The life of a feeder box

Original Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer for North East Scotland

Many of you will be familiar with the simple (but effective) feeder boxes we use for our surveys of red and grey squirrels – but did you know how they are made? Project Officer for North East Scotland, Steve Willis, explains all.


Many of you will be familiar with the simple (but effective) feeder boxes we use for our surveys of red and grey squirrels. Up in Aberdeenshire, we work closely with a fantastic social enterprise to make them. Below is the story of how some waste wood ends up coming back to life.

Wood Recyclability Ltd was established in 1997 to offer adults with learning difficulties (trainees) a meaningful, realistic workplace environment as an alternative to Day Care Centres. Our workshop training programme takes our trainees through separation and de-nailing of recycled timber, use of hand and power tools and the construction of a wide range of garden furniture and wildlife products.

Wood Recyclability trainees (c) Wood Recyclability Ltd
The fantastic trainees from Wood Recyclability Ltd with a number of their red squirrel feeder boxes. Photograph: Wood Recyclability Ltd.


We have worked with Wood Recyclability for many years now and over that time we have tweaked the feeder boxes to their current design. So, starting with some wood that would otherwise be destined for landfill, it goes to their workshop in Pitmedden.

It all gets sorted and separated, then the hard-working trainees set about making whatever they can from it – whether it’s a garden chair, a bird table, or a squirrel feeder box. Once all the boxes are made up we go and collect them and then they are distributed far and wide to either our own team or our small army of volunteers across the north east.

Each spring, these feeder boxes are baited with tempting treats and left in the woods. Inside the lid of the box is a small sticky pad, which takes hairs from any visiting squirrels. We look at these hair samples later and it then informs our work through the rest of the year.

All nice and simple – at very small financial costs – but with huge benefits to us, the squirrels, and the good folks of Wood Recyclability.

A completed feeder box (c) Steve Willis
A completed red squirrel feeder box out in the wild. Photograph: Steve Willis.


Steve Willis joined Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels as Project Officer for North East Scotland in 2012; however, he has been involved in red squirrel conservation in the north east (and elsewhere) since 2002. Click here for more information on our project team.
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