11 a.m, forest track, valley of the Green Field Beck, Langstrothdale . My first thoughts are red squirrel when we glimpse an animal dashing up the bank into the conifer plantation but a few minutes later it runs across the track fifty yards further on and follows the line of a wall before disappearing into the plantation again.
It wasn’t bounding in a sinuous way as I’d expect from squirrel nor did it climb the nearest tree when it saw us coming. Barbara and I both got the impression that it had a bushy tail and neither of us spotted the black-tipped tail that would have identified it as a stoat (there is a reddish form of stoat).
It appeared larger than a stoat anyway, about eighteen inches long. The Green Field valley is a stronghold of the red squirrel but because of this individual’s un-squirrel-like movements and behaviour, I wondered if it could have been a pine marten that had made its way into the valley. It didn’t , as far as we could see, have the face-markings of a polecat, but a polecat doesn’t have a bushy tail.
Since I wrote this, we met Simon Phillpot, wildlife photographer, in the riverside hide at Nethergill and he tells us that the red squirrel’s method of travelling across open country from one plantation to another is to follow a wall, which is exactly what this one was doing as it made its way around a recently cleared section of the plantation.
There are no reports of pine martens in the area so that must be what it was; the first red squirrel that I’ve seen in Yorkshire in 30, more like 40, years.
The red squirrels that I’ve been used to seeing on Speyside all have blond tails, which makes them unmistakable.
Link; Simon Phillpot’s Wild Dales Photography