Saturday, November 15, 2014

Formby's Shades of Red

The UK's native Red Squirrel has had a tough time since the Victorians decided to introduce the American grey variety as an exotic curiosity in the 1870's. As with many deliberate introductions of non-native species across the globe, the full impact to endemic flora and fauna has  rarely been considered and often with disastrous ecological consequences. Following their arrival, the grey squirrels quickly spread causing large declines in the red populations and today in England and Wales they are reduced to a few fragmented populations where a natural barrier to the grey invasion exists. The more aggressive grey squirrel also carried a hidden danger to the red populations in the form of squirrel pox virus.
A well known site for red squirrels which for many years has been very popular with visitors and photographers is the population that can be found in the pine woodland that fringes the Sefton Coast around Formby. However, around 2007-2008 the squirrel pox virus struck and the the population was all but wiped out. The woodland fell silent.
Since this time a combination of hard work by the National Trust and volunteers, combined with an increasing natural pox immunity developing in the population has allowed the population to bounce back and I can happily report they appear to be really thriving once more.
These red squirrels were originally introduced many decades ago with animals imported from Europe. Their euro-origins can still be seen in the wide variety of colours that range from pure red, through silver red to almost black. This certainly adds some additional interest to the photography.
I did a session at Formby back in 2012 and it was hard work with very few squirrels around. In the intervening period the numbers have really increased and happy to report that a visit now feels like the pre-pox days. I visited Formby last Sunday for a couple of hours in the morning and very enjoyable it proved to be with plenty of squirrels putting in an appearance in front of the camera. This is not particularly challenging photography (although the light can be awkward in the pine woodland particularly when the sun is out) as the red squirrels are accustomed to people and on occasions will come very close.  In fact all the images on this post where taken with a 300mm lens on a full frame camera.
I must admit that I never ceased to be amazed at the images that Canon 300mm F2.8 lens produces. It really is an amazing lens with super fast autofocus (even when teamed with a teleconvertor) and images so sharp that they might be difficult to print for feel of cutting the paper. A real pleasure pf a lens to use when the situation allows.
On this occasion I did not bother with the Jays that are also relatively friendly here, having just spent the last few weeks with them, and just concentrated on the Red Squirrels. Such a joy to see them back and flourishing again.
It was good to have a nice relaxed session with the Red Squirrels. I know the photography ahead over the next few winter months will be tough as I head uphill into the harsh environment of the some shy mountain hares. A prospect that I am really relishing.


Betty said...

You have caught the lively spirit of the red squirrel so well ... I remember seeing red squirrels in the woods as a child and being told their numbers were being reduced by the more aggressive grey squirrel, 50 years on the reds are so rarely seen now - your post is a real treat and reminded me of the pleasure as a child in observing these pretty creatures.

miss-cherry said...

Polubiłam zdjęcia z wiewiórkami. To zwierzątko jest bardzo fotogeniczne.


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