Gala Men’s Shed, part of the Men’s Shed network across Scotland, put their impressive array of tools and woodworking skills to good use in aid of red squirrel conservation.
A small team of Shed members made a whopping 83 feeder boxes for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels’ annual squirrel survey. Saws and screws at the ready, they turned all the wood into feeder boxes in only 2 days!
The squirrel survey is carried out each spring during March and April. It’s a huge undertaking, only possible with the efforts of volunteers. There are 115 survey sites across south Scotland, and each survey site needs four feeder boxes. Feeder boxes are cleaned and re-used most of the time, but we still need to replace around 20% each year as they get chewed to bits by hungry squirrels. Each feeder box has a bit of sticky Velcro on the lid of the box, so when a squirrel opens the box to get to the food, it leaves a sample of hair on the sticky pad. These hair samples are then analysed under a microscope to determine which species of squirrels are in the area. All this information allows us to track long-term changes in squirrel distribution. It doesn’t give us any idea of how many squirrels are in an area, just which species of squirrel is found there.
Without the hard work of the gents of Gala Men’s Shed, our annual spring survey would be much harder to organise. And it’s not just Gala Men’s Shed that is getting in on the action. Dalbeattie Men’s Shed made another 50 boxes for use across Dumfries & Galloway, and Hawick Men’s Shed have been making feeder boxes for their local volunteer network, Teviot & Borthwick Red Squirrel Network, to help them with their monitoring work. The newly formed volunteer network is running additional monitoring in conjunction with the spring survey to get a closer idea of what’s going on in their area to the south and west of Hawick. Grey squirrels have been spreading down the river valleys towards Craik forest and the excellent population of red squirrels that live there. The new network aims to prevent this spread and maintain red squirrels throughout the area.
We’re also grateful to Just Cycle in Tweedbank for supplying bicycle inner tubes for the feeder box hinges. Who would have thought that a flat tyre could be repurposed to help one of Scotland’s most iconic species!