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Red Squirrel Watch

I’ve been watching an endearing colony of red squirrels in the Dales.

Wildlife photographer Simon Phillpott has been feeding these indigenous squirrels near Hawes for some years now and they have become so used to him that it is possible to get up really close.

In fact they even follow him when he calls and, even more impressively, will go to a spot on the ground if he points to it. Simon, of Wild Dales Photography, was my guide for my three-day visit and he took me to watch them from his hide – although the squirrels were so friendly I didn’t need to use it.

It was snowing when I got there and the branches and wall tops were white. It was great fun watching the different characters as they ran along dry stone walls, jumped fallen trees and perched on stumps. I captured this one as it took umbrage at a passing pheasant’s attempt to take one of the nuts Simon had left for it!

Simon puts out hazelnuts for them. Hazelnuts are their favourite food. It’s amazing to see what short work a squirrel makes of their hard shells to get at the tasty kernel inside. The hazelnuts seem to fit their mouths perfectly.

One character was particularly fun to watch. This squirrel had a slightly kinked tail and its winter coat and prominent ear tufts stood out. He was far bolder and more mischievous than the others, investigating everything he saw and even taking a look through our camera equipment.

I’m pleased with the photographs I got. I painted the red squirrel below many years ago now and whilst it’s been popular, I’d like to start a new one.



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