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Monday, 29 August 2011

Squirrel feeding signs - Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The forest I'm currently surveying to the east of the Corrimoney Falls is primarily Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) plantation which has not been thinned. Trees are close together with a herb layer of heath, bilberry, bracken and grasses, interspersed with areas of moss.

Red Squirrels are feeding both in the canopy and on the ground, but signs can be difficult to find where scales and cone remains drop within the herb layer.

At this time of year squirrels are feeding on green cones which are often torn apart in the canopy with the remains scattered over an area beneath the tree. Where fresh feeding is taking place over ground which supports the remains, the debris is easier to see, as shown in the next two images.

This is all canopy feeding but squirrels will also feed on the ground, sitting on a stump or moss mound and leaving a pile of torn or gnawed off scales around the cone remains.
The scales of older cones are gnawed off, leaving the cone's centre axis intact; whereas the greener, softer cones are usually torn apart from the base up, as shown above.

Pines can live for several hundred years and where one of these beautiful old trees has survived being suffocated by close planting, you'll find an area of bare ground, carpeted with pine needles, around the base of the tree. These old trees will be a regular feeding place when squirrels are present.
This last image shows a collection of cone remains.

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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.