Sunday, 22 December 2013

A red squirrel's tail

Here's a tale about a red squirrels tail.
Introducing Stumpy the red squirrel
I am very lucky to have red squirrels visit my garden on a regular basis along with many wild birds, voles, mice and some other less desirable wildlife.  I spend many an hour watching out of my window and have placed feeders in strategic places, where I can see them but the wildlife feels safe to visit - and is also safe from predators such as cats and more exotic hunters such as the sparrow hawk.

Stumpy's tail
Mr Blacks tail
Like a lot of people I give some of my visitors nick names.  I cannot understand why this is frowned upon, arguments being that 'we' are projecting human personalities and traits upon wild creatures or become too involved and attached.  Well I disagree and find it a really useful tool to help me identify different members of the same group and also invest into their welfare.
Stumpy in the box
A full sized tail 

So let me introduce Stumpy.  Now you may notice that it is not a flattering name albeit apt, and that tends to be the nature of how I name my wildlife.  Well that's apart from Scary Fred, the 8 legged beast that occasionally visits my living room, and I know is likely to be female (because of her size) but I digress.
Lack of a tail does not seem to affect Stumpy balance
So Stumpy is one of a group of 4 red squirrels that visit daily, especially at this time of year.  Stumpy is at least 3 years old as this is the 3rd winter of visiting my feeder and he is very easy to identify due to his stumpy tail.  The first time I spotted him I did not have a feeder in place and as he never stayed still or in full sight I was not sure about his tail, but the last couple of years he has sat happily on the table giving me ample opportunity to compare his tail with that of Mr Black, and Red - two of my other regulars. The fourth squirrel, Flash, named for the very bright white flash on his front and the speed he moves is a less frequent visitor and rarely sits on the feeder.
Stumpy defends the feeding box
Stumpy's tail does not seem to impair his ability to survive or move in the trees.  Tails are primarily used for balance but they are also used to keep warm in winter by wrapping them around the body when sleeping and also in summer to keep cool, as the squirrel pumps more blood into the tail to help dissipate heat.  Neither does it make him subservient to the other squirrels and he defends the table should another visit at the same time.

Meet some of my other 'named' visitors....

Fat Controller
Mr White
The love birds
All photo's copyrite of Arran in Focus

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Chipperfields Circus comes to Arran

Aerial Silks high in the big top
It's not everyday that a circus comes to town, and for Lamlash on the Isle of Arran I think this was a first. Organised by the Glenisle Hotel as part of the fabulous 4th Santa's Sparkle event the Chipperfields Circus was the highlight of Sunday.
Aerial hoop
The circus dates back to around 1650, when it was the norm to have performing animals - often of a rare and exotic nature.  Nowadays all the acts are human, even if they seem to be able to perform inhuman feats of contortion and defeat gravity.
Balancing on some rather shaky rods
The first, and for me, most impressive act was that of aerial silks.  Climbing high into the big top the artist performed, climbs, drops and poses, all without a safety rope or net.
Hoola hoop Charleston style
This was followed by a duo performing some amazing balancing whilst raised off the ground, a hoola hoop act, juggling and aerial hoop display.
The clown and his tame tiger!
And of course not forgetting the clown who had his own special animal act.
Plate spinning in the circus skills workshop
At the end all of the children (and some adults) had a go at various circus skills in a mini workshop.
The Chipperfield circus still tours internationally and is probably the most famous in the world.
Photographs copyright Arran in Focus