Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris
The red squirrel is Britain’s only native squirrel. These squirrels who have white or pale brown tail hairs are thought to be the only true British red squirrels. Those that do not have these paler tails may be descended from Scandinavian introductions who were without white tails.
Sadly the red squirrel is in terminal decline. The American grey squirrels introduced in the early 20th century may not have driven them away as usually cited. There could be more complex reasons for their diminishing range and numbers. They only prefer to live in mature coniferous woodland. Their main source of food is the scotch pine which provides pine cones, bark and sap to eat. One red squirrel eats up to 40,000 pine cones a year. When red squirrels do live in deciduous woodland they like to eat hazelnuts, acorns and beech nuts. These beautiful squirrels spend most of the time high in the trees and rarely seen.
Red squirrel courtship is one of teasing and chasing. A female squirrel will enter a males territory and he will make a loud sneezing sound. Rival males will rush to the area sometimes in large numbers. A race begins where they all chase the female. She inevitably out distances the males and the first to catch her up will be allowed to mate with her. After mating she will make a new squirrel drey, a cosy nest lined with grass and fur ready to rear her young.
Red squirrels are such endearing little animals and it would be very sad to see them gone. Most people do not see them once in their lives. I once saw a red squirrel on the Isle of Wight in the car park of Osborne House where Queen Victoria lived.
As always I use Windsor and Newton Artist quality paints to ensure that I get the beautiful translucent colours of nature and a good quality watercolour paper such as Arches. Sable watercolour brushes always give the best results since they are natural, form a find point and hold much paint.
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