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Updates and posts to this web site are delayed due to ongoing problems I am having with internet access. This is because of the degradation of the existing phone line infrastructure which it is hoped will be upgraded by the end of the summer of 2017.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Highland Red Squirrel Group

The Scottish Highlands is now the only large UK mainland area where our native squirrel can still be found living in large healthy populations, free from the threat of competition by the introduced American Grey Squirrel.

There are plans for so called refuge forest areas to be created in the Highland region, consisting chiefly of small seeded conifers which, it is hoped, will provide a Red Squirrel friendly environment of little interest to Grey Squirrels as they continue their inexorable march northwards.

Part of this effort is the ongoing Scottish squirrel survey, the purpose of which is to accurately determine the true extent of the Highlands squirrel population. In the Highland region this is the remit of the Highland Red Squirrel Group which is a charity relying on volunteer surveyors. This method of attempting this task has an inherent problem in that it relies on the unpaid effort of people who have jobs and families to support with relatively little spare time.

I am in the fortunate position of being both active, retired and a bit of an anorak about the plight of our small red friends. Consequently I am able to devote a relatively large amount of time and effort to the task but I am only one person and there's a lot of forest which has never been properly surveyed.



The point this is all leading to is that there must be others like myself either already doing this work or who are interested in being involved. If this is the case then why aren't we communicating more. We learn and develop skills by example and communication; and engender enthusiasm by fraternity, so why,  in this age of Internet connection does the forum on the Highland Red Squirrel web site have the air of a graveyard.

At the end of last years AGM the question was raised, does anyone have any ideas about how to keep the group alive after funding runs out in 2012, to which there was a deafening silence. As far as I can tell there is still a deafening silence and I'll bet my pension that unless those of us who care don't do something, we'll get to the end of the current funding period, a select few will pat themselves on the back about refuge forests and the whole effort will have been a great waste of time; because the Highland squirrel population will still not be properly understood, the grey's will be here and the whole thing will die of apathy until the next brief fashionable surge of interest.

By that time of course, the situation in the Highlands will be the same as it is already in the rest of the country
and we'll be mourning the loss of the Red Squirrel from these Islands; and asking why nothing was done when it could possibly have made a difference.

Personally, I would like to see group members having regular communication about work progress and results, both by forum use and by having regular surveyor meetings, say every three months or so, where we can all gain an overview of the results of our work. The pooling of information would also educate and inform all involved and provide enthusiasm for continued effort.

The sightings and mapping system on the Red Squirrels of the Highlands web site only has provision for the entry of actual Squirrel sightings and as such, does not provide an accurate overview of Squirrel distribution because most of these sightings are casual and local to roads, paths, Forestry Commission walks and human habitation. Niether do the results take into account a good part of the survey work undertaken by people such as myself which includes feeding and other signs rather than actualy seeing Squirrels.

I feel that the Red Squirrels of the Highlands web site should be publishing quarterly survey results together with other information from surveyors to provide real time information about work on the ground; and of course an active forum which will further engage people in the task of saving Scotlands Red Squirrels.

Come on, let's have some comments because lack of them will only further prove the point I'm making.
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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.