Autumnal Red Squirrels

Autumn has finally arrived! I’ve been looking forward to this season all summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the longer days, and the mountain hare leverets in glorious purple heather and the daylight pine martens were wonderful, but autumn is glorious!

My red squirrel site is situated in deciduous woodland, there’s oak, sycamore, ash, beech, rowan and birch as well as a whole lot of bracken in the summer. Partly due to where I put it the light all summer has been challenging but now, with leaves falling and bracken dying back it’s beginning to improve and I’ve been able to switch from f2.8 aperture lenses to f4 which is good because my 300mm F2.8 is a beast and I can’t leave my tripod in the hide because the mice eat it (it’s looking a little worst for wear…)

The better light allowed me to capture this image of Buddy. I’ve no idea what he’s doing!

As I walk to the hide now I disturb hundreds of thrushes all sitting in the bracken eating fallen berries. There’s obvious signs of the pine martens on the paths as they eat rowan berries which then appear in their scat. The badgers are active too, digging for worms and also eating the autumnal berries. The jays, although still around aren’t as visible probably because there are acorns aplenty for them just now.

The squirrels have been fab. I love the new location of my hide. It’s next to the old one but more open and has the opportunity to photograph them in trees and on the ground. Because I use a pop-up hide I can open the larger front viewing panel then push down on the bottom to go lower which allows almost eye-level images of the ground-level squirrels. It still amazes me that they are mostly totally fine with this, but won’t stick around if I’m outside the hide. I’m pretty much hanging out of it! Some of them do come over and stare at me.

The bracken is turning brown and gold, and the leaves on the trees either falling or changing too. The beech trees are still very green and I’m looking forward to a winter of those when they turn bronze.

It’s a great time for wider-angle images which I’m a big fan of, especially in pretty surroundings. Because this site is fairly open, I can see the squirrels on more distant trees, and higher up the closer ones. I love this series of images.

Here are a few more:

I’ve been taking advantage of fallen leaves for the ground-level images.

But even where there aren’t any, it’s possible to take some lovely photographs of them

There’s a beech tree quite close to my hide. Initially I was a little annoyed by it, but the squirrels do like to go up there to eat in peace or escape other squirrels.

As you’ll have noticed some of the squirrels are beginning to grow their winter tufts. This is so exciting. Youngster Buddy has the most impressive so far…

But a few of the others, mostly this year’s young (and Wee Bruce) are beginning to show theirs too.

The most exciting development has been a new kitten. I’ve been waiting for Emmylou’s little ones to appear and I’m presuming this is one (don’t know if it’s the only one, but I have seen another elsewhere… read on for that). I’ve only seen him twice so far. The first day he stayed over by the feeder but on the following he was brave enough to come down, although Buddy kept chasing him away – bad Buddy! I’ve called him Robbie.

Isn’t he adorable?!! I don’t tend to get the very young kittens, I’m presuming that’s because the dreys are on the other side of the river in the higher trees and it takes them a while to get here, but this one is still pretty small.

I have no idea how many squirrels there are now. The original adults (I think) are currently looking a bit scrawny, with white patches in their fur. I’m presuming this is part of the never-ending summer moult, but no idea really. The younger animals don’t have this. The older squirrels have no sign of tufts yet either.

All the squirrels now have black tails with the exception of little Robbie. I don’t know what happened to Sam, the golden tailed female. I never saw her again after late August.

The squirrels are, of course, busy caching nuts too. It’s amazing how many of the nuts they cache pretty much where they pick them up. I imagine the badgers come in at night and dig them all up!

They aren’t particularly interested in peanuts right now either, only hazelnuts will do – it’s going to be an expensive winter!

I realised this when I shifted the position of my trail camera and had tonnes of footage of a badger wolfing up all the peanuts I’d put out when I’d been there earlier!

Aside from the squirrels (and badgers), the pine martens are visiting nightly. I’m still seeing some fabulous footage of Peanut the precocious youngster. His mother has a lot of patience.

The other squirrel news is I had a kitten in my garden! I think it was a female, so not Robbie. She sat in one of the trees and ate the berries whilst I ran outside in the pouring rain and put some nuts in the feeder. Hopefully she’ll be back!

Talking of squirrels, if you haven’t already had enough of them, I spent a few more days in the Black Isle Nature Photography pine marten hide hoping for marten visits now the short season was over. The squirrels were very much on form

And!! I was surprised by a visit from, not the adult female marten, but one of the kits. I’m rubbish at telling them apart but I do recognise behaviours, and this one acted completely differently from the adult. It appeared when the light was at its best and was a real bonus.

I drove up to the Falls of Shin to see if any salmon were jumping. I’ve been before but have very little recollection of it and had therefore brought the wrong lenses. However, I was able, just, to use my Tamron 150-600mm, a lens I haven’t had on my camera since I bought the 500mm pf 5.6, at its widest. I had to position it in some weird angles to get much in though which made the edit a little difficult. It was slow, but salmon and trout were attempting to leap up the falls. I don’t think any succeeded though as there was a lot of water.

Finally, the pink-footed geese returned! The sound of the thousands arriving was awesome. For a few days they were everywhere and on opening an outside door or window their honking was amazing. I put together this little video, do put the sound up to hear them.

Regular readers of my blog will be wondering why there’s no mountain hares here, well, I think I’ve written enough for one installment and I have a 2nd blog coming soon which will focus exclusively on my summer leverets – I have had a wonderful time hanging out with a group of them.

Don’t forget I have calendars and cards available in my Etsy store and you can purchase prints of many of my images on my website – if there’s something you’d like and it isn’t there just let me know.

Oh, and I am still guiding for the hares (see last blog for details), and can be available at short notice right now, so do get in touch if you fancy a day (or more) with them.

Highland based nature photographer and guide specialising primarily in Scottish wildlife but available to cover live music and events.

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