Watching a red squirrel building a drey

The red squirrel built a drey halfway up a larch tree (difficult to photograph because of the obscuring branches)

The red squirrel built a drey halfway up a larch tree (difficult to photograph because of the obscuring branches)

I was busy in the office this rainy Sunday trying to get to grips with Irish wildlife legislation ahead of two presentations I am giving at the first Irish Wildlife Crime Conference in County Meath in September. The subject was dry but I had a welcome distraction when one of the two red squirrels in the garden appeared low on the outer branches of the larches in the wood. It was busy gathering silver-grey lichen in great mouthfuls and taking them to what I could only think was a new drey two or three trees further back into the wood. It was gathering substantial mouthfuls, firstly by a quick scrape of the paws to loosen the lichen then turning itself into a squirrel with huge silver-grey whiskers. After about ten visits for lichen it began to chew of small twigs, though I never saw it carry any of those off.

Later in the day I looked into the wood where I suspected the drey to be and sure enough there it was, about halfway up a larch tree and close to the trunk. Since it would have required the outer construction of the drey before the lining I can only think that it was a degree of conditioning that made it continue to chew of small branches. I’d love to see inside the drey, though I bet the squirrel has a very cosy snooze tonight.

Pity about the poor quality of the photo, but unfortunately there were too many branches in the way. That’s my excuse anyway.

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