Grey Squirrel at Stirling University (5th November 2013)

Another reason for me going to the University was to film some grey squirrels. As soon as I got to the wooded area I spotted one of these charming fellows, darting around the golden leaves on the ground.

So fascinating to watch these busy little animals always on the move and ever watchful constantly caching food supplies for the winter.This makes it incredibly difficult to film them, but I think I got some good shots here.

Earlier in the year we had taken a journey up to the Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve where we had filmed Red Squirrels.They are a lot smaller than the grey and its the Reds, that are our native species but they have been almost driven out by the greys unfortunately.

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“Two different squirrels: the facts”

The grey squirrel(Sciurus carolinensis)

The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Size: between 540 and 660 g in weight.

Appearance: upper fur is mainly grey with mid-brown along the upper back and chestnut over the flanks, limbs and feet. Their underside is white. The tail hairs are grey, banded with brown and black and a characteristic white fringe.They have no ear tufts,pale ears and have a larger, more robust build.

Food: Grey squirrels share food sources with reds. However, unlike red squirrels; grey squirrels can feed on seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, thanks to differences in digestive physiology. As a result, more food sources are available to them and grey squirrels tend to put on 20% in body weight over the autumn, compared with 10% for reds. This gives grey squirrels an advantage in hard winters.

Distribution: 200,000 and 300,000 in Scotland (around three million in England). Grey squirrels have expanded across Scotland’s entire central belt and are now spreading northwards through Angus, Perth and Kinross and Stirling. There is also a population of grey squirrels in Aberdeen city which is now spreading across Aberdeenshire. In south Scotland, grey squirrels carrying squirrelpox, are moving in from England.

Habitat: prefer oak, beech, sweet-chestnut and horse-chestnut habitats. Due to more efficient digestive processes, these habitats can support larger numbers of grey squirrels than red squirrels. Grey squirrels can also make use of conifer habitats (mainly Scots pine and Norway spruce) especially if there is good broadleaved habitat within 1 mile.

Threats: Minimal, aside from human control efforts and road kill.

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The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

 

The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Size: between 270 and 340 g in weight.

Appearance: despite their name, red squirrels can have coats ranging from almost black to chestnut or light brown on the back. The chest and stomach are white. They are famed for their characteristically long eartufts, which are especially prominent in winter.

Food: eats mainly tree seeds but in spring and early summer also eats the buds, flowers and shoots of both deciduous and coniferous trees. Other foods include fungi, fruits, berries, caterpillars and even birds’ eggs. Unlike grey squirrels, red squirrels cannot digest seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, which limits the food sources available for reds.

Distribution: 75% (around 121,000) of the UK red squirrel population is found in Scotland. In the north, strong populations still exist in areas as yet uncolonised by grey squirrels. Red squirrels can also be found in some parts of central Scotland as ‘pocket’ populations and, although much reduced from their former range, can still be found in many parts of southern and south-western Scotland. The last remaining populations of red squirrels in mainland England are found in Northumberland, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and North Merseyside, which are continuous with the south Scotland populations.

Habitat: typically conifer forests to broadleaf woodland; favours Scots pine and Norway spruce forests, but also enjoys hazel and beech. They can also live in mountainous areas (with altitudes of 425 metres near Aberdeen).

Threats: Competition from grey squirrels, squirrelpox virus, habitat fragmentation and road kill.

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Alloa Wildlife Centre Caring for Baby Red Squirrel

AN orphaned baby red squirrel has been saved after being found lying on a woodland path near Inverness.

Dizzee is making 'excellent progress' according to centre staff. Picture: Contributed
Dizzee is making ‘excellent progress’ according to centre staff

The four to five week old kit is recovering in the care of the Scottish SPCA where staff have named her Dizzee.

A member of the public spotted the tiny orphan lying on the forest floor while walking in Daviot Woods in September.

The woman picked the female squirrel up and took her to the charity’s Highlands and Islands Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre at Inshes, Inverness, where staff immediately had her checked over by a vet.

They also began syringe feeding her with lectaid, a type of milk formula for young and weak animals.

Once she was strong enough to be moved, the squirrel was transferred on to the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre at Fishcross, near Alloa, where she is currently making excellent progress.

Centre assistant manager Colin Liddell said,

“Dizzee was only 90grams when she arrived in our care but she’s come on leaps and bounds over the past three weeks and has now almost doubled in size and is weighing in at a very healthy 165g.

“Wildlife assistant Sheelagh McAllister has been providing Dizzee with round the clock care which includes taking her home at night to continue her hand feeding.

