Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The hunt for Red Squirrels

SMP_0042Anyone living in the UK will know that the indigenous Red Squirrel is being taken over by the North American Grey since its introduction in the mid 19th century which isn’t going down well for most people.

Up until around 7 years ago the Red could still be seen in the Tyneside area but now they’re all but gone.

One of the last areas they can still be seen is Northumberland, so with one of the few remain good weather days of my holiday forecasted, I headed up to Plessey Woods in the hope to get a glimpse of this elusive squirrel and brought along my photography equipment just in case.

SMP_0044It was my first time here and had really no clue where I was going so just wondered around looking for signs to show they were still here.  I used to watch them when I was younger locally and the best clue to their presence was the remains of eaten pine cones or better yet, listening for them eating the pine cones in the trees and watching bits of the cones falling down.

It wasn’t long before I came across both of these but couldn’t see the Squirrels themselves although they were obviously up there in the tree.  It’s amazing how easily they can blend and hide within a pine tree despites its lack of foliage.

Eventually, success as I came across my first Red which I had surprised low down on a tree trunk.  Grey Squirrels if you surprise them will shoot up a tree and you probably wont see them again.  Reds seem more curious.  They will go so far up then stop and watch you, often making a chattering scolding sound as this one did.  I brought along some hazel nuts in the hope to tempt them down.  Another difference between the two I’ve found is, although curious, Reds are also wary and unlike Greys, are not so easily tempted by food.  This one certainly wasn’t – it just sat up in the tree waiting me out which of course it succeeded in doing, so I moved on.


The day wasn’t a lost cause though, as after a lot of patience I came across a number of other Reds and despite the dull light, I upped the cameras ISO to 6400 as I was hand holding the lens, trying to freeze the action as they nimbly moved around the trees and branches.  Luckily their curiosity meant they would ever so often stop to look – the focusing had to be manual due to the foliage getting in the way and I had to be quick, but I did manage to get a few images.


Some from today

A quick walk today didn’t really come up with much, though I’m going to have to take a day out some time to dedicate to trying my hand at macro photography as hand holding and trying to get sharp images isn’t really working too well.


The Reed Bunting below was merrily sing away in some reeds but I was unable to get any closer and unfortunately I’ve managed to loose my ‘can’t be without’ x1.4 converter, so as a result', do the next best thing and take a photograph showing the bird in its environment.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent photography. The butterfly picture is awesome and also all the pictures here are very good.