This blog is written by Abernethy staff throughout the changing seasons here on the reserve.
During summer it's likely there'll be more frequent blogs as the ospreys return to breed at the Loch Garten nest and the drama unfolds.
We hope you enjoy following life at Abernethy reserve.
Thanks for reading!
I woke up the other day aware that I had to write a blog for you guys, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of something to write about. Then I set foot inside my living room and just like fate, there it was... the idea for my latest blog.
The best way to start a morning, waking up with a red outside your window, by Blair Johnston
Red squirrels have been native to the UK for over 10,000 years. They thrived without any competition for food and a lack of predators which meant their range stretched right across Britain. Living in both deciduous and coniferous forests, seeds make up a big part if their diet. They prefer woodland with a wide range of potential food plants, as if one species has a poor seed season there are other food sources available for them.
They build dreys, high up in trees which can support up to eight squirrels. The young, or kittens, are born blind and deaf and it can take up to 42 days for all of their teeth to grow. The kittens tend to leave the nest after about 40 days, when they can start to eat solids.
Red squirrels are found all over the world, mainly in countries in Europe and Asia. But as most of you now know, red squirrels are endangered in the UK. There are now less than 140,000 red squirrels in the UK compared to over 2.4 million grey squirrels. It is now predicated that if there was no conservation effort to help save the red squirrels, they would extinct in the UK by 2030.
Havin’ a lil nibble by Blair Johnston
So what is happening to red squirrels? I’m sure you already know the answer, but the introduction of the grey squirrel is thought to be problem for red squirrels.
Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK in 1876 from North America by the Victorians...bloomin’ Victorians, always ruining our biodiversity! The grey squirrel is bigger than the red squirrel, and more importantly it has a stronger stomach. Greys eat the same food as the reds do, but they are able to digest the food source before any red squirrel can. Meaning by the time the food source would be nice and ripe... it’s all gone. This pushes the red squirrels out of this habitat and they are forced to move elsewhere to seek food.
Grey squirrels also carry something called ‘Squirrel parapoxvirus’ or ‘squirrel pox’. After generations of carrying the disease, the greys are now immune to it... but sadly the reds aren’t. The virus can be spread through contact with a grey, or contact with an infected red. It is also believed that it can be transmitted through bird feeders. This is why you should disinfect your feeders daily if you live somewhere with both red and greys.
So how can you tell if a red is infected?
It causes skin ulcers and scabs, as well as swelling and discharge from them. The longer the squirrel has it, it the more sluggish it gets. Eventually the squirrel will either die from starvation or dehydration.
So how can we stop this?
There are many wonderful organisations out there that are doing their best to stop the widespread of grey squirrels around the UK. They are always on the lookout for more volunteers. Or, if you don’t have time to volunteer you can always record any sightings of grey squirrels you see and send them to your local red squirrel organisation.
Here are some links you can record you sightings to.
If you live in Scotland you can go to ScottishSquirrels and record your sightings there.
If you live in Cumbria, North Lancashire and Yorkshire please follow this link.
If you live in Northumberland and Newcastle please follow this link.
Or if you live in Northern Ireland or Wales please follow this link.
Sorry if this blog has seemed a bit down and gloomy, but sadly the world isn’t as happy a place as it should be. So please guys, let’s all rally around and try to do our best to save these gorgeous creatures, before they go extinct.
A quick osprey update, a couple of males have been attempting to woo EJ this morning. A ringed male, FC8, and an unringed male were both spotted at roughly 6 am. I would also quickly like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been giving us support over the last few weeks. You guys have been great to us and we’re honestly so thankful for all the lovely messages and biscuits you have been sending us.
Hi to all the team. I would just like to ask a question - was there any conclusion drawn as to the disappearance of Odin or does it remain a mystery.
Hello Sheila, we are still waiting to find out about FC8, but 2-3 weeks ago we had a male with the tag 'FC5'. He was from Aberdeenshire, and was roughly 3-4 years old. So there is a strongly possibility they are from the same area and are roughly the same age.
Hi Blair many thanks for an interesting blog about the reds. I am old enough to remember the reds in the London parks way back in the late 50's when they were still a common sight. I have always disliked the greys but is not true that the greys are actually squirrels at all but tree rats?
An interesting blog, Blair. I got to know about red squirrels because we sometimes visit the nearest ones to us in the NW of England, at Formby in Lancs. There, they have been doing a great job of conservation in spite of a bad patch a couple of years ago, when they nearly all fell sick, but the numbers are thankfully up again now. Such lovely animals, and it's vital that we don't lose our native species. We ospreyholics are relieved to see that in spite of losing our chicks this year at LG, and possibly Odin, our dear EJ is still in fine fettle. Fingers crossed for chicks again next year!
Thank you Blair. How lucky you are to wake up to red squirrels! On the osprey front, have you any news of the history of Blue FC8? Date and place of hatch, whether its been seen before, etc. I was looking at her yesterday, and thinking how beautiful she is looking, certainly not the 20 year old she actually is. Another toyboy would certainly put a bounce in her tail!