Red Squirrels and Waterfalls – part 3   Leave a comment

On our last full day we trekked out to Dod’s Forest again. This is the home of the Osprey viewing platforms, waterfalls (everywhere in the Lake District) and those cheeky red squirrels.

It wasn’t yet the season for Osprey’s, we met up with a couple of volunteer Forest Rangers prepping one of the soon-to-be-manned cabins and they said they didn’t usually migrate and arrive at the lakes until the end of April.

Ranger on roof

Ranger on the roof: these little huts are manned 24/7 in the Osprey season to ensure the Ospreys and their eggs and chicks are kept safe. Each year they tag the chicks and monitor their progress.

Bassenthwaite Lake 01

The views over the lake were spectacular up here and the distant hills beautiful.

Having climbed to the top of the Forest we began the descent to the halfway viewing station. On the way down Buzzards began to circle suspiciously above us. Ellie our Scotty dog took cover.

Buzzard 01

At the half way station they had bird feeders and a squirrel feeder, so we took the weight off our feet and plonked ourselves down for a well earned break. Amongst the constant stream of Blue Tits and Finches we were paid a visit by a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

woodpecker

The Great Spotted Woodpecker: easily spotted. There look on the bird feeder – which is kinda cheating again but our attention was on stalking the squirrels – the woodpeckers will have to wait for another day. 🙂

So, sitting in the beautiful afternoon sun and toward the end of the last full day we continued to scan the trees and mossy banks in front of us for those elusive red squirrels. As time passed more birds came and went but still no squirrels and we started to think about winding our way back to the car when Sam heard some ‘scritting’ (her word) behind her and getting my attention with the loudest whisper possible alerted me to the scene unfolding behind us.

Whilst our attention had been down the forest in front of us, two red squirrels were chasing each other around a large thick pine tree across the track behind us. I turned to see one of the pair take off up the Forest bank but the other one stayed put, right in the middle of the sun kissed pine tree trunk!

Red Squirrel light pine tree 02

Here is the handsome chap. Casting a look over his shoulder at me. He sat there for some time looking back at us and I sat there taking photos of him. I’m no wimp but holding up a heavy DSLR camera shoulder high with a large telephoto lens on it gets kinda heavy after a while, but I didn’t want to drop it down in case our cheeky new friend took off at that very moment or threw a different pose.

We continued to eye each other; him not moving, me with my shoulder muscles on fire. I’m sure he was grinning. It was no good, I had to drop the camera for a moment and let the lactic acid disperse. And yup, the moment I did he took off!

Red Squirrel light pine tree left 03

He scampered around the front of the tree as I lifted the camera back up and thankfully he stopped, perched on a small branch. Then we played the same game again. But this time I was ready for him – I inched forward and propped the camera body on a conveniently placed wooden post on the back of the viewing platform. Aha squirrel – the advantage is now mine!

Red Squirrel light pine tree 01

Realising the superior intellect had thwarted him he became compliant and shifted his position to offer me his best profile.

Red Squirrel light pine tree edge 04

And finally he posed for the camera one last time before disappearing out of sight. Here he is showing off those wonderful ears. It was only later, on our way down that we noticed that many of the pine cones on the forest floor were not only very similar in colour to the red squirrel but at their pointy pinnacle they had hair like shoots growing upwards – almost identical to the length and shape of the hairs at the end of the red squirrels ears!

When you think about red squirrels in green pine forests it can seem as though evolution didn’t pick the best camouflage for our cheeky little friends. However, when you really look carefully at the pine forests in the lake district they are full of different shades of red; where the tree bark is broken or scraped it appears red underneath, the cones are reddish in colour and many of the ferns, when they are dead or dying back, are russet coloured. Even the creamy white of the bib that the red squirrel wears can be seen all over the forest in the white pithy wood of broken branches.

Well that concludes my blog about our trip to the lake District to photograph the red squirrel – I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if ………. oh wait a minute….. we haven’t done the helicopter!

Helicopter 01

So, the helicopter. As I was sitting there, taking pictures of woodpeckers and just before the sneaky arrival of the red squirrels behind us, we heard a rapid chuzg – chuzg – chuzg sound approaching from the North end of the lake.  And quite suddenly a rather huge helicopter slid in to view directly in front of us, flying low over the sun kissed, sparkling grey water. For a rather bizarre moment I had an image of this great big flying thing attempting to land on the bird feeder for a quick snack. It must have been the long walk up in to the forest messing with the supply of oxygen to my brain. But it was a sight to see, and quite unexpected.

Finally then, it was time to return home. We fell in love with our first visit to the Lake District and we plan to return again this year for the arrival of the Ospreys. Stay tuned and thank you for joining us on our adventure. 🙂

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