Wobbling my way along a quiet lane near Wooler in North Northumberland yesterday, I was gently bonked on the head.
We are very fortunate in Northumberland to still have the red squirrel though the inexorable northward march of the grey keeps it under threat. Where I work in Co Durham to the south, the reds have long gone. Greys are commonplace so I know that if this had been a grey I would not have had to wait 10 minutes before it made itself known.
Many people hate grey squirrels but actually they are fascinating to watch and wonderfully inventive. I take my squirrel fur hat off to them. I have a bird feeder outside my first floor window at work and greys regularly appear on the external window sill looking in at me. They just shin up the brick wall and chew the feeders to bits. If I disturb them they just jump off, land on the grass and lollop off waving metaphorical double digits. As a survival machine they've got what it takes. But I'm sorry, American readers, reds have cute factor 10, and being our native squirrel, yours has no chance in the popularity stakes round here.
Sometimes I have thought that the fate of the red squirrel is sealed, that we might as well stop trying to kid ourselves otherwise and give up trying to protect them against the tide of greys. However, you only have to see one like this to realise that the effort is well worth while. Even if it is only postponing the inevitable, let's stick with it as every encounter with this marvellous animal is a priceless bonus.