Squirrel wars

One hundred and fifty years ago, the oak woods near Nowhere would have been home to red squirrels. Now they have all disappeared.

The red squirrels have been replaced by grey squirrels that were introduced into the UK from the United States in the 1870s.

Grey squirrels spread to nearly all parts of the UK, replacing the red squirrels wherever they went. Now red squirrels are only found in a few places, where they are protected.

Grey squirrels are 60% better at digesting oak acorns than red squirrels, which seem to prefer hazel nuts. Oak acorns are much more common in Nowhere Wood than hazel nuts, and this favours the grey squirrel.

The success of grey squirrels at surviving and breeding in Nowhere Wood is due to the production of acorns, which varies from year to year.

Survival is a risky journey for any squirrel: the arrival of new competitors or interruptions to the food supply can pose real challenges.


Their lives are  adventures.

The word ‘adventure’ has two parts:

Ad means moving towards something.

Venture means attempting something dangerous or difficult, that is risky, with no guarantee of success.

Put the two together and you get the idea that the lives of all living organisms are risky journeys into the future, with no guarantee of success or survival.

If you like, you can think of life as:

organisms having adventures in time and space

  1. Think about the squirrels and the oak trees. In what ways are their lives adventures?  [Hint: think about what the word adventure means.]


Being and becoming in Nowhere Wood

Trampling acorns underfoot

I have never seen so many acorns in Nowhere Wood. Everywhere I step, I am treading on acorns. Acorns are the fruits of oak trees and this year it certainly has been a bumper harvest.  Biologists call this a “mast year”.

The air in Nowhere Wood in April and May was very hot and still. This allowed the oak pollen to hang in the air near the feathery stigmas of the oak flowers. Perfect conditions for pollination and making acorns.

July and August were warm and wet, ideal conditions for growing a record crop of acorns.

This is good news for the birds of the wood, like pigeons, jays and woodpeckers, which eat acorns. And for the squirrels and mice, too. Deer eat acorns, and I did once see one near the woods very early in the morning. The oak trees are producers and this is one way that they make food for the woodland herbivores.

The oak trees in the wood are perhaps seventy or eighty years old now and tower above the other trees. They are successful, but for how much longer? The oldest trees are falling down, some by lightning strikes during thunderstorms.

It is difficult for young acorns to grow into oak trees, because the floor of the wood is covered by thick ivy and brambles. There is a battle going on here for light, space and water that makes an episode of Eastenders look tame!

Some young shoots make it through to the light, but they are few and far between. The future of acorns in Nowhere Wood will depend on them.

Everything is connected together, and a change to one organism affects everything else. The squirrels and the jays will be needing the oaks to remain successful. This is the way of life in Nowhere.


  1. Walk round an open space or a park near where you live. How are the living organisms depending on each other to survive?

Squirrel wars