Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Underscar: "November Baby."

Last week was spent in the Castlerigg Apartment at Underscar. The wall running by the side of this apartment gives me opportunity to observe the red squirrels coming to the feeder. I was thrilled every morning to see a November baby bounding up the wall.

                  This wall seems to be part of a lovely playground for the red squirrels.

This baby always seemed to be the first up the wall in the morning. I decided to call him 'Oxley!'

 Oxley will be about 12 weeks old. He is independent and can fend for himself , foraging for his own food. He will be from a second litter,which are born at the end of the summer.With the supplementary food given to the red squirrels at Underscar, it is no surprise that the females have two litters each year. A female will only achieve two litters if she is fit. Female red squirrels will not breed if they are not of a sufficient weight, or if food is scarce.

          Oxley clutches his chest as he surveys his adventure playground.

As I continue observing Oxley investigating his new playground, I am impressed by how he prepares to make a leap.

                    His ear tufts are blown back as he prepares for lift off.

                           Star jumper Oxley making his leap of faith. 

         He would spend a lot of time perfecting the angle he jumped from.

Midweek I noticed Oxley had a little sister with him. I decided to call her 'Skiddaw.'

          Skiddaw has fewer ear tufts and is far more cautious than Oxley.

She uses the same branch as Oxley but creeps further along before launching.

                             Skiddaw attempting a perfect landing

Capturing Oxley and Skiddaw in the air was a new venture for me. Watching them happily play chase was wonderful. The chasing was fast,and very vocal. At some point they would end up eating quietly at a safe distance apart on the boundary wall.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Young Wildlife Explorers at Underscar.

Most mornings during the half-term week at Underscar, I was joined by Ben and Matthew. They were staying in the Latrigg apartment and were very keen to find out what I was up to down on our Grange apartment patio.

On Monday I placed a half coconut filled with hazelnuts in one of the trees. We didn't have to wait long before a male squirrel discovered these. Ben thought it a good idea how I use double sided sticky tape to attach nuts onto the trailing tree branches. The male squirrel soon followed the trail to the coconut.

The ear tufts were very prominent on this red squirrel. These tufts are present for most of the year but are moulted in late summer and regrow in early autumn.

It is thought that the main function of these ear tufts is to keep the ears warm, and help circulation of the blood in a thin organ such as the ear.

This male squirrel stayed a few minutes enjoying its hazelnut. Its next nut it decided to carry to the top of the pillar wall at Grange. We got a really good view of the ear tufts.

On Wednesday we were rewarded for our patience as we all sat quietly observing a feeding log we had placed on Grange patio. A female red squirrel kept coming and going to cache the hazelnuts.

At the end of the week Ben thought it would be a good idea to place hazelnuts on the pillars at the top of Grange apartment steps. He was right, as we were able to entice this male squirrel with the hazelnuts.

                        This red squirrel spends time selecting a hazelnut.

     The red squirrel weighs the hazelnut to see if the nut inside is a large one.

           Satisfied with its choice it runs away to cache it, to retrieve later.

On the last morning when Ben and Matthew came down to Grange patio they spotted a Wood Mouse.They thought themselves very lucky to see this as it is nocturnal. We were all amused how it was carrying away the hazelnuts we had left for the squirrels.

It was very brave creeping back to take hazelnut after hazelnut to its secret store.

With approximately one Wood Mouse for every two people in the UK, they are one of its most common small mammals.

We have all enjoyed our wild life exploring this week. Ben thinks that red squirrels rock, and Matthew says he just loves red squirrels.