While I was in Liverpool 2 weeks ago for my girlfriend's 21st birthday I had a chance to pop down to Formby Woods with my camera to see if I could photograph the Red Squirrels there. I had to get down there early in the morning as this would give me more opportunities to get the shots that I wanted as the Red Squirrels are a lot more active at this time as they are usually up in the trees by lunch and are not very keen on having their photograph taken. Since moving to Scotland I've always wanted to improve my Red Squirrel library but I wasn't having any luck finding many Squirrels locally to where I live but when we decided to go back down to Liverpool for my girlfriends birthday I thought it would be a great opportunity to take the camera down with me so I could improve my portfolio.
Due to the Squirrel Pox virus which is a fatal disease passed onto them by the non-native Grey Squirrels was last seen in Formby in 2008 which drastically lowered the population of Red Squirrels in the area by 80%, the virus has thankfully disappeared now due to the amazing work led by The National Trust and even though there isn't as many Red Squirrels as there was once before you can still see a good number of them while wandering around the woodland.
Tips For Photographing Red Squirrels At Formby
There's quite a few things to remember when photographing Red Squirrels at Formby so I'm going to list them out here so you have a better chance of seeing them and being able to take some really nice photographs home with you.
- Turn up as early in the morning as you can, this is when they are most active as they have just woken up and have a lot of energy that they want to use.
- Take a tripod with you. Handholding a long telephoto lens and trying to keep up with the Squirrels can put a lot of strain on your arms. The more relaxed you are the easier it will be to get some cracking shots.
- Instead of looking for the Squirrels you need to listen for them. Listen out for scratching on the trees and when they're feeding you can hear them nibbling on the nuts.
- If you see a Squirrel in the trees do not take your eyes off it as in a split second it will disappear and you will have no idea where it has gone!
- Be prepared to have to use high ISO's as the woodland can quickly get dark due to the amount of trees there.
- Be quiet! Noise and movement disturbs the Squirrels more than anything so try to keep your mouth shut as much as possible.
- Do not go at the weekend. A lot of families go to formby at the weekend so it can get very noisy which disturbs the Squirrels and makes it ten times harder to photograph them.
- Do not feed them. I know this will make it difficult to bring the Squirrels towards you but The National Trust spend a lot of time and effort feeding the Squirrels with specially formulated food which helps control their diet.
- Stick to the paths. Do not think it's okay to pop-over the fence just to get a better shot, the paths are there for a reason.
Remember there isn't just Red Squirrels at Formby, there's a great number of Crows, Magpies, Jays, Woodpeckers and many garden birds to photograph there as well, its another reason why I love going there as I always walk away with something on the memory card. My favourite subject of the bird variety there is the Jay, I've never been somewhere as easy as Formby to get close to them without the Jay being disturbed.
Crows are another subject that I've lately really enjoyed photographing especially in black & white which they are very suited to. While waiting for one the Red Squirrels to come down from one of the trees I had a great opportunity to captured this Crow amongst the all the braches.
This concludes my Blog on Red Squirrels at Formby, remember to be patient but most of all have fun while you are there as at times it can be frustrating when the Squirrels aren't doing what you want them to do but that's nature for you and if they wildlife did what we wanted them to do every time then it wouldn't be fun at all. For more information about Formby and the Squirrels there make sure to check The National Trust's website by Clicking Here.
If you have any questions about photographing the Red Squirrels or about Formby, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.
Also, if you would like purchase any of these images as a print or for commercial use then just click on your desired image and it will send you straight to shop.