What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Our little grey friend

on March 3, 2015

This winter we have had a daily visitor to the coop, enjoying the wild bird food left for the garden birds who come to call regularly on the Gillybirds. 

The grey squirrel is perhaps one of the most commonly seen of British mammals being highly visible in parks, gardens and woods. Our squirrel is very entertaining, balancing precariously on slender branches, leaping fearlessly from tree to tree, dangling upside down grasping with those tiny little paws to catch hold of the pouches of seeds and nuts left hanging for our feathered visitors. A few years ago we had another regular squirrel we called Stumpy as he only had half of that wonderful twitchy fluffy squirrel tail. We often made up stories of how poor Stumpy lost his tail. 

Gabriel Hemery writes in his blog :

“Grey squirrels are a serious pest and the bane of woodland managers across Britain. They strip the bark of young trees, which can severely reduce their growth, increase susceptibility to disease, cause dieback of stems and branches (often a safety hazard in public spaces), and can kill trees; especially when the bark is stripped right around a stem.  They also eat song bird eggs and have driven out the red squirrel from its native range. The species, that some now regard as a ‘tree rat’, was introduced to Britain by the Victorians about 130 years ago.  It is more aggressive than Britain’s native red squirrel, which has been squeezed further and further north in the country.  Greys also carry squirrel parapoxivirus or ‘squirrel pox’, to which they seem resistant, but which is fatal to reds.  The IUCN has listed the Grey Squirrel in the top 100 globally worse invasive species. According to the Forestry Commission there are 2.5 million grey squirrels in Britain but only 140,000 surviving red squirrels. The Red Squirrel Survival Trust is working hard to promote the survival of the red squirrel by advocating targeted control of the grey squirrel, and has attracted a lot of support and media interest in its work.  If you live in Cumbria, Northumberland or other remaining strongholds of the red squirrel in Britain you can get involved in the RSST’s work in these areas.”

Jamie Oliver has caused a bit of a kerfuffle suggesting that we should help control grey squirrel numbers by making slow cooked squirrel pie. If you are vegetarian or think this is barbaric please just click away from my blog now! 

courtesy of luxphotodigital

If however you have no qualms about sampling a fine textured white meat that tastes more subtle than rabbit meat you can have it delivered oven ready to your door for £4.95 per squirrel. Or you can go all “Hunger Games” and try catch one for yourself. (Good luck) 

In Victorian times squirrels were customarily eaten in the UK, served in many forms and squirrel brains were a delicacy eaten in the USA until very recently when it was discovered squirrels are carriers of Creutzfeld Jakob disease. There are however a few restaurants in the UK which have begun serving this meat over the past few years.

Our little guy (or girl) would certainly be hard to catch even if we wanted to! I think we will leave him to a life of stealing nuts and performing acrobatics around our garden. As for our old friend Stumpy….well we haven’t seen him in quite a while. Oh dear. 

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