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Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Red and Grey Squirrel Dilemma

Much emotive nonsense has been written and spoken about this issue in recent times; and so to read the reasoned comment below was very refreshing. I feel it's so important these words are read by as many as possible, that I have included the full article in this post; and hope I wont be accused of any copyright transgression.

For my own part I would add that ecosystems take thousands of years to evolve and for humans to cherry pick a species from one system and dump it into another is, in my opinion, nothing short of a criminal act; and all on a whim of human self indulgence with no thought of the consequences.

It's time that we accepted our responsibility for the imminent destruction of yet another of our native species, stopped carping about the semantics, and at least try to do something about it. 

If you wish to read the article in its original context and possibly make your own comment, please go to

Gavin Whittaker: Red and grey squirrels are in a do or die contest 
Published in The Scotsman on Tuesday 20 March 2012 00:00
There has been a lot of debate about red and grey squirrels recently. Before jumping to conclusions, here are some facts about red squirrels. 
First, the red squirrel is found across the entire arboreal range of northern Europe and Asia, and it is ludicrous to suggest that the red squirrel, virtually alone among Eurasian mammals, would not also occupy Britain in the immediate post-glacial period, 10,000 years ago.
 Secondly, the subspecies found in Britain, Sciurus vulgaris leucourus, is peculiar to Britain and Ireland and first described by Scottish-born scientist Robert Kerr in 1792. Kerr considered S.v. leucourus separate from the European S.v.vulgaris due to the blanching of its tail during the summer. This was backed up by anatomist Jerzy Sidorowicz who also considered S.v. leucourus to be a valid subspecies based on a slightly shorter average skull height than S.v.vulgaris. It is not credible that the British subspecies would differ so much from the European farm stock, and from which some consider it to be derived, within 300 years of its supposed introduction.
 Thirdly, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Why would medieval writers concern themselves with the natural history of the red squirrel any more than they would concern themselves with the pygmy shrew or the marsh fritillary? Fourthly, and possibly most importantly, there is no question whatsoever that the grey squirrel was introduced from North America to the UK by humans, but there are huge questions about conjectures based on the musings of medieval texts. 
The crux of the issue is that the red squirrel is unequivocally Eurasian in origin, while the grey squirrel is unequivocally a native North American species. The Forestry Commission reports that grey squirrels cause damage to woodland, while scientific studies report their serious impact on woodland birds.
In the long term, either the grey squirrel will survive or the red squirrel will survive, but not both – nature, red in tooth, claw and disease transmission, takes no prisoners. Those who side with the grey squirrel cast themselves as judge and jury of the red squirrel, and effectively condemn them to death.

Monday 19 March 2012

Scottish Wildcat Association - News Update

This is the latest news from the Scottish Wildcat Association.
If you would like to become a member, volunteer or make a donation, please follow the link at the bottom of this page.

Wildcat Haven

Camera trap photo: Kerry Kilshaw - Oxford University 
After lengthy consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage they have requested we only camera trap cats this year and throughout the year so that we can really pinpoint where they live for life trapping next winter, limiting disturbance. It's not an ideal solution in our eyes however no one has trapped wildcats in decades and SNH are understandably cautious. We've been buying lots of camera traps ourselves and have been joined by some volunteers with traps and Kerry Kilshaw from Oxford University who has been camera trapping heavily in the Cairngorms getting some great shots like the one on the right. All together, we will have nearly 100 cameras spread over a 200 square mile area for an entire year which should give us some great insight into the wildlife distribution around Ardnamurchan. Big thanks to Wildlife and Countryside Services for the substantial bulk discount on a bunch of the cameras and memory cards we bought. So far we definitely recommend Bushnell's for use in the wet Scottish climate!

Feral trapping has continued though numbers have been much slower this year as traps have been getting laid for solitary living individuals rather than the large colony we worked with last year, solitary cats are much harder to track down and even less trusting of humans so take some effort! We have now arranged with an experienced vet to be in the field with us throughout future seasons at a temporary neutering clinic so these wild living animals spend as little time as possible trapped in a cage which is very stressful to them.
For our members, the latest edition of The Wangie is almost ready to go out, as ever running a little late, and completes the Wildcat Haven overview; we'll be publishing this in the near future for everyone to access through our website.

Some other great news for the project is the receipt of a further $10,000 of funding from the Bosack Kruger Foundation who visited us at the start of the season to see the project and landscape for themselves (thanks to IFAW for helping with the money transfers!); the grant is a big step towards the budget we need for next year so a huge thanks to them for continuing to keep a very expensive and very important project on the road.

