The reds in our gardens are up again in November! Twenty venues averaged 2.0 seen together (up from 1.7 in October) and 1.8 distinguishable (compared to 1.4). There were highs of five seen at the same time at Laurieston Road, Skyreburn and Cally Woods, with six individuals identifiable at Skyreburn and five at Anwoth. There should be mating chases in the New Year, so if this is helping some of our females to maintain the good body condition required for successful pregnancies, we can say we are doing our bit in and around Gatehouse just now.
Greys have recently been removed close to Carstramon, up Skyreburn and near Knockbrex. Others have been sighted at two sites in Carsluith and at Kirkdale, with trapping still in progress there. We may be getting closer to locating the mystery source of so many greys up Skyreburn, with surveillance continuing in the hope of a targeted control operation soon.
Our ability to locate squirrels of either species is about to improve dramatically. Generous local donors (who wish to remain anonymous) have funded the purchase of a thermal imager for the GSG. These devices enable you to spot squirrels (as well as other mammals and birds) at up to 100m, by detecting the heat they emit as infrared radiation. The warmest things in view are red, but this includes greys, so you still need your binoculars to confirm which species you are looking at! We expect the imager will greatly improve our ability to track down greys squirrels, but also hope it will be used extensively by GSG members to survey less-visited woodlands for reds, especially over the next few months when there are no leaves (at least on the deciduous tree species!).
There is growing support for the idea of having a public hide for squirrel watching close to Gatehouse. We have had offers to raise funds and build it already, and possible locations are being narrowed down. The hides at Kirroughtree, Kirkcudbright and Threave Gardens are popular with locals and visitors, and the time has now come for Gatehouse to provide a similar facility.
Peter Garson, 13 December 2018
Chairman, Gatehouse Squirrel Group