Coming from the Southern UK I had never seen a Red Squirrel in the wild until I moved to France. In contrary to the UK, where the native Red Squirrels are rare, having been pushed out by the introduced Greys, France only has Red Squirrels. In fact in mainland Europe the only populations of Grey squirrels are in Northern Italy where somebody had the fantastic idea to introduce them into a few parks.
In the UK Reds are rare because the larger Greys outcompete them for food. There is some fear that the small population in Northern Italy my start to spread throughout Europe, including France, and we could face the same problem of Grey Squirrel dominance.
It is however important to note that one of the key predators of squirrels are Pine Martens which are largely absent from the UK but present throughout Europe.
As Reds Squirrels are smaller and more agile they tend to stay higher up in the trees and use more fragile branches. This helps protect them from the large Pine Martens who find it easier to catch the bigger Grey Squirrels which spend more time on the ground. So Pine Martens are a natural form of Grey Squirrel control and as there are Martens throughout Europe it probably offers the best hope for control of this invasive species.
In Chatou I have seen Red Squirrels in the poplar trees which line our roads. I have never seen one in my garden, however I do have a nice mature cedar tree which would be a good location for them. Therefore to try and entice them in I thought it would be a good project to install a squirrel feeder.
Deploying my lockdown time and basic DIY skills I built a very simple feed box. The lid of the box is hinged and the idea is that it protects the nuts from birds but can be easily lifted by our squirrel friend. The plan and finished feeder are shown below.
I fixed the box on the Cedar tree around 1.5 m from the ground. It’s low enough for me to refill it although hopefully not so low that it attracts rodents. Even if rodents are avoided I imagine that the other likely visitor may be a Beech Marten.
I filled the feeder with Hazelnuts, installed it on the 11th November and the results so far are fairly conclusive. Not a nut has been touched. No squirrels, yet.
The garden bird community has however passed by to have a look, but there is no way in.
I’ll certainly be leaving the feeder up and I’ll keep hoping to entice a red squirrel in. I will of course share any developments including images and videos.
Do continue to check out the updates on the website. The hedgehogs have started hibernation, so not much activity at the moment. However the garden birds are coming back for the winter and there’s been lots to see, including Europe’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest. Check that out here.
Thanks for reading and wishing you all the best in these difficult times.