Comical Red Squirrels at Formby (31st July 2014)

During my time living in Panama I encountered plenty of wildlife in the rainforests. My plan was to see the Panamanian Golden Frog in the cloud forests of western central Panama. I’m sad to say, days passed by and I never got around to seeing this critically endangered frog. The chances are it may become extinct before I have the chance to see one.

From then on I decided to seize every opportunity. So often we take wildlife for granted. In 2007/2008 red squirrel numbers crashed due to an outbreak of squirrel pox virus. It made me think, what if one day this species is no longer here and I had the opportunity to see one and I didn’t.

So I set off to a National Trust reserve in Formby, Liverpool on a mission to see one.

Formby has walks through pine forests which are home to the rare native red squirrel. There is also a beach with amazing sand dunes. A perfect place for a picnic on a sunny day.

I was keeping everything crossed that I was going to see a red squirrel. I took the trail through the pine forests when I heard a chattering sound close by. There in front of me were two red squirrels chasing each other round and round a tree like something from a children’s cartoon. Talk about comical. There were plenty of nut feeders in the pine forests and I had brought a bag of peanuts too for the squirrels, so getting a photo of one of these mischievous characters should be easy. How wrong was I?!

The squirrels came pretty close to people walking by but they had a terrible habit of teasing photographers. I was joined by a few other keen photographers and as soon as we lifted our cameras to take a perfect photo of one sitting on a tree stump they were off again leaving us with just a red blurry photo…

Perfect shot on a fallen tree... just hold it 2 seconds...
Perfect shot on a fallen tree… just hold it 2 seconds…
Ok one on the ground will do, just focus in and...
Ok one on the ground will do, just focus in and…
Some moss and pine trees in the background...perfect! ...Noooo! Come back!
Some moss and pine trees in the background…perfect! …Noooo! Come back!
I give up!
I give up!

The nuts tempted them closer, but then they would often run away and hide behind a tree to enjoy them…

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‘I would like to enjoy my meal in peace thank you!’

One lady brought unshelled peanuts. The squirrels quickly grabbed them from the ground and frantically opened the shell. But once they saw what was inside, they tossed the shell and nut aside in disgust. Seems to me these squirrels are very picky. I have been a big fan of Beatrix Potter since I was a child and the more I watch wildlife, the more I can see what inspired her to write stories about the characters of animals.

Eventually after a lot of patience and plenty of blurry photos, I managed to get some photographs I was happy with. To be honest, their comical antics kept me amused for most of the day so the photographs were a bonus. 

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Caching some nuts. It is surprising that squirrels can remember the exact location of all the nuts they have hoarded.

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I was lucky enough to meet one of my wildlife hero’s this year, Chris Packham. He was kind enough to sign me one of his own photographs of a red squirrel…

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