Of all the wildlife I see when I walk in the Tame Valley there is probably no mammal as abundant and as visible as the Grey Squirrel. Of course, you don’t need to walk along the riverside or in woodland to catch sight of the common squirrel, they can be found in gardens and parks, and they certainly don’t limit themselves to just rural and woodland haunts.
Although the grey squirrel is a common sight, sadly the red squirrel is less so. Common across the UK up until the 1940s there are just a few habitats that remain home to the red squirrel in England.
A common sight
The grey squirrel can be seen pretty much all year round and it is in the autumn when they will typically look to hide their food away for the coming winter.
Squirrels tend to make their nests pretty high up in the trees, normally where a branch forks. The nests which are actually called dreys are quite roughly built and are put together using twigs of varying sizes (some of which can look impossibly long for a squirrel to carry), leaves, and pieces of bark stripped off trees.
So when you are out and about don’t forget to look up into the trees to see their nests and of course during winter when the trees are stripped of their leaves the nests can be more easily seen.
The best time to see the grey squirrel is normally morning or evening when they are looking for food.
Ingenious and agile
If you have a garden with a bird table and or bird feeder then it’s a fair bet that you will have had a visit from a squirrel especially if there are hazelnuts to be had – and you will know that they are not short of ingenuity and agility when it comes to trying to access the food from a feeder. This skill and ingenuity is a real joy to see in the wild as they climb up and down trees, leap from brancg to branch or jump across walls and fences with consummate ease.
What they eat and when they breed
The grey squirrel eats acorns, bulbs, tree shoots, buds, nuts, roots, and as I have already mentioned will enjoy feeding on food from a bird table or feeder. Breeding time is normally in the first part of the year between January and April and if there is plenty of food about they may even go on to have a second litter in the summer. Litter sizes are normally three but can on occasions be up to nine.
– the hind feet, longer than the front, are double-jointed – this helps squirrels to run headfirst up and down trees;
– sharp claws help grip the tree bark and help with balance;
– the squirrel can actually make a jump of more than 20 feet (six meters);
– if a squirrel loses its footing and falls it can land quite safely from heights of around 30 feet (nine meters);
– squirrels have a great sense of smell.
Is there a Black Squirrel?
Yes, there most certainly are black squirrels, and although there are estimates of around 25,000 or so in the UK I must admit I have never actually seen one. To put that in context with other squirrels there are an estimated 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK and about 140,000 red squirrels. The pictures below show the Black Squirrel (note: black squirrel pictures not taken by me)
There is a series of pictures in the gallery below all of which were taken in December in the Tame Valley, Clicking any one of them will open a scrollable gallery.