One of the many outdoor attractions at CLC Duchally Country Estate, besides the natural beauty of the Perthshire countryside, is the forestry wildlife, and one species in particular gets a lot of attention.
While the rest of the UK makes do with the common grey version, this area of Scotland is still a bastion for its smaller, but endangered red cousin. The creature is, of course, the red squirrel.
Firmly ensconced in the hearts and minds of certain older generations, thanks to Enid Blyton’s mischievous Squirrel Nutkin, the red is now hanging on precariously. Whereas the UK population of the grey is put at more than 2.5 million, the red is now thought to number less than 150,000.
Isolated parts of northern of England, Ireland and northern Scotland provide the last strongholds for the red. Its larger cousin is not native to the UK: it was brought into the country from North America by the Victorians.
Besides being bigger it also carries the squirrel pox virus which is fatal to the red. The head of Red Squirrels United, a group which brings together more than 30 organisations working to conserve it, estimates that without help it could be extinct in the UK in less than 35 years.
This has led to the culling of grey squirrels in some areas, which although unpopular, is seen as the only way to help the red. Researchers know that an area cleared of greys will be repopulated by reds as long as the grey can be kept out.
Two other factors, besides disease, can account for the prevalence of the grey: it can eat acorns but, contrary to popular opinion, the red cannot. The second factor is its bad memory! The red squirrel survives by searchingout food and storing it in caches, such as trees, to be eaten later when the weather is cold and the pickings are slim.
Warm up at Duchally
But scientists have discovered that the part of its memory responsible for recording the information about where these caches are, is poorer than that of the grey. In effect, the red squirrel can forget where it’s put its food! Watching squirrels at work or play is its own reward if they are fairly used to seeing humans.
But it can be a cold endeavour. To warm yourself up after a day spent in the great outdoors, CLC Duchally Country Estate has just the answer: more than 50 varieties of Scotland’s national drink which you can sample in the Whisky Bar!