Red Squirrels are not that common in England due to predators, viruses and changes to the landscape that all pose threats to our native red squirrel. The introduction of the grey squirrel from America is the main reason behind the sharp decline, and one of the most devastating impacts of this is the squirrel pox virus. Grey Squirrels appear to have a natural immunity to this disease but they can be carriers, and if infected grey squirrels live alongside red squirrels they pass on this disease which can be devastating for the red squirrels.
There are a few places where you can still see them in the wild, one such place is Formby. Here they were almost wiped out several years back through the squirrel pox. The trust that manages this place has made a real effort to save them since and their numbers are doing well here which is great too see. I remember going here in 2009 and there was hardly any left which was sad, they are shy, very timid and fast moving through the trees and just adorably.
Once I get there I look for signs, I look for where they’ve been sleeping the night before and I also look for bark thats been stripped back and depending on how exposed/light or dark the exposed branch that has had its bark removed will indicate the length of time they were at that spot etc. These clues will give me a rough idea of their whereabouts.
When I’m with clients I also do the same and pass on this knowledge and show them etc. My client, Duncan spent two days with me and got some lovely images and learnt so much information that you can use to find, study and learn all of which you can take away with you. Working with what nature gives you and then applying that to you work is what I do and gives you so much more than just “an image”.
To supplement the Red Squirrels’ natural pine cone diet the trust put out a small quantity of peanuts and sunflower seeds into their specially designed Squirrel feeders. This helps them to monitor the population and also to keep an eye out for any sick or injured squirrels looking for an easy meal.
I managed to photograph one red squirrel stripping tree bark. No one is sure why squirrels remove bark but there are several possible reasons- they use it in nest building, for food or additional nutrients, Pregnant females may strip bark prior to giving birth as a distraction from the pain. Squirrels like to gnaw and maybe they use this to sharpen or clean their teeth.
These close up images below were a beautiful encounter, he was on the ground trying to locate food he’d buried and just put his head up to see what the noise of the camera was. he paused for a few seconds, then went about his business. Because it was wet the ear truffs were wet and stuck together forming “spikes”.
To all those that point a camera at wildlife- learn about your subject, its behavior and movements and your images will be wonderful and a real and a true reflection of what you saw. Let those that view you work be transported to that moment in time on the ground. Try not to change anything you see, work with what you have but above anything always respect wildlife. Have the integrity to explain how you got your images also. Those skills you learn will last a lifetime, and will send a positive message to wildlife at a time when ALL creatures are under great stress and often natures first contact with humans is through photographers.
I offer a real , wild experience with nature. and go all over the UK throughout all the different seasons and a lot of the places I’ve visited since my early teens. There’s no perches , no set ups , no flying squirrels made to jump for food, no ego, just wildlife. You will learn real skills that you can take home and apply to your own photography. Today so many are offering one to ones, workshops , having animals perform for paying guests , copying trips, styles etc. Doing the same thing for half the price having sourced your locations, little or no ethics or respect for nature , no transparency.
I really care about what I do , I love wildlife , I like helping people , completely transparent in what I show and help with and above all I’ve been doing these days for many years I have over 30 years of knowledge and experience of wildlife, and I try my very best to help the client(s) the best I can while teaching them real skills. We can all do something to help wildlife and it starts as soon as we entered their world. Put ethics, fieldcraft and respect for nature way before money, profit and your own images and needs.
A great two days, thank you Duncan for your company and laughs, he didn’t have the best weather but made the best of the conditions. Good luck with your own photography and work. If you’d like to see what one to ones I offer then click here and for workshops, photo tours and holidays here, many thanks.