Saturday, 2 January 2016

Agile Reds at Underscar

After reading ' Rowan The Red Squirrel' by Fran Foster, where Rowan is a young agile red squirrel learning skills to be an adult, I decided to see if I could capture similar behaviour in the Underscar juvenile reds.

The red squirrels at Underscar tend to use the same routes through the trees to get to the feeders. So I positioned myself at the top of the woodland walk and sat in wait.

This young juvenile soon appeared. Having been born late in the summer, his moult into the thicker winter coat started later. Head moult and side of body moult isn't quite finished. It is a hard life for red squirrels born towards the end of summer as they really need to busy themselves storing food for the winter.

He peeps round the tree to see if it is all clear to make his way to the feeder.

Down the juvenile red moves headfirst. I am often asked how it does this. The answer is that they have ankle joints that are adapted to be super flexible. When a red squirrel wants to climb down it can rotate its feet 180 degrees, digging its claws into the trunk and hanging from its back legs.

In human terms this would mean that you could rotate your feet around until they were pointing backwards.

This juvenile red is using his sharp claws to show what a super climber he is. What a prize he carries to eat high in the canopy.

Down near the feeder this young juvenile just manages to hold onto the branch without tipping over.

He is building up leg muscle all the time so that he can climb always keeping his balance.

Nearly balanced; he just needs to pull himself up so all legs are on the branch. How tempting those hazelnuts seem.

He made it successfully just pausing to look down at another red squirrel who is approaching the feeder. On this photo the moult can be clearly seen.

I also was able to observe more agility in a juvenile red by its balancing acts.

This one is very well positioned to enjoy its hazelnut. However not for long as another red is just approaching. A quick glance down assures this red that it is in no danger and he finishes off his kernel.

Underscar timeshare owners are able to borrow this booklet from Oxley's reception at Underscar apartments near Applethwaite in Cumbria.


  1. What a fabulous insight into their world and amazing how they can rotate their feet, also how funny they look half way through their moult.
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Maria and as always superb photography x Happy New Year to you both x

    1. Happy New Year Angie and Clive.Hope 2016 brings you many opportunities with your fantastic artwork. xx

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  3. What a beautiful post and your photographs are divine. I love squirrels (even greys which frequent my garden), but the reds are magnificent. I have been to the Formby National Trust forest a few times and there are always so many red squirrels there. I could watch them all day! Love Liz xxx