Red Squirrels
I’ve finally finished preparing my new Red Squirrel hide for use and have been able to spend a bit of time enjoying it and getting some shots before I open it up for commercial use in October (see my website for further details). Its going to be great to be able to work with the Squirrels over the winter without losing the feeling in my toes due to being sat in a snowdrift for hours! The hide also allows the Squirrels to exhibit their natural behaviour without any disturbance and I’ve seen some great sights over the past few weeks including courtship and mating.
This female (above and below) is heavily preganant and as I write this blog she is tucked up safely in her drey waiting to give birth to her second litter of the year (the first being in March). She was feeding voraciously on nuts but had a particular taste for some walnuts I had hidden. It took half an hour to crack (she even had a lie down half way through) but it was obviously worth it.
Following cracking this first nut she then found another and started on that for another half an hour or so! During this time a few foolish youngsters tried to dart in and see if they could acquire the nut. Their attempts were less than successful and they were soon seen off quite ruthlessly with a nip to their rear. Have a look at the image below then answer this question, Would you try and steal her nut? …… Thought not!
There are usually somewhere between two and a dozen squirrels in the area of the hide at any given time. They are territorial but some will travel a reasonable distance to obtain food and they can tolerate each other as long as reasonable separation is maintained whilst feeding. However, there are quite a few youngsters (born in March) who are still learning their place and their arrival usually results in much noise and chasing around the trees. The juveniles do not moult so there are at least some Squirrels to be photographed at this time of year with the trademark ear tufts and bushy tails.
For the older Squirrels it is time to look a bit ragged for a while. The ear tufts disappear, the coat changes colour to a deeper red/russet and the tail becomes a little threadbare. This won’t be for too long though and it will be great to see them develop their full winter coat and trademark tufts in the autumn again.
I’m working on a variety of perches and stumps to allow the Squirrels to be photographed in attractive natural settings. There is still some work to do before the hide opens to guests but I’m pleased with the results so far. There should be scope to use smaller lenses from 200-300m right up to 600mm focal lengths or more. Some of the images you will see here are full frame 300mm shots and some were taken at 700mm focal length. I will be adding a lot more detail on the technical aspects of the hide and its facilities on the main website very shortly.
Of course there are plenty of other woodland creatures that visit the area around the hide. Roe Deer, Rabbits, Stoat, Pheasants, Woodpeckers, Siskins, Sparrowhawks and many other birds routinely pay a visit. A pair of Stock Doves are daily visitors at the moment and I was pleased to capture the image below considering how timid these birds are. I’m also keeping my eyes open for some altogether rarer visitors that have been sighted in the locality, namely Pine Martin and Goshawks. Hopefully spending plenty of time in the hide this year will reveal if these animals are resident in the area.
Now the heather is beginning to bloom up on the moors I’ll be turning my attention to the Grouse for a short while but it won’t be long before I’m back at the hide watching these iconic squirrels again.