Red squirrels are a native species to the UK. A small bundle of energy on the edge, ready to run at every moment. Limited to the far north of the UK after the introduction of the bolder American grey squirrels, the survival of this timid species is uncertain. However their numbers are currently flourishing in the Scottish Highlands. They are just one species who call the Scottish Highlands their home.
Walking into the woodland, the smell of wet soil on the air was the start of a day with these little characters. The woodland was still, just the call of long tailed tits echoing through the trees. A small clearing with heather, dry after the autumnal flourish of pink and gorse, green and dense in the midwinter forest slumber was the playground of six red squirrels.
Small movements in the corners of the clearing heralded the arrival of the first red squirrel. Emerging slowly from the shadows, exploring the stumps and logs the first visitor found the stash of hazelnuts. Taking the entire nuts away to bury, returning time after time the routine for the day was established. The early morning sun was perfect for seeing the little squirrels in their back lit best.
A small raid as the great tits figured out how to steal the hazelnuts for their own delight was soon thwarted and calm returned to the glade. Shelled hazelnuts were an instant treat. Eaten where they were found in the morning sunlight. Squabbles broke out when the prime position was taken, racing around the trees and chasing intruders away. As the day progressed it was time for some high tree chilling, a little stretch and time to survey the ground below.
Returning continually the squirrels stashed and ate their way through the day. As dusk approached one girly started her show. Running along a branch and jumping the 2metre gap to the hazelnut stash. Time after time she flew through the sky finding treats to run away with and hide.
As the day ended she sat and ate her fill before vanishing into the woodland and her drey in the treetops.
Finally as the light dropped the glade fell silent. A magical day with some magical little characters.
Where to See Red Squirrels in the Cairngorm Mountains
I was lucky enough to spend a day in a private hide with this gorgeous tribe. However there are lots of public hides. A lot of squirrels can be seen just walking around the forests. However to get some great photographs it is worth spending time in a hide. This provides a comfortable environment to watch the antics of these wonderful creatures.