Here’s some photos we’ve taken of Red Squirrels in our garden and grounds at various times of the year. Click on a thumbnail to open a slideshow.
The tails of the Reds change colour during the year, with some of them having tails that are almost pure blond in the summer. The characteristic ear tufts aren’t always present; young squirrels don’t have them, and the adults moult towards the end of the summer and the tufts start to grow again in the autumn; they’re at their best in winter. The squirrels don’t hibernate and you can see them at any time of year; when the weather is very bad they might decide against venturing out for a day or two, but they soon reappear.
During spring and early summer we’re often treated to the sight of two squirrels having a wild chase up and around the trees, and virtually flying from branch to branch; we’ve also been lucky enough to see a squirrel with a mouthful of nesting material and even catch it on camera on the roof of The Haystore.
We put hazelnuts and monkey nuts in the feeding boxes for the Reds, and they’ll also take similar food, or cereal, from bird tables or anywhere it’s left – even your windowsill if you’re lucky. The feeding boxes are designed not to allow birds access; the squirrels very quickly learn how to open the lid to take a nut – or even to climb right inside the box.
Red Squirrels are nothing like as bold as the Canadian Grey which has largely replaced them in the UK, but you can be surprisingly close to them and they’ll keep feeding if you don’t make sudden movements. With a lot of patience you might even attract one to take a nut from your hand; we’ve never managed this, but one of our guests in The Haystore did.
The future of the Red Squirrel is still uncertain, but great efforts are being made to conserve and protect them; they are the indigenous squirrel to the UK, but grey squirrels were introduced and have largely taken over. The most widely accepted theory for the loss of the Reds is that the greys carry a virus, known as Squirrel Pox, to which they are immune – but it’s deadly to our native Red Squirrels. Conservation efforts are targeted at preserving the few areas of the UK where the Reds still flourish, and keeping those areas free of greys; it’s hoped that over a period of time the Reds will develop immunity to the virus, both naturally and with the help of immunisation programs, and signs are encouraging.
We hope you’ll enjoy watching these delightful animals as much as we do; you won’t normally see more than two or three at the same time – do let us know if you see more.