I like to be busy and useful, if I’m not, my parents are usually driven a bit mad with despair! School, dancing and of course blog writing keep me driven and motivated but I really love to be involved with practical projects to help wildlife. Last week, I was given the opportunity to be part of a really brilliant nationwide survey to help our most endangered, and elusive native mammal – the Red Squirrel!

 

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A red squirrel I caught on camera at Castle Archdale Country Park – read the post all about it – here

Mum took me to a public volunteer meeting organised by Ulster Wildlife‘s Red Squirrels United project. There were loads of people there, all willing to help our endangered and much loved squirrel. It was also really encouraging to see some other kids there too! The project is funded by EU Life 14, Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Environment Agency. The project will provide much needed Northern Ireland wide data to help scientists figure out not only where red squirrel populations exist but also if grey squirrels are present. We will also uncover where Pine Martens are present; their relationship with the red squirrel is a positive one as they are known to exterminate the nasty greys! Incredibly, we are pretty lucky in Fermanagh because we have a growing and healthy population of Pine Martens! We really need to take a stand to prevent the greys invading more territories!

How will we do this?! Well, each of the many volunteers will choose a forested area which looks like it may be a good habitat for our russet friends or an area which has  a pre-existing population. We have all been kitted out with camera traps, feeders, guidance and bio-security spray (very important!). We will record our sightings and submit our data.

 

Me, my kit and my sister Bee with her own Red Squirrel

Our data will go a long way to improving the future of red squirrels, something which I feel really passionate about. A few people (mostly, but not restricted to, other kids) can’t understand why I would want to do this and other projects, which I sometimes find really upsetting. These attitudes make me  angry, but mostly, it  motivates me to keep going. If I can persevere and help make a difference, maybe others will too. The news on nature and wildlife can be terribly depressing and hopeless, but if we focus on the things we can change right now, then we can feel empowered to help our community projects and so help the future of our native species.

I have chosen three separate forests to survey and I am really looking forward to getting back some revealing footage from the trail cameras. We have organised our site visits for next weekend (we’re away to the coast this weekend) and we will set up our cameras next month.

Surveys are happening all over the UK so please check out your local Red Squirrel United project to find out if you can help too. Our iconic Squirrel is in serious decline, less than 140,000 are left in a few strongholds in the UK, but if we don’t act now, the number will fall even lower. We all have chance to help this decline, record sightings and help improve data on not just red squirrels but grey squirrels and pine martens also. I really appreciate this opportunity to be involved in such an important citizen science project.

I hope everyone is having a good week! Thanks for reading.

Dara