Species of the month – September

Each month we focus on a species that benefits from Fair to Nature farming practises. During September, that species is the Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel - Andy Astbury
Photo by Andy Astbury

Who doesn’t love the red squirrel, with it’s russet colour, bushy tail and tufty ears! Indeed in the UK, Tufty the red squirrel was the star of a long-lasting Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents campaign to get simple, clear safety messages across to children.  More recently Bob the red squirrel has been championing wildlife as part of the RSPB’s Vote for Bob pre-parliamentary election campaign. They are very endearing creatures.

The red squirrel (or Eurasian red squirrel) is a species of tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus, common throughout Eurasia. It is an arboreal (tree-loving), omnivorous rodent. Their fur colour is variable from bright ginger through to red and dark brown or black tinged with grey in winter, with distinctive larger ear tufts in mid-winter (which disappear by the summer) coupled with its equally distinctive bushy tail.

Unlike their grey cousins, red squirrels are not very good at digesting acorns because of the toxins levels present in them. They prefer pine, spruce, larch and fir cones, sweet chestnuts, beech nuts, hazelnuts, hornbeam, rosehips, fungi, flowers, buds, shoots and occasionally insects and birds’ eggs.

The species has undergone series range retractions and population declines. Despite historically high numbers, the introduction of grey squirrels during the early 20th century contributed to their decline through disease transfer and resource competition. This, coupled with systematic changes to and removal of key woodland habitat, has pushed one of the UK’s most appealing mammals to the remotest corners of Britain. According to the Forestry Commission there are only about 140,000 red squirrels in the UK, compared to an estimated 2.5 million greys.

Being located on the Isle of Wight, the staff at Fair to Nature licensees The Tomato Stall and Wight Salads are fortunate to have red squirrels on their doorstep. On advice from ourselves, they have erected squirrel feeders in woodland along their tomato nursery’s boundary. A trail cam has captured footage of the squirrels enjoying the feast…

Our friends at ChapelWood Garden Wildlife Care supply a squirrel food that contains seeds and grains from Fair to Nature farms. You can read tips on feeding red squirrels in a guest blog from Helen Butler MBE from the Wight Squirrel Project, the Isle of Wight Red Squirrel Conservation Group.

Along with The Tomato Stall, we are offering one lucky person the chance to win a squirrel feeder as well as £25 to spend in The Tomato Stall’s online shop. To enter, have a look at our competition page.

To see previous species of the month click on the months below:

February – Flamingoes

March – Hedgehogs

April – Yellow Wagtail

May – European Turtle Dove

June – the Migrant Hawker dragonfly

July/August – Gatekeeper butterfly

Leave a Reply