Lesley Turney’s Story
I’m Lesley Turney, 2 years ago, my husband and I moved to Kirkbean on the Dumfries and Galloway Coast having lived in Cumbria for 20 years. Although red squirrels are in Cumbria, the Eden Valley area where we were from had largely been taken over by greys a few years before.
When we came to view the house, we were aware of red squirrels in the garden and were delighted at the thought of them being regular garden visitors.
It wasn’t long before we contacted the Solway Forests Red Squirrel Network to find out more information and to see what we could do to help. After being involved in a number of different activities within the group, I recently ‘put my hand up’ to help with the administration of the group. It quickly became clear, no matter the group size, that the organisational aspects are key to helping the group work well. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) created the Community Hub as the core of our volunteer work across Scotland. It’s essentially a database allowing all our members to register, record activities and for members of the public to record sightings of red and grey squirrels. We also keep track of volunteer hours worked, and any training that has been completed, all of which helps to show the extent of volunteer involvement. This is important not just for the volunteers themselves, but for SSRS and the Scottish Wildlife Trust in that they are requirements as part of the funding obtained and will continue to be vital for further funding applications as the group becomes independent in 2022.
The Hub requires constant input in order to reflect the volunteer activity completed. The data output can then be provided by the Administrator to help the group make informed decisions in terms of protecting our red populations. In running the Hub for our group, I can see so much more of what the group does, its scope and scale and the enormous effort that goes on within our group of volunteers.
The Hub itself is still being shaped by SSRS to be as user friendly as possible so that it can be part of the legacy of the project.
A good example of how the Hub links the numerous groups across Dumfries and Galloway was when we had a suspected SQPV outbreak. The news was distributed extremely quickly giving everyone the alert to take down feeders until the alert was over.
My work with the group has been very rewarding; I have met lots of interesting people and have learned so much about red squirrels and how important it is that volunteer groups like ours continue to work to support their conservation.
We now have three feeders in our garden and we have a number of regular visitors who we can recognise through colouration and their personalities. It’s a joy when we see the kits during the year too. I recently had the most magical sighting of one of our red squirrels carrying a kit to a new dray – probably something I will never see again but definitely wouldn’t have seen it without the knowledge I have gained over the last 2 years.
Lesley working at the SSRS Hub
2020 sightings recorded on the Hub