Sounds like a match between two American football teams doesn’t it? But no, only one was American. It was a real life battle played out between Wildwood’s resident wild crows and a non-native grey squirrel that strayed too close to their nest.
Both species are well-known egg-thieves. Corvids, that is to say crows and their relatives – such as jays, magpies and jackdaws – are the bane of any birds nesting in their neighbourhood. They will actively hunt along hedgerows, seeking out nests, and parent birds must be on their guard and prepared, sometimes to valiantly defend their nest. Corvids also will watch and observe their neighbours’ comings and goings to suss out the nest location and to burgle whilst they are out. That includes their own kind.
It might seem surprising for a mammal renowned for eating nuts and berries, but squirrels will eat eggs and chicks if the opportunity arises. In this case the grey squirrel either foolishly, or unwittingly entered the crows’ defended territory. Dave Butcher our resident photographer witnessed the event and captured the drama on camera. Clearly the invader was outmatched, outnumbered, outgunned.
Squirrels are superbly adapted for moving swiftly through the trees. When they leap they fluff their tail, creating drag that keeps them on course like the flights of an arrow. Double-jointed, more-or-less reversible ankles mean that they can run down a tree trunk as well as up. They are sure-footed but not infallible. This one fell – perhaps seven metres (around 21 feet!) into the Arctic Fox enclosure.
The story has a happy ending, though. The squirrel dusted itself off and clambered quickly away, uninjured, but having learned a stern life-lesson.
Wildwood’s captive collection is a fascinating selection of British wildlife, including rare, endangered and extinct species in a semi-natural ancient woodland setting. Our location also means that there is a wealth of opportunity for observing nature outside the enclosures as well. Even more reasons for nature lovers to pay us a visit.