Filming Squirrels

Over the course of the last few years I have been wildlife cameraman on a number of different programmes that have practically forbidden the filming of grey squirrels.  This is understandable to a point. The grey squirrel wears a toxic label. It was introduced from North America and its population took off. For a number of reasons, some related to the grey squirrel’s increase, the population of our native red squirrels declined. Grey squirrels certainly damage trees, sometimes with commercial consequences, though I suspect people damage more trees than do squirrels. This is not a case for grey squirrels to remain part of our fauna, just an observation that we don’t observe them as we do other mammals.

Grey squirrel and beech leaf – frame from Sony F55

I am filming grey squirrels for a programme at the moment, and it struck me how little I know about them. I didn’t realise that they usually have two litters of young, the first in early spring and the second in early summer. There are lots of young squirrels moving around now, as there will be at the end of summer, many inexperienced ones being killed on the roads. Also, as a wildlife watcher I may have observed this in the past but have never registered the behaviour until filming it as a wildlife cameraman: grey squirrels lick the backs of leaves. This one, and others, were nipping off leaves and licking them vigorously before discarding them. Is there a sugary exudation on the back? I tried a few but could not taste anything. After observing grey squirrels for some time I also realised that they feed in short bursts then appear to rest, even sunning themselves in a state on what looks like near torpor before feeding again.

These are just a few informal observations that have no doubt been covered extensively by many learned people, but it interesting how being a wildlife cameraperson (camera person) focuses the mind on behaviour.