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Sunday, 30 January 2011

New Squirrel Survey area

I've established presence and distribution over the area I've been surveying this last year and I'm moving on to the next section of forest.

This is an area of about 360 Hectares consisting of a wide mix of tree species with plantations ranging in age from approximately 5 to 30 or 40 years with some clear fell and also old Scots Pine forest.

Elevation is generally between 200 and 300 metres and presents a fairly wide range of habitat from a squirrels point of view.

The images to the left show an area at about 250 metres which is fairly open with a heath understory
and old pine remnants of the original Caledonian forest.

Other parts are dense with a mix of mainly Birch and a lot of self seeded conifers such as Sitka Spruce. This density of undergrowth makes it difficult to find possible feeding signs on the ground and I'm going to employ a new technique for establishing squirrel presence which I will elaborate on at a later date, when I have some early results.  

The main factor that determines where squirrels will be found at any particular time of the year is the availability of food. This is largely governed by the age of the plantations. Although squirrels may be found in one section with good cone crops they may be more or less absent from adjacent stands except to pass through them to get to other seasonal food sources.

Red Squirrels living in this type of habitat will favour in order of preference: Norway Spruce, Larch, Scots Pine, Douglas Fir and occasionally Sitka Spruce. They will also gravitate en masse to Hazel in the Autumn.

Red Squirrels are notoriously difficult to spot in this type of  fairly remote environment. They are not habituated to Human presence; and with dense canopy and understorey they are the masters of invisibility, staying prone behind a branch or trunk; as you move, so do they, always staying out of sight. The only occasions when you will spot them are when they cross a track at some distance or if they make a break through the canopy.

Consequentially there are large areas of forest and woodland in the Scottish Highlands which are under recorded or have no records of squirrel presence at all. This does not always mean they're not there!
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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.