Red Squirrel

2 out of 3

by on Jun.02, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

As the damp, dreary weather of yesterday was giving way to brighter conditions I found myself heading up the coast to collect clients from Craster.  Our targets for the evening were Red Squirrel, Otter and Badger; in that order of priority, so an evening safari in Southeast Northumberland had been planned to try and encompass all three species.  A walk along the River Blyth produced what could well be a ‘must see’ for natural history enthusiasts over the coming years.  Scampering along branches and leaping through the canopy, our first target entertained as it made it’s way through the trees – causing agitation in two Great Spotted Woodpeckers which had been feeding quietly before the squirrel’s appearance.  A Jay allowed us an unusually close approach before it vanished into the trees and Dippers were zipping back and forth along the river as we returned to the Land Rover, and we set out to search for Otters.  It wasn’t to be, although some compensation came in the shape of a Barn Owl, drifting along the dunes and then catching a vole before revealing the location of it’s nest by taking the food back to the waiting mouths.  That’s the great thing about running birdwatching and wildlife tours; it may be unpredictable, but there’s always something to enjoy and appreciate.

With heavy drizzle hampering visibility, we made our way to a site where Badgers would hopefully be out and about.  Sure enough, James spotted one as soon as we arrived, and a second movement on the hillside was probably another one, although it slipped out of sight in the undergrowth soon after being spotted.

Finding 2 out of 3 elusive mammals that we were looking for was a good success rate and, with some new sites for Otters  that we’ve been monitoring, our bespoke ‘multi-mammal’ trips are sure to prove popular this summer.

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Patience and persistence

by on Apr.18, 2010, under Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Tuesday’s North Pennines Prestige tour was a complete contrast to Wednesday’s Otter Safari.  The weather was much nicer than on Tuesday as I collected Mark and Clare from Alnwick.  Our Otter Safaris, although structured to maximise our clients’ chances of getting good views of Otters, always produce lots of other wildlife as well.  This one was no exception, with excellent views of Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Brown Hare and Little Owl, amongst all of the usual suspects.  Unusually, we were struggling to find an otter, so I had one last throw of the dice…however, the nice weather had brought out lots of holidaymakers and they appeared to be concentrated around that last chance 🙁  Clare, after watching a ‘sleek, shiny lump’ hidden in a small channel in the reeds, that she decided couldn’t be an otter, was concerned that the lump had now vanished!  Then, the behaviour we’d been watching for;  Teal and Mallard began to leave the safety of the reeds and head out into the open water.  More importantly, they were doing this in sequence along the edge of the pool.  Sure enough, there was the sleek, dark shape of an otter working it’s way through the reedbed 🙂  Not the best views, but Mark did see it lift it’s head, just before a group of holidaymakers appeared in front of the hide!  One last view as it bounded along a furrow in the field behind the pool, and then the ducks all settled back down.  They really are an excellent indicator; they know when a predator is close, and they know when it’s far enough away to stop worrying.  The conclusion to two of the most enjoyable days we’ve had with clients since our first safari.

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The Red Squirrels Last Stand?

by on Jun.21, 2008, under Red Squirrel

Northumberland is fortunate as an English county to still have a healthy population of Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). I can look out of my office window and see them chasing each other around the trees in Choppington Woods, but for how much longer?

The decline of the Red Squirrel in England has been well documented here but it still clings on in Cumbria and Northumberland.

I’ve heard the opinion voiced recently, by a naturalist for whom I have a great deal of respect, that it’s a waste of resources to try and protect the Red Squirrel from the inexorable expansion of the population of Grey Squirrels.

However, steps are being taken to maintain Northumberland as a safe haven for the Red Squirrel but this doesn’t meet with universal approval, particularly amongst people who have little, or no, experience of Red Squirrels.

It’s a sad fact that, over much of England, the only squirrel that people know and love is the Grey Squirrel, but at least in Northumberland visitors and locals alike can appreciate this charming inhabitant of our woodlands.

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