Spotting Squirrels this Red Squirrel Week
Keilidh Ewan is a Communications & Engagement Officer for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels. In this blog she discusses the work being done by the organisation, and how you can participate in the 2020 Great Scottish Squirrel Survey.
The red squirrel is one of Scotland’s star wildlife attractions and the experience of seeing one in person is truly unforgettable. This week is National Red Squirrel Week, an important time of year for us at Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels and for raising awareness of these charismatic creatures.
We launched our first ever Great Scottish Squirrel Survey in 2019 during Red Squirrel Week, where we encouraged the Scottish public to explore outdoors on the lookout for both red and grey squirrels. We were overwhelmed with the response we received. In just one week over 600 people reported 828 squirrel sightings through our website, which is almost five times as many sightings as we would receive in a typical week. This also formed a large portion of our sightings for the year overall, reaching a record-breaking total of 9,475.
Reporting a squirrel sighting to the project, be it red or grey, is a really simple action that influences conservation efforts and the protection of red squirrels. Although we welcome sightings throughout the year, a dedicated week long squirrel spotting campaign like the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey, helps us create a detailed snapshot of the situation on the ground and compare results year on year.
This year, sightings have had an even more important role to play in helping protect red squirrels. With the temporary suspension of outdoor activities and the cancellation of our volunteer led annual spring survey during the Coronavirus lockdown, the only way for us to continue monitoring squirrel populations was through public sightings reports.
With more people enjoying wildlife watching in their gardens or on local walks while lockdown restrictions were in place, we started to see an overall increase in sightings which made a fantastic contribution to our knowledge of what squirrels had been up to during this time.
By taking part in the Great Scottish Squirrel Survey, you can help us fill in the gaps, make up for the loss of important data and help contribute to the protection of red squirrels – all while enjoying the great outdoors! Anyone can take part from anywhere in Scotland, be it from your back garden, your local park or the wider countryside by reporting what you see between 21-27 September at scottishsquirrels.org.uk.
Each sighting record from the week will be verified by a Conservation Officer before being added to the project’s sightings map and the official Scottish Squirrel Database, with the results of the survey published later this year.
You can also take part by joining us online for a series of talks and video live-streams packed full of squirrel spotting tips and regional updates, and by sharing your Great Scottish Squirrel Survey stories with us on social media by using the hashtag #GreatScottishSquirrelSurvey. We can’t wait to hear about your squirrel spotting adventures and what you see along the way.