30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Seventeen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17: Following on from last week’s Close Up Monday, today’s focus is on the red squirrel.

I am very lucky to live within an hours drive from Formby, which is a stronghold of the red squirrels. Disease and the introduction of the American grey squirrel in the 19th Century has impacted greatly on red squirrel numbers.

Red squirrels, a mammal, are native to the UK and classed regionally as endangered. Though red squirrels can be found in other European countries. Their population in the UK is estimated at approx. 140,000 which is quite shocking given that the figure of the grey squirrel as 2.5 million.

maps working version of comparison

The reason for this disparity is obvious when you see both species side by side. Whereas the red squirrel is small and dainty the grey is larger in body.

The two main competitions are:

  • food
  • disease

Food: The grey squirrel being larger has show to eat more and also to be more successful at foraging. Whereas the red has been left behind and is often pushed out of an area due to the competition for food.

Disease: grey squirrels seem to have a natural immunity to squirrel pox than reds. Pox to the red squirrels has a 100% mortality rate, which is catastrophic to any resident population. According to The Wildlife Trusts, there is currently an outbreak of squirrel pox at Formby, but hopefully it won’t be as devastating to the population as the 2008 pox outbreak when 80% of Merseyside and Lancashire’s red squirrels were wiped out!

Habitat loss is also a contributing factor to the decline of the red squirrel.

Red squirrels are found in the North of England and Scotland. They prefer to live in coniferous forests and nest in dreys. They can have up to two litters a year, with 2-3 kittens per litter. Their diet consists of hazelnuts and pine cones but occasionally they eat small birds and eggs. Like the grey squirrel they do not hibernate.

There are a number of projects currently running to help sustain red squirrel numbers: Red Squirrels United is a partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, academics and volunteers and funded by the EU and The National Lottery to create a scientifically robust conservation programme. In turn Red Squirrels United are working closely with Saving Scotland’s RED Squirrels, who work with local communities to preserve this iconic UK animal. Red Squirrel Survival Trust is an entirely donation run initiative created to spread awareness to the plight of the red squirrel.

What is your stance on the red vs grey squirrel argument? Do you ever see a time when both can coexist in the UK?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

The Wildlife Trusts:

The Wildlife Trusts saving species:

The Wildlife Trusts’ Projects:

The Woodland Trust:

Red Squirrel Survival Trust

Trees for Life

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Ten.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_10Day 10: Today’s Close Up Monday is inspired by my short break to The Lake District. Last year, on another trip to the Lakes, I focused on herdwick sheep. Sharon and Louise suggested red squirrels being synonymous with The Lake District, with ospreys a close second. I’ve decided to focus on ospreys for today’s post but don’t worry I will blog about red squirrels next Monday.

The osprey is a large bird of prey, with a wingspan of 1.6m (that’s bigger than me!) They migrate to the UK to breed during the summer and overwinter in West Africa. Their lifespan in the wild is nine – twenty years and are a UK amber species. They can be seen from March to October in Scotland, Wales and the Northern England. Their diet is primarily fish. 

osprey nest1Ospreys become sexually mature from two to five years. Are largely monogamous and prefer tall structures like conifers to construct their nests called an eyrie. When visiting Dodd Wood, Cumbria in 2017 we saw a reconstruction of an eyrie and it was huge! The female lays two to three eggs during April and incubation takes up to a month. The female incubates the eggs while the male provides fish. Once the young have fledged, both parents feed the young for the next two months. Many juveniles die before reaching maturity. Hunting and poisoned food and water are the main threats to numbers of osprey.

There is a lot of webcam footage of nesting ospreys in the UK. While I wrote this blog I came across the webcam for the ospreys at Loch of Lowes, Scotland. Webcams are an insight into nesting behaviours and the rearing of young.

However they can be quite traumatic for the viewer sitting warm and safe at home. While watching I noticed two of the nestlings were being fed and looked strong while the runt lay apart from its siblings and looked to be wasting away. Apparently it had gotten stuck in the twining of the nest and was stood upon by both parents. The chick died not long after, such is the nature of life for a young osprey.

What nature webcams do you like to watch?

Have you been lucky to see ospreys?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine x


Websites for further information:

The Wildlife Trusts: Osprey

RSPB: Osprey

Dyfi Project: fantastic resource for information and webcams from Wales.

 

Webcams:

Loch of Lowes

Foulshaw Moss:

Foulshaw Moss Reserve

Rutland Osprey Project

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eighteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: For today’s Close Up Monday, the animal (I believe) most synonymous with the Lake District, is the Herdwick. Their name stems from the Old Norse, Herdwyck, meaning sheep pasture. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of Britain’s hill sheep. They can roam some 3,000ft around the central and western fells, and territoriality keep to their heaf, which is a learnéd bit of fell they graze.

Info taken from Herdy® states that, Lake District Herdwick farms are granted commoner grazing rights, which set the number of sheep on any given common by the grazing capacity of the fell.

Herdwick (2)

Herdwick Sheep

Each farm has its own way of identifying straying herdwicks. Lug marks are small notches on the sheep’s ear, whereas smit marks are coloured marks on the sheep’s fleece.

The herdwick’s body has evolved to withstand the extreme winters of the Lake District. They also have resistance to diseases and ticks. They are primarily bread for meat.

The lambs are born black, but within a year they turn brown (at this stage they are called hogglets/hoggs). After their first sheering their fleece lightens to grey.

Their grazing of heather and grass, keeps bracken and scrub under control, which in turn helps keep the Lake District look.

Their wool is best suited to carpet wool and is a good insulator.

What animal do you think is synonymous with the Lake District?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eleven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_11Day 11: For today’s Close Up Monday, the species in question is the tiny but mighty tadpole.

In our minuscule wildlife pond we have at least two tadpoles. It has been thrilling to see them develop. At present they have grown their limbs and will soon emerge from the pond. Let’s look more closely into their life-cycle.

A female frog or toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs known as frogspawn. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the cycle and hatch from around 1-3 weeks. They eat vegetation and have adapted jaws to do this.

tadpole

Tadpole with legs

The tadpoles in our yarden have been undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. Unlike the butterfly, who goes into a crystals to morph, the tadpole changes before our very eyes.

Lungs develop, gills vanish, and limbs grow. I thought one of our tadpoles looked pretty mean! You can see its limbs clearly in the picture. Over time the tail is absorbed and the frog/toad becomes terrestrial.

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Lifecyle of Frog/Toad

Frogs and toads are Anuran which means tail-less. Their skin is permeable to water meaning that if a frog is thirsty they just have to jump into water, while toads just need to find a muddy spot in which to absorb moisture through their stomachs. Frogs and toads are carnivorous and eat mosquitoes, files, snails and other invertebrates. Frogs reach maturity at three years old whereas toads at four. Frogs can live up to eight years and toads 12 years. I found most of my information from the Woodland Trust website, here. and Arkansas Frogs and Toads.

Do you have any frogs/toads living in your pond?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild.

Christine x