Scrolling though my twitter feed is generally a nature delight: beautiful landscape and creature photography; updates on research and discoveries; quotes from great naturalists and thinkers. I’ve curated my bubble carefully.
Of course, the less edifying aspects of humans’ impact on our planet does intrude from time to time. The degradation of our shared commons, the decimation of the tree of life; it is pervasive now, impossible to ignore. People who love nature tend to be the ones who care for nature, so it’s inevitable that one follows the other on social networks.
This week though, my eyes popped when I saw that someone I follow had described squirrels as tree rats! Scandalous language, a slur on such a charismatic animal. Our island’s resident population of reds are a pleasure to spot, whether deep in the forest (usually scrambling upwards and away along trunk then branch) or up close with their bolder relatives at the nature reserve. Bushy tails and ears catch the light, limbs and claws allow awesome athletic prowess. Even across the ground, away from their arboreal element, their lolloping gait from cache to cache is a fierce attraction to my eye.
To be honest, I’ve probably got a softer spot for all the rodents than most. The parade of rescue hamsters that have made their way through our lives, and the rare occasion I’ve come across a mouse or rat, have been thrilling moments, darting intelligence clear to me in their eyes. Although Up Mainland might not have such a special species of squirrel as we do (thanks the Solent), perhaps all the rodents shouldn’t face scorn, but be enjoyed.