Red squirrel shares tree with ring-necked parakeets


This 20 January 2020 video shows a red squirrel sharing a tree with a ring-necked parakeet couple.

Jacob Knijpers made this video in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Top 5 Animal Superpowers


This 18 January 2020 video says about itself:

Top 5 Animal Superpowers! | BBC Earth

How can a dragonfly see in slow-motion, or a giant rat‘s super sense of smell detect tuberculosis? We’ve pulled some of the most incredible animal abilities from the BBC Archive for our latest compilation.

Pine marten help Northern Irish red squirrels


This August 2006 video says about itself:

Native pine martens seen in the forest near to Aspenwood Holiday Cottage overlooking Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. For more information on the cottage and wildlife in the area visit www lochnesscottage.com.

From the British Ecological Society:

Northern Ireland’s recovering pine marten population benefits red squirrels

But the urban red squirrel poses a problem

December 13, 2019

The recovery of pine marten in Ireland and Britain is reversing native red squirrel replacement by invasive grey squirrels, according to new research presented at the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting in Belfast today.

Researchers at Queens University, Belfast and National Museums Northern Ireland have found red squirrels are responding positively to the increased presence of pine martens across Northern Ireland. So, where pine martens occur, it increases the chances of red squirrels occurring, simultaneously reducing the likelihood of grey squirrels being present.

Historically, persecution of pine marten and loss of their preferred habitat led to severe declines across Ireland and Britain. In Northern Ireland, small, remnant populations were all that remained, but today, the species is recovering, and this comeback may help ensure the long-term future of the red squirrel in Ireland.

Joshua Twining, who will be presenting the research at the conference, commented: “the red squirrels’ ‘positive response’ is likely due to grey squirrel disappearance rather than red squirrels and pine martens working together.” Pine martens eat both red and grey squirrels, though the key difference is that red squirrels have evolved alongside pine martens over millennia, making them able to coexist.

Twining said, “The ability of the pine marten to control the grey squirrel and help red squirrel recovery in Ireland and Britain is limited by three things; its ongoing recovery, the lack of forest cover on the island and the presence of urban areas. Twining and co-authors suggest that grey squirrels will persist in the latter as results show pine marten are forest specialists and avoid urban areas.

Although the red squirrel population is increasing in Northern Ireland, the researchers warn that “unless the issue of control within populated areas is addressed, we risk creating a situation where marten-savvy grey squirrels could recolonise the wider landscape in the future.”

Consequently, as the pine marten “does not occupy urban areas anywhere within its European range, it is not likely to be the sole solution to the invasive grey squirrel” said Twining.

If pine marten are to extend their positive impact on red squirrels, issues impeding pine marten recovery need to be addressed. At present, Ireland and Britain are among the least forested countries in Europe with only 11% and 13% of forest cover respectively. The pine martens’ sphere of influence is limited to its forested havens. Increasing forest cover would lead to concurrent increases in the pine marten’s ability to control grey squirrels and aid in recovery of the red squirrels.

Recovery of the pine marten could be further compounded by the potential of illegal persecution by a human population not used to its presence. Conflict could occur when pine martens predate on poultry or den in attics for example. Pine martens are still at the early stages of recovery, and human persecution remains the greatest threat to the species.

The researchers used presence-absence data to calculate the likelihood of a species occurring in a location. To collect the data, citizen scientists deployed a camera trap at sites with a minimum of 5 ha forest cover for one week at randomly selected locations. The study used data from 332 sites across Northern Ireland covering all sizes and shapes of woodlands from inner-city Belfast to the Mournes, from the Glens of Antrim in the north to the Ring of Gullion in the south.

Multi-species models were used to estimate the probability of occupancy of arboreal mammals including the grey squirrels, red squirrels and pine martens throughout Northern Ireland. These models consider the effects of the interactions between species and their habitats. They combine information on the occurrence of an animal from the camera trap records with local habitat and environmental data accounting for imperfect detection.

Squirrels listen to birds for safety


This 2013 video from the USA is called An Eastern Gray Squirrel eating birdseed.

From PLOS:

Squirrels listen in to birds’ conversations as signal of safety

Hearing casual chatter of birds after predator call reassures squirrels to come off high alert

September 4, 2019

Grey squirrels eavesdrop on the chatter between nearby songbirds as a sign of safety. Birds chatter when they feel safe to communicate the absence of danger or share their location. This “chatter” from multiple bird species could therefore be a useful cue to other creatures that there is no imminent threat.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers observed the behavior of 54 wild Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in public parks and residential areas in Ohio in response to threat, which they simulated by playing back a recording of the call of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a common predator of both squirrels and small birds. They followed the predator’s call with a playback of either multi-species songbird bird chatter or ambient sounds lacking bird calls and monitored the behavior of each squirrel for 3 minutes.

The researchers found that all squirrels showed an increase in predator vigilance behaviors, such as freezing, looking up, or fleeing, after they heard the hawk’s call. However, squirrels that were played bird chatter afterwards performed fewer vigilance behaviors and returned to normal levels of watchfulness more quickly than squirrels that did not hear bird calls after the hawk’s call. This suggests that the squirrels are able to tap into the casual chatter of many bird species as an indicator of safety, allowing them to quickly return to getting on with normal behaviors like foraging rather than remaining on high alert after a threat has passed.

The authors add: “We knew that squirrels eavesdropped on the alarm calls of some bird species, but we were excited to find that they also eavesdrop on non-alarm sounds that indicate the birds feel relatively safe. Perhaps in some circumstances, cues of safety could be as important as cues of danger.”

Beavers, crucial for biodiversity, against flooding


This 20214 BBC TV video from Britain says about itself:

Beavers Help Prevent Flooding

Beaver & rewilding have the answer to the UK’s flooding prover who.

