Red Squirrel Appreciation Day
Red squirrels are an iconic, much loved part of Scotland’s wildlife and to celebrate and promote their conservation the 21st January has been declared Red Squirrel Appreciation Day! There have been national efforts to conserve and bolster the population of red squirrels throughout the UK. In Scotland, the award-winning Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels project has made fantastic progress raising awareness and supporting conservation efforts across the country. Red squirrels are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, with only 120,000 thought to be left in Scotland, compared to up to 300,000 grey squirrels.
At this time of year, red squirrels will be casing each other up and down the trees in the hopes of finding a mate, with a first litter of kittens born in March. Another litter may follow in July/August if the female is able to feed well over summer. Red squirrels nest in a drey of interwoven twigs furnished with moss and leaves. They do not hibernate and can be spotted year-round collecting seeds and fungi. Red squirrels can also eat plants and berries and even insects and bird eggs if food is scarce.
Torwoodlee estate in the Scottish Borders is an excellent location to view red squirrels. The planting of native trees and shrubs, woodland corridors and natural regeneration of oak and beech has provided an ideal habitat for a healthy population of red squirrels. The estate is Wildlife Estates Scotland Accredited, meaning the land is managed to provide the best for biodiversity while also being a profitable business. The owner, James Pringle, continues to plant trees for future generations and red squirrels alike.
Native squirrels have featured heavily in cultural history across Northern Europe. In Norse mythology, a squirrel named Rataoskr carries messages up and down the world tree between an eagle perched on the top, to a serpent living beneath the roots. Rataoskr is said to provoke the eagle and serpent with malicious gossip, perhaps alluding to the cheeky nature of red squirrels. Through the efforts of the UK Squirrel Accord and others improving red squirrel populations, stories like this can continue to be imagined and enjoyed through the generations.
If you want to raise awareness and help these enigmatic creatures thrive throughout the UK follow the Twitterstorm between 12-2pm on 21st January #RedSquirrels2020 and post your photos and stories about these amazing animals.