Hope Springs

February 20, 2017

As the world still determinedly heads hellwards, handbasket-wise, who’s for a small amount of good news? I was cheered to learn yesterday that pine martens had been spotted fairly locally. Pine martens, as well as being desperately cute, also prey on grey squirrels (red squirrels can evade them being lighter and quicker) and have been credited with helping keep the reds going up in the Highlands where they are still reasonably numerous. Given that we have seen grey squirrels twice in our garden since we moved in, we’re clearly on the frontline here, and having a little cute furry help* to beat back the greys would be welcome. As well as pretty damn cool.

Although we have managed to get some video footage of pine martens before, they’re a bit too fly to be photographed easily even by the super-skilled photographer friend who spotted them, so you’ll have to make do with the equally hopeful but quite a bit more stationary daffodils which appear to be coming up in the garden.

emerging daffodils

Watch this space

*I assume that all of you who got a bit squeamish about us doing away with the greys last time don’t mind them being done in by other animals … nature red in tooth and claw, and all that.


Reverse Squirrel

November 9, 2011

I was just turning into the home straight on the way home with the paper (and by the way, I think I really want one of these. Slow cycling indeed…) when I was pleased to see a little ginger creature darting down from a tree and out into the road …

… and even more pleased to see it do an instant u-turn when it saw me coming (they must have spring loaded spines those squirrels) and dart back up the tree. It’s nice to know that, after all we’ve gone through to protect them that the red squirrels are still around, for now at least. And it’s even nicer to know that they’re finally learning a little road sense

Licensed to Kill

October 11, 2011

Knock knock – it’s the landlord at the door asking

‘Just how much do you love red squirrels?’

It turns out the red squirrel people have responded to their report of possible grey squirrel sightings and want to put traps in the grounds to stop the greys and check whether any of them have the pox. There’s just one tiny problem – once trapped, the greys have to be despatched, humanely, and quickly, in fairness to them. Which means we all have to be trained in humane squirrel killing. Um.

Obviously I’ve said we’d do it (actually I bravely and forthrightly volunteered the other half to do it). It’s worth it if it stops the greys and saves the reds and if I’m happy for someone else to kill grey squirrels then I should be happy to do it myself. Well, not happy exactly. Prepared. I should be prepared to kill the little furry things myself. Kill them. As in dead. In some as yet unspecified but entirely humane way.

I’m hoping that the promised training will include an extensive section on ‘not being such a townie wuss’.

We’re in the country now, all right…

Now There’s a Question…

October 7, 2011

… to cast a chill on a miraculously sunny October afternoon: ‘have you seen any grey squirrels about?’

As it happens, we had seen a squirrel in the landlord’s grounds that had looked awfully grey but it was not that close to and after a fair bit of peering and (it would seem) a little wishful thinking we had decided that it was just a very dark red squirrel and had gone on our way. The landlord had seen something similar and hoped it was just an old one, but further sightings seem to have confirmed that – two years after they first came close – the greys might well be back.

According to the village newsletter, they may have the pox as well, which means not just that our reds will get gradually pushed out to the margins, but that they will be completely devastated. This is terrible news. We’ve grown almost blase about the red squirrels around us but seeing one never fails to brighten our day – even this afternoon when we spotted one on our walk, although the encounter was tinged with sadness at the thought that it might end up being one of our last. The landlord has reported the incomer and will be setting traps, so watch this space. Meanwhile, because I’ll be too depressed to post these links once the news is confirmed, here is your chance to catch up with what we might soon be missing…


The Real Reason I Never Get Any Work Done

Close Encounters of the Cute and Furry Kind

Caution I brake for Squirrels

More Close Shaves

The Real Reason why I Never get any Work Done

July 2, 2010

I mean, when there’s a red squirrel on the feeder, would you?

Especially when it starts doing yoga…

(I know, not the greatest shot as I had to take it through the window. But it was just too damn cute not to include)

And now I’m watching the young woodpecker discovering the hard way you can’t cling onto a metal pole without sliiiiiiiding down to the bottom in an undignified fashion. It’s all go here, I tell you.

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

June 29, 2010

OK, so this is a bit embarrassing but we’re thinking of changing the route of our run because we’re being attacked by a buzzard. I’ve been buzzed before, but this time it’s more serious. The first sign of trouble was when the other half was running back alone, about 50 yards from our gate and the bird didn’t just swoop low over his head, but actually made contact with his scalp with its talons.

For our next run, we decided to stick together for safety’s sake, not that we were actually scared of a bird, you understand, but just to make sure it didn’t try it again. This time the buzzard came at us as we were heading out and the first thing we knew about it was when it shot silently between us at shoulder height, no more than a flash of wings before it was gone. So much for it not taking on two of us at once, then. Then, on the way back, it dropped out of the sun in classic fighter-pilot style and I discovered sudden powers of acceleration I didn’t know I had while the other half decided the rest of his run would best be accessorised with a stout stick. We haven’t been this terrorised by a bird since we had to seek refuge in our car from an ostrich which spent the next half hour trying diferent ways to eat it.

The most worrying part is the way the bird attacks in complete silence. Normally if you’re worrying a buzzard it lets you know by calling and circling, making a lot of fuss before it resorts to swooping. The silent approach suggests it means business and it makes even a simple stroll a bit nerve-wracking. It doesn’t bother cars, and so far it hasn’t touched me on the bike, but it’s clearly not keen on pedestrians or at least joggers. Given that buzzards mostly live off squashed rabbits, it seems like a bit of a step up to go straight for people, but maybe it’s more to warn us off getting about on our own two feet. After all, if we’re not going to drive everywhere, how are we going to provide it with any road kill?

Whatever the reason is it’s certainly making me a little twitchy. I was sitting on the step yesterday morning, reading the paper, when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye – something was bounding straight towards me. Something cute and furry and ginger, but it was too late, I had screamed and sent the squirrel scuttling back into the undergrowth before I had registered it was harmless. If, indeed, it was harmless. Suddenly those little claws look awfully sharp…

Close Encounters of the Cute and Furry Kind

May 24, 2010

*boing boing*

I was just sitting on our front step in the sun this morning, quietly working…

*boing boing boing*

… when our resident red squirrel came bounding around the corner…

*boing boing*

… and went right past me and into the long grass at the edge of our neighbour’s garden so he was nothing but a golden tail, bouncing along in the sunshine…

*boing boing boing*

…and then he came bounding back …


…right in front of me, all of five feet away, and stopped for a bit of a scratch…


…picked up some of the bread we leave out for the birds and had a nibble with his little ear tufts all a-quiver…


looked me right in the eye and seemed to consider coming closer…

*boing boing boing*

… and then thought better of it and bounded unhurriedly away. Whereupon I was able to start breathing again.

These things never happen when you’ve got your camera, do they?