This Sunday it is Squirrel Appreciation Day (21st January) so this week is all about celebrating this wonderful creature.
Photo: DK find out!
To truly appreciate the squirrel you need to see it. We have 2 species in the Uk, the native red squirrel and the non native grey squirrel. The reds are rarer so if you get to see one of those you will be very lucky. The greys are very common and you should have a good chance of seeing these if you go to anywhere with trees, be it a park or woodland.
Have a go:
Have a squirrel stakeout! Squirrels spend a lot of time up in the tree canopy, they even build their nests (called a drey) up there so you will need to look up.Take a ground sheet and plenty of warm clothes, lay it down under the trees and wait. As with all wildlife observation, the quieter you are the better your chances of seeing the animal. If you have them, take a pair of binoculars for some close observations. You may need to wait a while but hopefully one will make an appearance. What is it doing? Where is it going? (Maybe you could follow it) What is it eating? Is it interacting with other squirrels, if so how? Ask lots of questions like this and you will learn more and discover they are quite fascinating creatures.
I’m sure you know that squirrels will hoard nuts so they have a winter supply but not all is fair in the squirrel world. They bury nuts in the ground and it is not uncommon for another squirrel to watch, wait and then steal the freshly buried nuts for their own hoard. So, the squirrels have to get clever and they do this by putting on elaborate fake food burial displays to deceive potential theives. Incidentally, nut burying helps the trees because many nuts are forgotten about and therefore start growing into a tree.
Have a go:
Take some monkey nuts with you on your next walk. Please use unsalted/ flavoured nuts so any that are forgotten and left behind will not harm the wildlife if they eat it.
The simple game:Hide 10 monkey nuts in an area, go and do something else for 10 mins and then come back to the area and see if you can find all 10 again- it’s not as easy as it sounds!
The sneaky game: This is for 2 or more people. Each person gets 10 monkey nuts and 10 minutes to hide them. The aim is to find the most monkey nuts after a 10 minute break. Sneaky squirrel behaviour is encouraged here, watch your opponent, can you steal their hidden nuts? Don’t forget to channel your inner squirrel and pretend to bury nuts to deceive the others! When the time is up, take a break for at least 10 mins, why not do some squirrel stalking before returning to the nut hiding arena. Then the challenge truly begins, who can find the most?
Squirrels are incredibly intelligent and will over come many obstacles to get to tasty treats at bird feeding stations, google it and you will find many videos.
Have a go:
Create your own obstacle course in an outdoor environment. You may find a tree to climb through, a puddle to jump, a branch to go under, the possibilities are endless in natures playground. Please remember to be adventurous but not dangerous!
If you have your own squirrel visitor to your bird feeder perhaps you could introduce an obstacle course to see their agility and intelligence up close.
Stalk a squirrel, be a squirrel but most of all celebrate the squirrels!