wildlife learns about solar panelling

Grey Squirrel getting to grips with new solar panels

ASquirrel - on high tableThe Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) of Highbury have adapted to climbing drainpipes, guttering and roofs, equipped as they are with back paws that rotate up to 180 degrees.  Sometimes, as they leap through the trees, they will miss a branch, falling to the ground and springing back up straightaway. They must be made of solid muscle.

They dig in bare earth, burying seeds and nuts. RF put shiny decorative stones in his pots, covering the surfaces to discourage squirrels; it did work.  Some of our feeders have metal cage ‘guardians’ to deter squirrels.




ASquirrel, blanket of tail2, winter 2012ASquirrel - eating suetballsASquirrel - on postcapSquirrel, pear-shaped and cropped

Lumberjack Squirrels

RF planted sunflower seeds. The squirrels watched and waited. Then a seed sprouted.. its stem grew tall and a flower appeared at the top… seeds formed in the flowerhead and ripened.  The day came when one squirrel took on lumberjack duties, gnawing at the base of the stem until… timber! It toppled over. Scampering to the other end of the stem, the squirrel further flexed its jaws. Bite! Bite! The sunflower was severed from its stem and dragged onto our low brick wall. All we found later was a seedless sunflower and a pile of sunflower shells.

Row 1 No 1 Squirrel sunbathingRow 1 No 2 Upwardly mobile squirrelRow 1 No 3 Grey squirrel on fenceScar Squirrel, Sparrows 264

One day two squirrels came into the garden with their heads covered in some sort of white gunge.

In a 2013 Springwatch, a viewer’s video showed a mother squirrel leaping from roof guttering with her young one grasped tightly to her. Something similar may have happened here. Building work is ongoing in this neighbourhood.  One very senior squirrel, with shapely curves and a fine bushy tail (papa? mama?) and one thin-tailed teen squirrel may have plunged from a roof together and landed in a pail of… whitewash? Plaster? Or it may have been a chase that went horribly wrong. They managed to remove the stuff, but it took over a week to do it.


Plasterhead 1

A Highbury Squirrel – Plastered

Row 2 No 1 Squirrel shelling sunflower seeds 2014Row 2 No 2 Squirrel loitering with intent near fatball feederMr SMother Squirrel in sunlight eating seeds


The Highbury Squirrel



It was April 2006. A squirrel scuttled over the roof of a house in North London. It slid down a drainpipe, reached the ground and made its way to the pavement. Crossing the road, it squeezed into the gap under the front gates of Highbury Stadium’s North Bank. Some thought local squirrels were meeting there, planning world domination. ‘Today Highbury, tomorrow the world!’

On non-Matchdays, the stadium was often empty but for its groundskeeping crew and the local Chief Crow, who liked to blast out his caws from the North Bank’s roof struts. This day was a Matchday. The grand old stadium was in the last throes of its life. Its replacement, a larger stadium built nearby, was now ready for the new season. Highbury was to be pulled down and replaced with flats. Its last ever night game, the first leg of a Champions League semi-final, Arsenal v Villareal of Spain, was set for that night, with kickoff at 7.45pm.

The hours went by. The usual sell-out crowd and a host of camera crews and press photographers packed into the old stadium and the game began. Ten minutes had gone by and it was nil-nil, when a squirrel jumped over the advertising hoardings onto the pitch and joined the game.

Local Squirrel Becomes Celebrity

On Radio Five Live, Alan Green shouted ‘THERE’S A SQUIRREL ON THE PITCH!’ ‘Poor little tyke’, he said, thinking the squirrel had buried its nuts in the Highbury pitch… ‘Doesn’t he know that this place will be a demolition site in a month’s time?… They’ll have to stop the game!’


SQUIRREL AND FORLANCredit these photographers

Row 3 No 1 Arsenal players in vintage strip, Highbury Squirrel (media photo)Row 3 No 2 Highbury Squirrel media photo action shotRow 3 No 3 Highbury Squirrel guards post of Jens Lehmann's goal

But the game went on, & fans enjoyed the pitch invasion. They chanted ‘Squirrel! Squirrel!’ as the invader ran down the pitch, blocking Diego Forlan. It raced over to Jens Lehmann’s goal to guard the post. After eight minutes of squirrel-on-pitch action, the referee stopped the game. The rodent left the stadium under its own steam; some said it crossed the street and got into Gillespie Park.

Arsenal won the game 1-0. That night fans shared photos, videos, & squirrel tales. Internet chatrooms were buzzing. Some offered names for the squirrel: Tufty, Nutkins, Squirrelinho… The squirrel turned up on youtube.

Next day every newspaper’s sports section had news of the pitch invasion: ‘Arsenal fans go nuts over latest signing’‘ The Squirrel Nutmeg’’12th player at Highbury as Arsenal win first leg of Euro semi-final‘… ‘Tufty the Squirrel thought he was going to watch Nuts County…’ The squirrel’s footballing abilities were rated by sports journalists, along with the pro players. Manager Arsene Wenger was quoted, saying ‘he was a good dribbler’. There were also images of the squirrel on the papers’ front pages. The Evening Standard had two photos on its cover: one was of the Queen, celebrating her 80th birthday; the other was of the Highbury Squirrel.


On the day after the semi-final, a press photographer came to the Ecology Centre in Gillespie Park, hoping to get some candid shots of the now famous H. Squirrel relaxing at home. He was taken round, but not a single squirrel showed itself. Keeper Jens Lehmann appeared at the next Arsenal press conference. Asked about the 12th player who’d helped defend his goal against Villareal, he brought up the World Cup, to be staged in Germany in the summer. ‘We have many squirrels. Brown squirrels…’ he grinned. An obvious drawing card.

The next Premiership game at Highbury was with old rivals Tottenham. Even the broadcasters were intensively searched before going into the stadium. ‘Just checking for squirrels’, said a steward… The legend lives on.

Mr Stripe closeup crop