Latest Local Survey Results
It seems to have been a good breeding season for squirrels, reds and greys but not least the greys! We know that in Coquetdale we are surrounded by grey squirrels, in - Thrunton, Callaly, Brinkburn, Forestburn but they now seem to be advancing into the valley in even greater numbers than previously and are present across the entire area between Weldon Bridge and Harbottle.
The good news is that we are still hanging on to our red squirrel populations. There are healthy numbers on the Cragside Estate and to the north of the river in Rothbury from Addyheugh Woods along into the woodlands north of Hillside West, around West Hills Farm and into Thropton. There seem to be more reds in Thropton than in recent years. Red numbers are decreasing in and around Holystone and Harbottle but are still present. Unfortunately three red squirrels were found in Harbottle recently who appeared to have died from the Squirrel Pox virus. Greys as well as reds are present in all these locations, however no greys have been sighted between Biddleston, Clennell, Alwinton and into Kidland. This is the last area in Coquetdale where reds appear to be untroubled by the competition - at the moment!
So that's the (mostly) good news. However the numbers of greys that have migrated and are breeding in the area are evident from the number that have been culled. In the east of our area Northumberland Estates in association with Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) are controlling greys between Brinkburn, Pauperhaugh and along the Forestburn, but this has not stopped them migrating west along the valley. Greys are present at Cragend Farm where 10 have been trapped along the Blackburn and a further 30 in the woodland between the B6342 and river. Over 50 have been trapped on the Cragside estate this year.
In the Rothbury area there has been a surge in the grey population between Hillside West, Pondicherry and Thropton with over 20 shot or trapped in the last 2 months.
Greys are now present in Hepple Whitefield and Bickerton where 20 greys have been culled since the beginning of May. At least 70 greys have been trapped in and around the Holystone area this year. Only 3 years ago very few greys were present in this area, concern is now growing about the increasing evidence of greys on forestry land surrounding Holystone, along the Holystone burn and the Seal burn. In the Burradon and Cote Walls area 24 greys were trapped during April, May &June.
Coquetdale is now seen as the front line of red squirrel conservation. CSG have been asked to continue quarterly monitoring on behalf of RSNE and Forestry England has agreed to pay £500 annually towards expenses. RSNE are supporting our volunteer effort by providing a Ranger for grey control in the Holystone and Harbottle area during June and July.
It is clear that without out volunteer effort and the efforts of many gamekeepers and landowners greys would now be present in large numbers with few if any reds remaining. We will only be able to hang on to our native red squirrels by continuinging to control the remorseless advance of the invasive grey squirrel.
The 2019 map of red squirrel sightings can be found here
Squirrel Population Update November 2019
The results of the 2019 Annual Monitoring Report compiled by Red Squirrels Northern England during March, April and May are now available. The report can be found in full on the RSNE website https://www.rsne.org.uk/squirrel-monitoring-programme
The study records red and grey squirrel presence in 290 sites across the north. Overall reds were detected in 43.4% of sites and greys in 45.9% (no squirrels in the remaining 10.8% of sites), a small increase in reds and small decrease in greys since last year. In the Northumberland National Park area reds were in 45.2% of sites and greys in 32%. So encouraging news! Overall the northern red population has remained stable during the last 7 years reflecting the success of the grey control programme implemented by the red conservation organisations such as the Coquetdale Squirrel Group. Unfortunately if we do not control the grey population they will expand into the few remaining red habitats and our reds will disappear altogether.
There are 17 survey sites in and around Coquetdale including 3 in Harwood Forest, 3 in Kidland Forest and 2 at Holystone. Reds were found to be present at Harwood, Holystone, Kidland, Clennell, Ovenstones (between Hepple and Billsmoor),and Thrunton; greys were recorded at Nunykirk and Forestburn; no squirrels were seen at Edlingham, Blue Mill Woods (near Thropton), Brinkburn and Simonside. No sites recorded both species. These results appear very positive for Coquetdale but must be viewed with some caution. For example we know that there are grey squirrels in the Brinkburn area. The survey is a snapshot in time, but we would much rather have a survey reporting lots of red squirrels than lots of greys!
There is a map at the end of this report for those who would prefer to see the data displayed that way.
The situation reported by our volunteers at time of writing (November 2019) is that whereas reds are still present in Coquetdale greys are continually migrating into the area - and from all directions. Greys have been sighted in and around Rothbury as they search for territory; however reds still predominate in Addyheugh woods with an increasing red population on the Cragside Estate thanks to the National Trust conservation efforts. We have had many sightings of both red and grey squirrels in the upper valley. There are now few areas below Alwinton that do not have grey squirrels. In and around Holystone woods there are intermittent sightings of greys but reds are still present. North of the river on the Peels there is a small red colony, but the recent felling at Woodhall on the south side seems to have disturbed another. Biddlestone and Clennell are still getting regular sightings of reds.
Squirrels are currently very active storing food for the winter with an abundance of natural food, maybe they know something we don`t! As winter encroaches it is important to provide supplementary feed for reds. Trees in gardens adjacent to woodland are a good site for feeding boxes. A red squirrel feed mix and hazelnuts can be purchased from Aldersons in Rothbury.
Please remember to report all squirrel sightings both red or grey. This can be done here- Sightings