As rivers across the UK are bursting their banks, another media storm has broken over who is responsible. Many farmers have come out attacking the lack of drainage and flood defences along rivers. But river scientists and ecological experts are pointing out that there is a deeper problem in our river catchments, which means putting in flood defence and dredging rivers could end up in catastrophic flooding further downstream, and a tragedy could unfold that could threaten human life.

Changes in farming and land use now means there is little flood plain left along our rivers, so there is nowhere for the water to go, this combined with a massive increase of drainage of farmland in river catchments means water now gushes off land into the rivers.

One of the best and cheapest answers is to reintroduce natural wetland species such as European beaver and wild horses to the UK and allow the natural restoration of nature’s own flood defences like the initiatives currently run by the Wildwood Trust near Canterbury.

The wetlands of Britain used to act as a giant sponge, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into our rivers, protecting us from catastrophic flooding.

In recent times we have spent an increasing amount of money to destroy our wetlands, to build and maintain a massive system of drains at the taxpayer’s expense. The cruel irony is that ‘flood defences’ only make the problem worse further down the river. Planning has also encouraged the building of more and more housing on flood plains which then, in turn, need to be defended from inevitable flooding.

Successive governments have channeled hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year into agricultural subsidies and ‘drainage’ works that are directly responsible for the catastrophic flooding seen over the last few weeks.

Wildwood’s five point plan to save the taxpayer money and prevent catastrophic flooding in our towns & villages:

1. Rewild marginal farmland, uplands and floodplain. Just as many European countries have seen catastrophic flooding they have rewilded areas that act a giant sponges soaking up flood waters

2. Stop agricultural subsidy of marginal farmland so it can be returned to the wild & save the taxpayer billions of pounds

3. Return beavers and use natural wetland managers like wild horses to maintain our wetlands at no cost to taxpayers

4. Create natural wetland networks in urban areas to act as flood stores

5. Shift taxes off of earned incomes and onto land values and natural resources to make it economically feasible to revert marginal farmland back to natural areas.

Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said:

Along the Rhine in the Netherlands and Germany they have already addressed this issue by re-creating wetlands, while at the same time providing safety for homes and communities.”

“It took the death of school children in a catastrophic flood event to shock the Dutch authorities to really tackle flooding on the Rhine; one of their answers was to stop farming on flood plain and to create a giant natural wetland, managed by wild horses, to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

“When will Britain wake up and see that we need to tackle the root cause of the flooding problem and stop the squabbling by selfish vested interests only interested in getting the benefit of ever more taxpayers’ money or campaigning for flood waters to be rushed on further downstream to flood someone else’s house.”

“We have created a perverse system of agricultural subsidies and drainage systems that guarantee we will see flooding getting worse, and that system is using taxpayers’ money to destroy wildlife and the wild places that have been our natural flood defence system.”

“With no wetlands, trees or undeveloped flood plains to stop this water, it rushes off fields into drainage systems, maintained at the taxpayers’ expense, and is funnelled into rivers where it creates the devastating problems witnessed this winter.”

“We must stop wasting money on drainage schemes, agricultural subsidies and building in flood plains but rather spend, far less, taxpayers’ money on re-establishing natural wetlands.”

“This can be achieved for a fraction of cost that taxpayers are already incurring, save us billions in the future and will create a carbon sink to help neutralise climate change and give our future generations a natural heritage to be proud of.”

From the University of Stirling in Scotland:

Beaver reintroduction key to solving freshwater biodiversity crisis

August 26, 2019

Reintroducing beavers to their native habitat is an important step towards solving the freshwater biodiversity crisis, according to experts at the University of Stirling.

New research from the Faculty of Natural Sciences has provided further support to previous work that has shown beavers have an important impact on the variety of plant and animal life.

The latest study, led by Dr Alan Law and Professor Nigel Willby, found that the number of species only found in beaver-built ponds was 50 percent higher than other wetlands in the same region.

Dr Law, Lecturer in Biological and Environmental Sciences, said: “Beavers make ponds that, at first glance, are not much different from any other pond. However, we found that the biodiversity — predominantly water plants and beetles — in beaver ponds was greater than and surprisingly different from that found in other wetlands in the same region.

“Our results also emphasise the importance of natural disturbance by big herbivores — in this case, tree felling, grazing and digging of canals by beavers — in creating habitat for species which otherwise tend to be lost.

“Reintroducing beavers where they were once native should benefit wider biodiversity and should be seen as an important and bold step towards solving the freshwater biodiversity crisis.”

Beavers are one of the only animals that can profoundly engineer the environment that they live in — using sticks to build dams across small rivers, behind which ponds form. Beavers do this to raise water levels to avoid predators, such as wolves and bears: however, numerous other plants and animals also benefit from their work.

The research team surveyed water plants and beetles in 20 wetlands in a small area of southern Sweden — 10 created by beavers and 10 that were not — to understand whether beavers might provide a solution to the current biodiversity crisis by creating novel habitats.

Professor Willby added: “The loss of large mammals from modern landscapes is a global conservation concern. These animals are important in their own right, but our research emphasises the added biodiversity benefits that go with them.

“We are best reminded of this effect when large herbivores, such as beavers, are reintroduced to places where they have been lost.”

This research follows the team’s 2018 study that found that 33 percent more plant species and 26 percent more beetles were living in wetlands created by beavers, compared to those that were not. Another previous study, from 2017, showed that — over a period of 12 years — local plant richness in a Tayside wetland rose by 46 percent following the introduction of beavers. They created 195 metres of dams, 500 metres of canals and a hectare of ponds.