If you go down to the woods today, you might be in for a squirrel surprise.
Sunnyside Estate is playing its part in monitoring the red squirrel population with an ingenious scheme contained in squirrel feeders in our woodland.
If you take a wander through the wood, you might come across some of them baited with various tempting treats (for squirrels, anyway).
When squirrels visit they have to lift the lid to access the food. In doing this, they brush against a small sticky pad inside the lid.
And this is where the evidence can be found as to what colour our furry friends are – red or their much-maligned grey cousins.
These sticky pads are collected by squirrel volunteers, carefully removed, covered, and sealed in a bag that is labelled with the date and the location. he next step is to identify the hairs on the sticky, which needs a microscope.
Grey squirrel hair is strongly banded and each hair is jet black, yellow, and has a colourless section. Red squirrel hair on the other hand is much finer, tapers to almost nothing, and is also quite variable in colour. The hair does, of course, have a reddish/ ginger tinge but also has white in it too.
You will be pleased to hear there has been quite a resurgence in the red squirrel population and that is who is leaping through the lofty heights provided by our gorgeous woodland setting.
There are estimated to be only 160,000 red squirrels remaining in the UK, 75% of which are in Scotland. The “sticky scheme” is carried out as part of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust is working with NatureScot, Scottish Forestry, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust in a coordinated attempt to stop the decline of red squirrels in Scotland and create the conditions for this mammal to thrive in the future.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is working with local communities to ensure red squirrels will always be a part of Scotland’s special native wildlife. Together with partners, landowners and a network of local groups and volunteers, they focus on the areas where red squirrels are most under threat from the spread of the invasive grey squirrel.
Yvonne McMurchie: Monitoring Officer, SWT
Yvonne joined SSRS in June 2022 as Monitoring Officer for North Angus and the Mearns. Her role is to establish and maintain a monitoring programme to detect any grey squirrels dispersing into the area to help protect the ‘highland line’. With a background in Marine Biology and Fisheries she has come a bit of a circuitous route to Squirrels having previously worked for Marine Scotland as a Fish Health Inspector and laterally as an Environment Protection Officer with SEPA. Although she is primarily field based, her role sits in the North East Project area team and she also works closely with the Tayside Conservation Officer and Grey Squirrel Officers.