Saturday, 24 October 2009

Grey Squirrels in the Wood

At the minute there are a number of baby grey squirrels in the wood. I know that they are regarded by many as a pest. It is also sad that they introduced squirrel pox that has been responsible for the loss of so many of our red squirrel population.
However, this does not stop my enjoyment of their antics.
The ones about in our woods are normally very wary of people unlike some areas where they are fed. Usually it is impossible to get close.
However, there is a group right now of baby ones who seem unperturbed by me and my camera.

Affectionately I have named them the three musketeers. I always assumed that they were born with good climbing skills but, having observed them for a while now, nothing is further from the truth. This little one is amusingly inept and is forever falling from the tree into branches and on the floor and then looking at me as if to say, hmmm..

He climbs about a foot up and then slides about three down. No doubt his climbing skills will quickly improve, they have learned to bury nuts and food ready for the winter and can often be found bouncing around the base of the trees. I liked this image because although it is a little dark, it was lovely to see the sun shining through his bushy tail.

I also treated myself to a macro lens this week. Sadly, since it arrived it has rained ever since. But, as it is a 2.8 aperture, I decided to take it into the wood and check out how it handles in the most appalling of conditions. So these are non- macro, macro shots ;-)

I think he has spotted me, lol. But, at the minute, thankfully they remain unconcerned by me. As for the Sigma 150mm macro. Well, I am very impressed by the initial performance, even if it isn't quite being used in it's traditional sense!

To show what poor light these were taken in, he flicked his tail on this one! Impressive performance by subject and lens :-D

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Quilt Works said...

I love it. Especially the one where the squirrel is partially an outline. It makes it a very good composition. You have constantly beautiful photos week to week. I love visiting here!

kaslkaos said...

It's always sad to hear of introduced species; the creatures are innocent and you do well to see beyond that to their living selves. The babies are sweet. Where I am, they are native, but I have to admit,I have a love/hate relationship. They drive my dogs nuts, they eat my sunflowers before they blossom, they invade all but the most high-tech bird feeders, but they are gorgeous, fascinating and clever. Sorry about the novel...

Jennifer Rose said...

don't really see any types of squirrels here :/ too many cats :( not too keen on any introduced species, but it can be hard to get rid of them, not impossible tho.

they are cute and those photos would make great drawings. i've seen red squirrles up near the mountains and they have signs all over warning motorists to slow down and not hit them.

Lana Gramlich said...

*Growls slightly at the sight of her arch-enemies & goes to get the gun.*

Chrissy said...

Quiltworks, thank you for your lovely comment and also taking the time to leave one. It is always nice when your viewers make themselves known :)

Ingrid, same sort of thing here really. I love our native red squirrels which are on the decline because of these. But, man intervened, not the squirrels.

Jen, I seem to rememeber red squirrels when I was young and didn't see them in gardens. They were always spotted in the wood. Red squirrels are beautiful but I would have to travel a considerable distance to see them here apart from Dudley zoo which has a breeding program.

Lana, I laughed at your comment. It is legal to shoot grey squirrels here, they are considered a nuisance! But, I don't kill anything much....only things that wreak havoc such as ants in the house etc.

Doson said...

Ahh so cute.. This creatures makes our world a beautiful place to live.


Helena said...

I LOVE grey squirrels. It's a shame they get such a bad press. I know they're not 'natives' but they've been here nearly 150 years so they are surely Brits by now! They get so tame in our park. I love it when they take nuts from my hand. If they dither a little and I get to feel their tiny toes on my fingers, or they brush their head against my hand accidentally, I consider that little touch an extra special treat. Contact with a wild animal! Nothing like it!

I know the reds can't fight the bug that the greys carry, but there should be a way of them living successfully in the same country. The reds prefer pines and the greys prefer broadleaf trees. So if we had enough *separate* types of woodland it might help. The real culprit is the way we've cut down so many trees, so both species ended up squashed together.

A few places are breeding reds in enclosures and vaccinating them so they still have a chance.

Helena said...

BTW it isn't legal to kill grey squirrels here without a licence.

Chrissy said...

Doson, in case you hadn't noticed, I am rather fond of them... :D

Helena, there is a breeding program locally at Dudley zoo and there are also pockets of reds that are doing really well. I just hope that they build up an immunity to the virus somehow.
I didn't realise the greys had been here that long, I can only remember reds when I was small.. hmm more research required!

Oh and for anyone reading from outside the UK, Helena is quite right, it is actually illegal to own a gun in the UK without a license.

Jennifer Rose said...

don't need a license for an air rifle, so people use them.

you can kill grey squirrels without a license. its illegal to release them in the wild or to own one. in areas where there are reds, live traps need to be used to make catching the greys legal.

i know it sounds cruel but if they are not killed, the red squirrel will die out (having them in zoos is not a good solution). its impossible to kill them all but even a bit would help.

and i love animals, hate to see them hurt or suffering, but that is what is happening with the reds. in some countries they have done culls of non native species to help the native ones. its not a native species, so it shouldn't be here simple as that.

and yes humans are at fault here but humans need to and are helping fix the problem.

sorry chrissy, i just think that no matter how cute they are, if something drastic isn't done about them, the reds will only be seen in zoos or wildlife centres.

the old lady next door remembers seeing reds a few years ago but not now. use to be really common here

Chrissy said...

Hi Jen,

Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981
All bird and animals are protected by law. Certain species are classified as pests or vermin and only these species can be legitimately shot and then only by authorised persons. An Authorised Person is someone who has the proper permission from the land owner to control pests on that land.
Within that list of designated pests some are not suitable prey for an airgun producing less than 12 ftlbs.

The following pests are considered suitable for controlling using a sub-12 ftlb Airgun.
Brown Rat, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit, Crow, Rook, Magpie, Jay, Wood pigeon, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, House mouse, Sparrow, Starling, and recently Mink have been added to the list.
These are not always considered pests and only Authorised Persons can shoot them in all circumstances.

I personally would prefer to see an innoculation program in place. This would cost money but ultimately so will the other method and if we are going to play at being "god" is a much nicer way of doing it....and probably more long term.
The breeding program at zoo's has enormous value because they reintroduce them to places with a natural resilience like the islands that have no greys.
I also find it interesting that reds have been known to develop a resistance to squirrel pox. There must be a reason for this and much more research is required.
The reds are delightful for sure and it would be very sad to see them die out but I am not sure shooting the greys is the cure all.
Sorry Jen, I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Bird said...

That's a gorgeous perky tail shining in the sunlight! They are so entertaining to watch, and though they are essentially cute rats the thought of killing them wholesale seems draconian and probably pointless. As you say there is some evidence that some native reds are developing immunity to squirrelpox and this is cause for hope. The grey displaced the red largely through being less of a specialist - reds need certain foods and particular habitats wheras greys are voracious omnivores, not shy and can live anywhere. Reds have suffered just as much from extensive habitat loss as they ever did from the advancing populations of more successful greys. Unless habitat loss is dealt with and selective breeding for immune reds is done, attempting to wipe out the greys will do little to help. They are here, they are successful, you'd have as much luck with wiping them out as you'd have with wiping out the brown rat. I hope to see the red squirrel bounce back one day as they are enchanting but making the grey squirrel into a bogeyman has always had limited success. Here endeth the lesson :D

Chrissy said...

Hi Bird, some more interesting views on this one.
I always think we have made some very bad moves whilst trying eradicate species anyway, rabbits spring to mind!