Highland Red Squirrel Project


Some of you might have noticed that there are new projects available to classify.  Specifically, at present, we have the “Highland Red Squirrel Project” and the “North Pennines NNRs” projects visible under the “Classify Selected Project Only” menu.  


The North Pennines NNRs project has yet to upload data; we will tell you more about that project when images have been uploaded.  However, the Highland Red Squirrel Project has uploaded data.  In case you fancy helping out with their project, here’s a quick overview of what they’re up to and why.

Red squirrels are charismatic members of the UK’s native fauna but have been highlighted as one of our more threatened native mammals (e.g., see here).  Although they occur in various parts of the UK, the majority of red squirrels (c. 75% of the UK population) are found in Scotland.  A range of work is required throughout the UK to mitigate threats to red squirrels, and to boost their chances of re-establishment.  However, it is important that we manage remaining populations to ensure a strong base from which the population can expand when conditions have improved.

Red squirrels and their dreys are protected under UK and Scottish legislation, and there is a requirement to mitigate for any forest operations that could disturb the squirrels or damage their dreys.  Forest Enterprise Scotland manages over 400,000 ha of Scotland’s multi-functional forests and need to plan mitigation for their forest operations.  There is, however, very limited information about the impact of disturbance caused by forest operations on red squirrels.  Without knowing the impacts of those operations, if any, it’s difficult to know what mitigation, if any, is needed.

This project is being run by a team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands in collaboration with Forest Enterprise Scotland.  They aim to determine the impact on red squirrel breeding success, ranging behaviour and drey usage of habitat fragmentation and habitat loss caused by forest operations.  They are also looking into the use of nest boxes as a potential mitigation measure for forest operations taking place during the breeding season.  This latter aspect of the project is being assessed, in part, by determining the use of nest boxes at different heights and in different tree types.  The team have set up their monitoring so that camera traps will capture animals investigating or going into and out of the nest boxes.  Owing to the possibilities of false triggers and to the frequency with which other species (especially birds) will use the nest boxes, the monitoring has yielded large numbers of images.  The team need as much help as possible to classify what (if anything) is using the nest boxes.


Remember: if you are working on a desktop computer, you can use the cursor left and cursor right keys to speed up scanning through a sequence.  We are working on ways to improve the set of species that are shown for any project.  For now, however, if you are working on the red squirrel project, you can find the red squirrel on the second page of the species options and the great tit on the fifth page.  You can navigate rapidly to any page of options by clicking directly on the relevant page indicator.  As always, we only want your classifications for what appears in an entire sequence, not what appears in individual images.  Please make sure you’ve looked at the whole sequence before submitting your classifications and moving to the Next Sequence.