Yes, I know it’s a grey squirrel, and they’re non-native, and a pest because they’ve crowded out our native red squirrel in most parts of the UK, and given the red a disease with which it can’t cope. And I know that some people think they should be killed on sight.
But baby things….
I almost tripped over it, walking between the metal bridges at the lake at Croome, while chimping at the back of my camera: it was sitting on the path, not moving, and at first I thought it must be sick or injured. But it turned out to be fine, if a bit dozy. When the thought that I might be a predator finally entered its baby brain, it scampered across to the bank of the stream and then just sat there amid the buttercups and clover, while I wandered over to photograph it. I think the raised tail here is an attempt at baby fierceness, which is just too sweet for words.
Having rattled off a few shots, I left it to play with its siblings and proceeded on my dragon quest, which wasn’t going especially well at the time. There were plenty of damsels about, but the dragons apparently didn’t think that it was quite warm enough for flying, and they were hunkered down in their roosts. Just as I was thinking of giving up, first one and then a second female appeared, zoomed round the lake grabbing themselves some lunch, deposited a batch of eggs each, and departed as quickly as they’d arrived.
I could see that the first ovipositor was the wrong shape for a Broad-bodied or a Four-spot Chaser (which was what I’d been expecting to see), but it was only when I enlarged my record shots and examined them that I realised that she was an Emperor – surprisingly, as this was my first sighting of an Emperor anywhere this season. The second one, which was even further away from me, was the right colour for a female Chaser, and was ovipositing in the right way, flying over the lake and dipping the end of her abdomen quickly and repeatedly into the water as she went – but again, I was surprised when I looked at my photos to discover that she was in fact a Black-tailed Skimmer. It’s a little frustrating that my last two trips to Croome have produced no good dragon photos, yet the dragon season is clearly proceeding apace while I’m failing to memorialise it – but that’s nature for you.
On my final circuit of the lake I happened across Baby Squirrel again, in about the same place, but this time soaking wet, having apparently either fallen or been pushed into the stream. Not yet fit to be out without a minder, it would seem.