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Serenading the Squirrel


The winner of Newcastle University’s Red Squirrel film project has discovered our native Reds have an unlikely passion for the harmonica.

Ernie Gordon, from Alnwick, Northumberland, was delighted when he captured a Red Squirrel on film sitting and listening to a whole song before bounding away.

The clip has been chosen as winner of a joint project between Newcastle University and Red Squirrels Northern England.

“I'm absolutely delighted to have been judged the winner of the Red Squirrel Film competition,” says Ernie. “Really chuffed sums it up nicely.”

Inviting budding film-makers to take part in a project designed to celebrate one of the UK’s most iconic native species, the team have collected photographs, poetry, video footage and film to create a documentary.

All entries are being showcased this week at the British Science Festival in Newcastle.
Project lead David Green, a PhD student in Computing Science at Newcastle University, said: “The response has been fantastic and we have received entries from Merseyside, Tyneside, Yorkshire and Northumberland.

"The judges were impressed not only by the technical quality, but by some of the fascinating stories emerging from the various kinds of entries; from a video about an injured red squirrel with a broken pelvis, to photographs of a very old red squirrel with cataracts, a song about red squirrel conservation, to a red squirrel caught in the act of burgling one entrant’s bins.

"We're really looking forward to the next stage of the project, in which we will bring all of the submissions together and, along with anyone else who would like to be involved, try and shape the different stories into a short film which will highlight not only the threats facing red squirrels, but also some of the great work being done by communities and individuals in the North of England to try and help protect them."

Sciurus vulgaris – the red squirrel - is the only species of squirrel native to England, arriving here 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.  But since the introduction of the grey squirrel from North America in 1876, the population has been in rapid decline, falling from a onetime high of around 3.5 million to a current population size of just 15,000 in England.

Work is underway to protect the remaining populations, which are largely clustered around the North of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Red squirrels are mainly dispersed in England throughout the north with Kielder Forest, in Northumberland, supporting around 60% of the total population.

Entries were judged by Dr Phil Gates from BBC Wildlife Magazine and Northumberland-based award-winning young photographer Will Nicholls.


published on: 9 September 2013