A young red squirrel in the garden

Dark squirrel this afternoon - definitely an adult

Dark squirrel this afternoon – definitely an adult

Light squirrel this afternoon - almost certainly a youngster

Light squirrel this afternoon – almost certainly a youngster

It was a wet Friday and I spent most of the day at the computer, preparing a presentation for next week for the Falkirk Writers’ Group, and preparing a response to the consultation on next year’s general licences for Scotland. It was a complete change from the previous day when I spend a hard afternoon digging out a patch of mint that should never have been planted in open ground and had grown an incredibly expansive root system. (The highlight of yesterday was yet again hearing a tawny owl during the day). There was little movement in the garden until after the rain went off in early afternoon, then the two red squirrels came out to play. I’ve noticed that they mostly now appear together, that the dark-coloured squirrel is definitely dominant and the light-coloured one seems less active and seems to be playing a learning game.

The dark squirrel was busy at the squirrel feeder, grabbing a nut from inside then running off and burying it at various points either in the garden or in the wood. The light-coloured squirrel was at the bird nut feeder, teasing nuts – or fragments of nuts – through the mesh and munching away happily. At one point, while dark squirrel was away on a nut-burying expedition, light squirrel jumped along the three or four trees to the one with the squirrel feeder, ran down the tree on to the roof of the feeder and cautiously peered over the top of the lid and through the Perspex to see if anyone was at home. Finding no-one, it ran up the tree and sat on a branch five or six feet above the feeder. When dark squirrel returned they chased each other, in a very friendly fashion, up and around the trunk of the larch tree.

My attention returned to my work, and the next time I saw then was about 4.30, when they were both at the front of the house. Here they were much closer and it gave me a chance to better observe them. The difference in size was much more obvious, with light squirrel being only three-quarters of the size of dark squirrel. Further, while dark squirrel’s business was in collecting nuts from the bird feeder at the front of the house and running off to bury them, light squirrel was much more intent on play. It occurred to me that in the weeks I have watched light squirrel I have never ever seen him (or her) bury a nut, nor have I noticed the size disparity.

The two squirrels came into contact regularly, and always on friendly terms. Dark squirrel continued collecting and burying nuts for a good half hour, while light squirrel was content to run up and down the copper beech and birch trees, explore on the ground and occasionally munch a nut dropped by dark squirrel from the bird feeder. The conclusion I have to come to is that light squirrel is a young squirrel, with dark squirrel most likely to be the mother.

Hopefully now we have at least three red squirrels again, and I hope to confirm this once the larch needles have fallen and they are more easily seen in the treetops.

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