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Learn what you need to do in order to photograph red squirrels in the wild.
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Our native red squirrel has declined in numbers dramatically since the 1940’s. The last remaining stronghold were in the forest of Wales and Scotland. So today, here I am in this forest of Scots Pine, the favored habitat of the red squirrel, our native squirrel. And what we’re going to try and do is entice the squirrels in using bait in the form of whole hazel nuts. We’re gonna put the bait along the length of this Scot’s pine log, we’re gonna put the hazel nuts at various positions along the log and hopefully the squirrels will come on, jump up on to the log and we can photograph them from this hide. We’ve been putting out food for the red squirrels in this forest for 5 or 6 years now, almost every day. So they become very used to the routine of being fed. And we’ve introduced into this forest clearing this semi-permanent wooden hide, two man hide. Using this set up, it allows us to photograph the squirrels behaving entirely naturally in a natural setting. We’re using hazel nuts to entice the squirrels in. Hazel nuts are a natural food source of the red squirrels. What we’re going to do before we actually get in the hide is to partially crack these hazel nuts. Now the reason for this, there’s a little bit of a suck it and see policy is to try and encourage the red squirrels to eat the nut on site rather to ran off with it and bury it somewhere in the forest. Today, in terms of equipment, I’m using a 70 to 200 zoom lens, the reason for that is that, hopefully the squirrel is gonna come at various points along this log to the bait that I put out. And the idea of the zoom lens is it gives me the flexibility to frame the squirrel with varying amounts of backgrounds within the shot. So that’s the idea of the zoom lens. We’re gonna use a bean bag to keep the camera nice and stable. More stable than a tripod where you can't use it. So camera on the beanbag, the log is the main area of focus and we’ll take it from there. It’s a fairly over cast day today, and we’re here in the middle of a fairly densed forest, and we need to try and achieve as fast as shutter speed as we can. Because although, hopefully, the squirrel will be sat still somewhere along this log. But chances are he will be eating a hazelnut, so the face and the mouth parts will be moving almost constantly. To achieve a fast enough shutter speed, we need to consider having a very wide aperture. The widest aperture on my lens is F2.8. We may use that or just come in one stop to F4. You may also need to consider increasing the ISO setting from a standard, maybe ISO 200 to 400, maybe even 640. So a combination of those two factors will hopefully give us a shutter speed of round about a 250th of a second which should be enough to stop the movement in the squirrels head. Here he comes. Here he comes. He’s up on the log, he’s in the feeder. Okay, we’ve actually got a squirrel on the roof of the hide at the moment. He jumped down onto the forest floor, and seems skimping across the forest floor. Okay, he’s gonna come up onto the log, here he comes. Here he comes. Red squirrels in Britain have endured a historical rollercoaster of fortunes. It wasn’t very long ago, when they were considered very much a pest, almost vermin and a bounty paid on their tails. Today, they’ve become a conservation high priority species. I’m very lucky living here in northern Scotland and having the last remaining red squirrel stronghold in this pine forest. It’s taken me probably about four years, four or five years to gain the trust of the squirrels in this forest. And now, they’re very accustomed to the feeding regime that we’ve established here and pretty much come and go at ease.