Scotland’s wildlife is often pretty elusive. Guidebooks and interpretive boards offer a glossy catalogue of what may be spotted but there is never any guarantee the creatures highlighted will actually put in an appearance.
One of the best places to spot red squirrels is at Morton Lochs, a wildlife reserve on the western fringe of Tentsmuir Forest, Fife, where there is a hide dedicated to these fascinating little mammals.
There are three lochs – Morton Loch North, Morton Loch South and a slimmer, less accessible finger of water, located to the west. All three were created in 1906 as private fisheries by the Christie family, who owned the land.
The squirrel hide lies just off the car park access track close to where it cuts between the north and south lochs.
Approaching the hide, I bumped into a couple of folk brandishing cameras with unfeasible long lenses. Without a word, they pointed towards the branches of a slender Scots Pine where a red squirrel sat. It was but a few metres away, undeterred by its audience.
The reason quickly became apparent as it scampered down to a feeding point loaded with nuts and seeds. Food outweighed fear. Darting past blue tits and chaffinches, it snatched a nut in its mouth, scuttled back up the tree, launched itself from one trunk to another and disappeared into the canopy. It was a wonderful sight and over the course of the next half an hour or so the wee creature captivated me with its antics. I could happily have spent all day there.