I’ve been blessed and cursed with an over active imagination from the moment my eyes began interpreting their immediate and wider surroundings.

So when I awoke at midnight with what felt like crochet needles being probed into my ear drums and a jaw that felt like it was trying to detach itself from my face; needless to say that wild imagination rocketed through a safari of grim possibilities and outcomes.

Fast forward two packs of own-brand painkillers and 6000mg of antibiotics and the infection still lingers, though less ferocious (until I blow my nose, which heralds the return of those crochet needles with a vengeance).

Now the pain is largely numbed, as is my capacity to hear. I resemble someone twice my age, asking my family to repeat their requests thrice and listening to the radio at the volume of a roofer.

Truth be told, I’m feeling a little sorry for myself. But I might just have the tonic. Some photos taken in September of red squirrels that reside near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. The photos, like most I’ve taken this year, lie dormant on an external hard drive and still need editing. If staring at these skittish, wide eyed creatures for a couple of hours won’t cheer me up nothing will!

Red Squirrel standing, Hawes, Yorkshire Dales

The red squirrels of Snaizeholme were reportedly drawn to the area around 40 years ago by a Christmas tree plantation, run by the Kemp family at Mirk Pot Farm.

Today, walkers are rewarded with a viewing area built especially for these enchanting mammals. Red squirrels have always been captivating, partly because of their scarcity. In England they only seem to exist in small pockets across the country. Luckily for them though, they have a lot of fans rooting for their success.

They grey squirrel is widely attributed to being a key contributor to the reds decline. Interestingly, research from Queens University Belfast  indicates that the European pine marten predates significantly higher numbers of grey squirrels than red (in areas where both are present). Furthermore in recent years this once extinct from England mustelid has been spotted making tracks into the country for the first time in over 100 years. The most recent marten media mania was this year, with another camera trap image of a pine marten in a London woodlands!

Of course, there has a never been success story for a perceived predator that didn’t spark some air of controversy or caution. The marten’s success in Scotland has led to concern from some quarters about the demise of the iconic and magnificent capercaillie. My feelings on this (for now at least), probably fall inline with those expressed by Peter Cairns on the most excellent Scotland Big Picture website .

It serves as an important reminder that no conservation action is without a migraine inducing  network of issues and potential conflict of interests. But for now, my ear induced headaches are enough to deal with, so for now, I think I’ll just stare into those deep inky eyes that have scurried around our forests for around 10,000 years.

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