logo 2 svg

 

By Taylor Wildlife, Oct 16 2020 10:00AM




It's that time of year again. Those of you who are fortunate enough to see red squirrels regularly will have noticed a major increase in activity over the last few months. The second litter of young squirrels, or kits, of the year will have become strong and bold enough to go foraging for themselves, conveniently timed with the arrival and ripening of conifer cones. For the squirrels it's a race against time to put on as much fat as they can for the long winter ahead and to bury as much as possible, so that when times get hard they have enough food through the colder months. Unlike some other squirrel species, red squirrels do not hibernate; instead they rely on food stores that they have not only buried in the ground, but also stashed in rocks and in holes in trees.


A squirrels' nest is called a drey. Despite red squirrels being solitary for most of the year, during the winter they will sometimes share a drey so they can huddle together to keep warm. There is though a strick hierarchy based on age and dominance.


Red squirrels strip conifer cones to get to the seeds inside. Sometimes you will find the remnants of the cones in piles around the base of the tree or on tree stumps and large logs on the forest floor. Keep an eye out for this next time you're out and about! Red squirrels are also extremely partial to hazelnuts, beechnuts, and chestnuts. They are also known to eat some fungi, berries and young shoots, and on occasion have been observed displaying omnivorous behaviour, eating eggs as well as nestlings.


So how do squirrels find their nuts? This is an age old question that no one is quite sure of the answer to, but there are a few theories. One is that squirrels' saliva has a special scent that is strong enough to be smell several weeks later, even through a layer of snow. There is also the theory that they use landmarks, choosing a specific place that is easy to remember. Another theory is that the smell of the ripe nut itself is strong enough to give away its location. I personally think it's probably elements of all three.


In areas where there are large numbers of squrrels, nut thievery is commonplace, mainly amongst grey squirrels. If you take the time to watch, this can be observed at this time of year in most urban parks with a high grey squirrel population.


At this time of year red squirrels moult, and grow a much thicker double coat to keep them warm. This is what gives them a much more bushy appearance. As part of this coat they also grow the characteristic tufts on the tops of their ears, as well as getting a much fuller and darker coloured tail.





This photo shows some of the acrobatics needed to get to the cones. This squirrel is still in its summer coat but you can see by its slightly patchy appearance where it is starting to moult.


By Taylor Wildlife, Nov 1 2019 05:00PM

Autumn is the perfect time of year to carrying out badger surveys. As the long, lush summer vegetation dies back and fields are harvested, badger signs such as paths and latrines become far more visible.


Later in the winter, badger activity will decrease, but for now badgers are busy excavating their setts, gathering bedding such as dried grass and leaves, and foraging for food. Badgers do not hibernate, but they do reduce their activity over winter, so it's important that they put on enough fat reserves to last until spring.


On this week's surveys, badger signs were abundant.




A freshly excavated sett (clipboard for scale)
A freshly excavated sett (clipboard for scale)

Badger path through an arable field
Badger path through an arable field

Badger footprint
Badger footprint


Badger guard hairs on lowered section of stone wall
Badger guard hairs on lowered section of stone wall

Badger surveys may be carried out as part of an extended Phase 1 survey, or as a standalone survey. If badgers are found to be damaging property (e.g. undermining a road or causing extensive crop damage) or preventing development, it may be necessary to exclude badgers from their sett. This activity must be licenced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and an Ecological Clerk of Works should be present for any activity which requires a licence. It is a crime to interfere with or obstruct a sett in any way.


If you think you have badgers on your property and would like a survey or advice on mitigation, contact us and find out how we can help.





By Taylor Wildlife, Aug 30 2019 03:00PM

In 2019, Taylor Wildlife field teams surveyed sites all over Scotland. From mountainous sites in the central belt to coastal peninsulas, and from northernmost reaches of the highlands to west coast islands, our field assistants surveyed through bogs and heather moors, woodlands and rocky outcrops.


Survey work can be tough, and is physically (and sometimes mentally) demanding. Our surveyors rose to the challenge and were rewarded with improved survey skills and experience, amazing views of a huge variety of species, and a unique look at Scotland from a perspective that few people get to see.


We hope it was an enjoyable season, and want to thank all the our Field Assistants and Team Leaders who helped us this year. We wish you all the best for the future!



A colourful fritillary on a thistle
A colourful fritillary on a thistle


Surveying a coastal site
Surveying a coastal site



A coiled adder, basking in the sun.
A coiled adder, basking in the sun.



Sparkling waterfalls - a great place for cooling off mid-survey.
Sparkling waterfalls - a great place for cooling off mid-survey.

By Taylor Wildlife, Jul 30 2019 02:00PM

Perhaps one of my favourite butterflies of the year, marsh fritillaries (Euphydryas aurinia) are the orange stained glass windows hiding in the bog and grassland. Their diverse pattern of orange, yellow and black make them fairly easily distinguished from the rest of the common fritillary family member in the Scotland and, in my opinion, much prettier (can you tell i'm biased?).




They are generally restricted to the western side of the UK, with many colonies on the west coast of Scotland. They are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species due to their declining numbers across Europe as well as Britain. They were a welcome surprise on Mull one sunny day, spotted at the very beginning of the morning's survey, just a casual 10m away from a main road. Even if nothing else of note is seen on a survey, a day that includes a marsh fritillary is always one for the books.


Although the adults can be seen in May/June, the caterpillars become obvious in late summer/autumn as they hatch and congregate together to feed on their sole food source, devil's bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), a purple flowering plant. Talk about fussy eaters! Coincidentally, these plants also serve as dinner for the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth (a mouthful in itself!), another worthy sighting for the record books. The marsh fritillary caterpillars spin larval webs that can house many individuals at once, making it an ideal time to conduct counts to provide population estimates. Although it is definitely less fun looking for black caterpillars in webs than it is chasing the adults through tussocky wet grassland on a sunny day! The caterpillars will utilise these tussocks to provide protection during the winter months as they hibernate and wait for the warmer weather to arrive.




Due to their locality in wet areas, the caterpillars are somewhat resistant to short term flooding but often suffer during bad winters, meaning populations can be very variable from year to year. With the overall declining population, any sightings of these beautiful butterflies are noteworthy and worth sending in to recording groups such as Butterfly Conservation. Here at Taylor Wildlife, we make sure to collate all our butterfly sightings over the survey season to send in to nationwide databases, contributing to the mapping and monitoring of rare species such as the marsh fritillary.