In similar news a so far anonymous US business donor has sent us $15,000 to put where it's most needed within the charity, the trustees are currently weighing up a couple of options for needs the charity has to see which will bring the greatest help to wildcats.


I’m still looking for volunteers in all areas who would be interested in distributing leaflets to their local pet shops, vets etc,. and will shortly be putting together a small fundraising team to work on some projects we have in mind. Please email me if you’d like to get involved.

Mike Tomkies books

Our wonderful charity patron Mike Tomkies has been having a bit of a clear out and found numerous boxes of immaculate books he didn't realise he had, so please find attached a list of the books available and an extract from "Wildcat Haven" if you haven't read it. Mike's writing style is brutally honest, intriguing, entertaining and often inspirational, if you love the outdoors, wildcats, golden eagles or just Scotland check something out they're a great read, and a percentage of all sales will be donated back to the Association

Gina Yates


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Water in the Ltl Acorn 6210 control panel - Review - Part 5

Acorn 6210 water/condensation problem update 07.07.2012

I'm very happy and relieved to be able to say that the reason for the condensation problem in the Ltl Acorn 6210 Trail Camera has been identified.

After lengthy tests and analysis the cause of water getting into the control panel is, at long last, understood; and some final changes to the case upgrade are now being made.

I don't know exactly how long this will take, but it will be as fast as possible.

I will post a full explanation of the problem and how it was solved at a later date. Users of cameras which have this problem should remove the rubber bung (external power supply input) from the base of the camera.

Back to Part 4 of the review
Ltl Acorn control panel
I was about to do a post on this issue when I received a comment from a reader who also had this problem.

Because of its importance, I've slipped it in as part 5 of the review.  Trigger speed and Sensitivity, plus side by side working examples will start in part 6.

Don't do this with wet hands and cover up if it's raining
I've found nothing to suggest that the seal around the bottom panel leaks. What happens is that moisture transferred to the control panel surface will find it's way to the switches on the circuit board; and cause the screen to flicker through all the functions.

In my case, I was checking cameras on a rainy day, and with one camera I had the control panel door open and it started raining. I was in the menu at the time and finished what I was doing with wet hands. I tried drying them by wiping on my shirt but even the small amount of water that was left was enough. The problem is exacerbated by the panel being horizontal with the door closed; and gravity does the rest with water wicking down the control buttons onto the switches below.

The problem is easy enough to avoid. Don't open the door in rain without covering up, and don't press any buttons with wet fingers.

If you have moisture in the control panel, don't try to continue using it. Take the camera to a warm dry environment, open the door and lay the camera on it's back; and if possible, place it on the top of, or near a radiator. Make sure the radiator isn't so hot that it will damage the camera and if you have bags of desiccant, place them over and under the open door. Leave the camera like this for as long as possible up to a week and it should be OK.

If the problem persists, the only thing for it will be to remove the control panel cover so that the water can evaporate more effectively. This is a delicate job and care should be taken to avoid losing any bits, or causing any damage that would invalidate your warranty.

Make sure to remove all the battery cells before you do any of the above.

It's also important to realise that these cameras are an almost sealed box when the bottom door is closed; which means that any moisture trapped inside the case will alternately condense and evaporate with changing external temperatures. 

This will for example, manifest itself by fogging the lens when the ambient temperature rises after a cold night.

When attempting to dry out a camera, always have the bottom door open; and in extreme circumstances the case front may have to be removed to allow moisture to evaporate.

Pine Marten v Wood Mouse

Pine Marten
After returning from my trip south, I've been collating and analysing results from the test cameras.

The image on the left (750 x 820 pixels) is cropped from a jpg file (2560 x 1920 pixels)  taken on an Acorn 5210A

The rather amusing video composite below is from the Bushnell and was taken prior to the trip, but I didn't get time to put it together before leaving.

I have no idea if the Mouse survived but others have been seen since.

Today I'm relocating some of the survey cameras and checking others for any results. before continuing with the review.

More in a couple of days.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Pine Martens Mating

I'm going to be away for a week, so this will be my last post until I return.

This video is a composite of three short clips from the Ltl Acorn 6210MC which I have on test, along side the Bushnell black flash camera trap.

The Acorn is mounted just above the Bushnell and the sudden increase in IR light level is caused by the Bushnell switching on. These cameras produce approximately the same amount of illumination, so this is a good example of the gain when doubling the amount of light source. The trees in the distance are about 45 feet (15 meters) from the cameras.

I don't know if I'm imagining this, but at the second light increase during copulation, both animals momentarily froze as if they were reacting to it. These trail cameras are both black flash so this has got to be a coincidence, hasn't it?. It did make me wonder though.

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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.