You can roam for miles in our pine forests or spend an afternoon on the decking watching the ever changing mood and light between the trees. But whichever forest based activity you choose its very likely that you will spot our red squirrels, or Sciurus vulgaris.
The red squirrels love the forest environment around Cairngorm Lodges and are regular visitors at all the lodges, coming directly onto the decking to pinch any nuts you have kindly left for them. Several wildlife photographers have stayed with us and been delighted with how easy it is to get that special shot of our cheeky red squirrels. Children love to sit in tree dens with damp moss for cushions and peek out as the red squirrels jump from tree to tree.
The preferred diet of red squirrels is pine cones – so no wonder they like it here, but they also eat fungi, also freely available on the forest floor and fruits from some shrubs and trees. As well as helping themselves from natures larder we like to feed our red squirrels which is why the bird feeders you will see in the forest are not squirrel proof. Feeding them helps them to put on weight in the autumn and therefore helps them survive should winter be long and harsh. Healthy breeding females will produce more young come spring and if healthy can produce a second litter in the summer. It is important to us to do our bit to help their long term chances of survival. Sadly its thought only between 20 and 50 percent of kittens survive through to adulthood – we like to think it’s more at Cairngorm Lodges of course. Young red squirrels are called kittens and mums normally have 2 or 3 kittens at a time. Large nests, called dreys are built in the trees from twigs, moss, grass and leaves. Looking up into the forest canopy you will spot dreys often between the forks in tree trunks. Red squirrels tend to be solitary but when its mating season we will see them chasing each other through the trees and if it’s terribly cold, related squirrels will share dreys to cosy up and keep warm.
It’s quite special to look up and see mum carrying a young squirrel in her mouth, we’ve yet to be quick enough to catch it on camera though!
A few more squirrelly facts which may interest our younger guests;
Red squirrels have tails of between 15 & 20cm long which helps them balance and steer when jumping between trees.
Male and female squirrels are the same size
The red squirrel sheds its coat twice a year; its winter coat is a great deal thicker.
Mum squirrels are pregnant for around 38 days and they alone look after their young.
Kittens are born blind and deaf and eyes and ears open after 3/4 weeks.
Kittens are weaned off their mothers milk after 8 -12 weeks when they have teeth
Red squirrels live for about 6 years
Red squirrels bury their food or hide it in trees so they still have a food source when food in scarce in winter.
Look out for pine cones that look like a chewed apple core – the red squirrels have been at it!