Monday, October 14, 2013


'What do you think about the introduction of the Red Squirrels?' I keep getting asked. 'How are they doing?' people say. I've tried my hardest to be as open minded as possible when considering their introduction to Tresco. There are several positive theories as to whether they are a good addition to our delicate micro-sized ecosystem and several thought patterns thinking that they are or could become a bad idea.
I won't ramble on with all of the different opinions I have heard as I am sure you have your own thoughts on the matter. I, however, am a little upset with my conclusion. I have taken onboard the conversations and media offerings about the matter and weighed up the pros and cons and come to my own thoughts, and they are so...
They are awesome! I cannot think anything other than that when watching them scamper around the island launching themselves from branch to branch, chasing each other for what seems to be no apparent reason, helping themselves to hazelnuts from the feeders and creating nutty larders in the pine needles. They are the sole reason the word 'scurrying' was created.
What makes these little endangered (in the UK only) rodents even better is the fact that they are quite easy to see. Nowadays a trip to the Abbey Gardens should factor at least a glimpse of these guys going about their business. Most of these pictures were taken towards the back of the Garden Visitor Centre where the feeders and roosts (if that's what an artificial squirrel's house is called) are situated.
However they have really taken to exploring the Island with sightings all over from Boro Farm to the Estate Office lawn. I do not want this to come across as a piece of Tresco propaganda but they certainly make this place a little bit more special.
As you can see from how close up the pictures I managed to take are, these new arrivals are already very tame. I was loping around in normal everyday clothing not really trying to be discreet and the six I encountered by the Gardens didn't seem to mind my presence at all. Oh, and they love hazelnuts.
On the avian front, although the hardcore twitchers are a little dissuaded with how quiet things are for mega rare migrants at the moment. Their military like sweeping of each island still persists and word travels fast if anything of interest has arrived. Being quite new to this game everything is a first to me and therefore I'm quite enjoying this Autumn.
This juvenile Red-Backed Shrike graced the scrubland by the houses North of Blockhouse Castle. They used to be breeding birds in the UK but it is now estimated that there are less than 5 breeding pairs in England. This little chap probably got blown off course from mainland Europe.
Shrikes are well known for their feeding habits. Sometimes called 'Butcher Birds' they feed on insects and small reptiles. In times of abundance they create themselves a 'larder' by impaling their catches on thorny branches and sometimes barbed wire in order to come back later when times are a little harder.
At this time of year go to any patch of wetland on the Scillies and stare at the reeds. There is a very good chance that a Jack Snipe will be bobbing up and down feeding on molluscs in the mud. If you cannot see one it's most likely your fault. They will be there however they have incredibly camouflaged plumage. Keep looking....
They are tiny secretive birds who rarely come out in the open. I was lucky to get this picture when a particularly confiding individual popped out to say hello and see what the world outside the cover of reeds is like. They are one of the few birds who decide to spend the winter with us and can be seen until the end of February or so.
This poor chap was absolutely knackered. For more than four days this Sparrow sized Snow Bunting decided to feed constantly and completely ignore the walkers passing right by.
As the name suggests these guys usually live much further up North in Scandanavia, Greenland and Iceland. Occasionally a few breed in Northern Scotland so for one to visit the most Southerly area in the British Isles is rather rare. I think they are quite pretty...
Water Rails are, in my opinion, quite odd looking birds. They are very secretive and spend most of their time skulking and lurking in the reeds around. I was on the wrong side of the sun to take this and my final picture but I doubt I'll get many opportunities to photograph one for a little while. Your chances of seeing one are higher during the Winter as we play host to a few continental arrivals.
So besides chasing Red Squirrels around the island even as the days get shorter there are still plenty of things to see. However I strongly recommend chasing Red Squirrels as much as possible...
I don't think this Water Rail really wanted his picture taken.


  1. Great post Max, I really enjoyed it. Wonderful birds and I'm with you on the Red Squirrel Fan Base. We don't get them in our bit of Hampshire and I have never seen one, and would really love to. Along with the butterfly you were going to post me earlier this Autumn, could you please pop a red squirrel in the bag too? CT :-)

    1. I'll have to flat pack a Squirrel, it could get messy. But i'll try...

  2. Your blogs get better every week! They make me smile and the pics are lovely too. x

  3. Phew, I was so relieved that you are a red squirrel fan! I love them, having seen them in Scotland. They are wonderful, entertaining and bright little chaps to watch and I think it would have been such a shame not to like them since they are so accessible to you. Great images. Squirrels nests are called dreys.
    Marvellous bird images, and lots of birds I have never seen. I never knew the feeding habits of shrikes-quite a good idea though! Lovely snow bunting-glad he's found a safe stop over and accepted a photo or two. Water rail says no thanks mate.

  4. Really nice red squirrel photos may be i will get to see one when we are Tresco next year