“Dizzee’s now starting to eat solid foods including shelled nuts and she’s ready to be moved into an outdoor enclosure.

“This is when we take a completely hands-off approach to allow Dizzee to establish her natural fear of humans. She’ll have lots of space to run and jump and develop her fitness in preparation for release back into the wild in around two weeks’ time.”

Red Squirrel (Loch of the Lowes 2013)


Continue reading “Red Squirrel (Loch of the Lowes 2013)”

RED SQUIRREL WEEK

A red squirrel finds some nuts Credit: ITV Border

To celebrate the start of Red Squirrel Week, the Scottish Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign which calls on nature lovers to help save the red squirrel from extinction in Scotland.

Following the success of the Trust’s campaign earlier this year, thousands more households across the country will be receiving a copy of a hand-illustrated booklet entitled “The last red squirrel in Scotland?”.

Since 1952, 95% of red squirrels have been lost south of the border and Scotland now contains three quarters of the UK’s remaining population. The biggest threat comes from grey squirrels which, although only introduced from North America in the 1870s, now number in their millions.

Grey squirrels are larger and outcompete red squirrels for food. They also carry squirrelpox, a virus almost always fatal to reds. The disease reached the south of Scotland in 2007.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is leading the fight to save this much-loved species by containing the spread of the squirrelpox virus and preventing greys from moving further north through targeted control activity. It is also planting thousands of native trees to improve red squirrel habitat, which has become fragmented and diminished.

Simon Milne, Chief Executive, said:

“The red squirrel is so much a part of our landscape that many people don’t realise just how serious the situation has become. The red squirrel could disappear from Scotland within our lifetime.

“No one is doing more to save the red squirrel than the Scottish Wildlife Trust. That’s why we are calling on people who love Scotland and its iconic wildlife to join us. With your help, we can take action before it’s too late.”

A red Squirrel on the look out Photo: ITV Border

SAVING SCOTLANDS RED SQUIRRELS

Iconic Brands Join Forces To Save Red Squirrels

The Scottish Wildlife Trust and the House of Bruar have joined forces, raising money to protect Scotlands dwindling red squirrel population.

The House of Bruar, the prestigious department store in Highland Perthshire, yesterday (Thursday) hosted an event for The Scottish Wildlife Trust, lead partner in the Saving Scotlands Red Squirrels project.

The partnership will raise funds and awareness for the project in Perthshire, stronghold of the native red squirrel. The project aims to halt the spread of grey squirrels from the south, through targeted grey squirrel control, protecting the iconic red squirrel. The House of Bruar will be donating a percentage of this weekends art gallery sales to support the Saving Scotlands Red Squirrels project.

The Saving Scotlands Red Squirrels project includes the fight to contain the threat from deadly squirrelpox disease in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

Since 1952, a staggering 95% of red squirrels have been wiped out south of the border. Without urgent action now, they could be gone from Scotland within our lifetime.

Scottish Wildlife Trust Chairman Allan Bantick said:

This is a prestigious partnership for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The area around the House of Bruar is critical to the Saving Scotlands Red Squirrels project. We hope that the guests at the exclusive event tonight appreciate the seriousness of our fight.

More funding is urgently required to ensure the long term success of the Saving Scotlands Red Squirrels project and the survival of the iconic red squirrel in Scotland. Money raised as part of our partnership with the House of Bruar is vital to continue trapping, monitoring and containing the threat of squirrelpox.

Many thanks to those people whove already contributed to the project, both landowners whose land has been used and those who have contributed money.”

House of Bruar Managing Director Patrick Birkbeck said:

We are very lucky to live in beautiful surroundings of which the wildlife plays such a big part. I am delighted to be in a position to offer support to The Scottish Wildlife Trust and I am glad that The House of Bruar can play a small part in raising awareness for such a worthy project.

David Marshall Lodge – Aberfoyle

David Marshall Lodge Visitor CentreDavid Marshall Lodge offers ranger led events, which occur throughout the year. These include guided walks and talks and seasonal activities for families and visitors. Waymarked paths start from the visitor centre and range from a gentle half-mile wander to a 4-mile trek. The Lodge links to the National Cycle Network route 7 and there is a popular outdoor children?s play area. The wildlife viewing room offers the opportunity to see Ospreys setting up their nest and rearing their young. There is information, exhibits and an expert on hand to answer questions.

Live footage of woodland birds feeding is also available.

The new Red Squirrel hide offers an exciting chance to view these rare creatures in their natural habitat.