As the name suggests red squirrels have furry coats of a reddish brown with a darker tint on the back, in winter this coat is moulted to produce a warmer chocolate brown and grey colouration with the fur surrounding their ears becoming more erect in appearance during their second moult which easily distinguishes them from the grey squirrel species. They are not a very vocal species but will make chattering calls and stamp or flick their tails to give a distinctive chucking sound on wood and ground surfaces. They have excellent eyesight with a wide angle of vision and a sharp focus which allows for rapid movement within the tree canopy while foraging. Adults can grow up to 25cm in length with a long bushy tail equal to the length of the head and body combined. Adult male and female red squirrels are similar in size weighing up to 400 grams each but can vary in weight by up to 10 % at certain times of the year depending on the seasonal availability of food. The fore feet leave a four toed footprint while the larger hind feet have five toes and measure up to 6cm in length. The red squirrel is smaller in size and build to the grey squirrel but is more agile in the tree canopy as a result. Squirrels use their large bushy tails as a balance aid while climbing making them perhaps the most agile mammal in Ireland.
Credit: Conservation Ireland
There are two species of squirrel in Ireland, the red squirrel and the grey squirrel. The red squirrel is native but is undergoing a steady decline across the country. This is largely due to competition from the introduced grey squirrel, which came to Ireland from North America in 1911. This pattern has been observed over much of Dublin and red squirrels are now confined to just a few locations. The presence of the grey squirrel is a continuous threat to their survival.
The remaining red squirrel populations in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown are confined to just two areas. A small population remains in Killiney Hill Park and a larger population persists in coniferous plantations in the Dublin Mountains (including Carrickgollogan, Barnaslingan, Balledmonduff, Ticknock, Kilmashogue and Tibradden).
Marsh Fritillary Butterfly
The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly is one of Ireland’s few legally protected Butterflies. It is protected under Annex II of the European Union Habitats and Species Directive.
They have an orange and cream square pattern on their wings and can be identified by their distinctive cream bands on their underwing.
They are threatened throughout Ireland but can be found across Europe and as far east as Asia, their numbers have been declining steadily throughout the world over the past few decades due mainly to habitat loss as land is being changed and improved for agriculture and forestry.
The Marsh Fritillary butterfly is found in wet or marshy areas hence its name, the adult butterflies fly from May to June and can be effected by the weather during bad years with a late summer they can take longer to develop and may not fly until a few weeks later.
They rely on Devil’s Bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis, for their lifecycle. It is a blue flowering plant with broad leaves and it is vital to the survival of the marsh fritillary. This plant can grow in a variety of habitats but with agricultural intensification and traditional farming practices declining they are not as abundant as they once were.
The mature adults lay their eggs under the leaves of the plant in large numbers the larvae or caterpillars hatch from them roughly 30 days later in early to mid-June and spin webs around the leaves of the devils bit scabious. They can live in large groups together creating small areas of dense webs and can be seen in late September.
The larvae stay together in colonies until March when they pupate or create a cocoon, they emerge as adults in early April to May on the leaves or twigs of the scabious plant. The emerging adults then start the lifecycle again, they can survive for about two to three weeks.
Credit: Irish Wildlife Trust