Northumberland red squirrels star in new book

Northumberland wildlife photographer Will Nicholls, 18, has published a book of his red squirrel studies

Red squirrel captured by Northumberland wildlife photographer Will Nicholls
Red squirrel captured by Northumberland wildlife photographer Will Nicholls

Red squirrels make cute photographs, which is why they turn up in pretty well every wildlife picture competition.

Will Nicholls, 18, has spent thousands of hours photographing red squirrels near his home in Haydon Bridge in Northumberland.

But the lengthy spells spent in his hide have not been simply about piling up the pictures.

“I think I have begun to develop my own style, trying to capture personality and the character of the animals,” he says.

“Their playful natures and individual characters are what I strive to capture in my images.”

Will is is to study zoology at university, with the aim of making a career as a documentary film maker.

“I am very into the science behind what makes a pretty picture. For example, a picture or a film may capture some amazing behaviour of a species, but I like to find out why they do this.”

Will has just completed his first book, On the Trail of Red Squirrels, published at £25 by Northumberland-based Wagtail Press.

“For a long time, I have wanted to to produce a book about red squirrels as they are such popular animals that play a big part in my life,” he says.

The relationship began when, at the age of 12, Will moved with his family from Newcastle to Haydon Bridge.

He says: “I have always liked wildlife, but living surrounded by a pub and housing estates meant that access to nature was limited.

“It was the change of scene that sparked what has continued to be a lifelong interest in wildlife and the natural world.”

Soon after settling into his new home, Will started to explore his new surroundings, taking his parents’ simple compact camera with him.

“I took a few images of sheep. I thought they were brilliant at the time, but looking back they were definitely heading for the bin,” he says.

“Even so, I caught the photography bug and saved up and bought my own camera. It was very basic, but it did the job.”

It paid off, as Will has since clocked up a string of awards.

They include Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and overall winner in the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2011.

Turning 18 this year has seen him move into the adult category, but that did not hinder his progress as he picked up a “highly commended” in the Zoological Society Photographic Awards.

He says: “I am very lucky where I live because, just a few minutes from the house, we have a woodland that plays host to a population of red squirrels.

“Many people have never seen a red squirrel so I feel privileged to be able to spend so much time with them.

“It was photographing these squirrels that showed me photography and natural history was something I would be involved in for a long time.

“While red squirrels are excellent subjects, I do point my lens elsewhere and enjoy photographing as many different species as possible.

“I have decided to study zoology at university as I wish to develop my scientific knowledge of wildlife.

“I can only learn so much through observation in the field, so a degree in something that I love to do would be ideal.

“As an aspiring natural history documentary presenter and film maker, I hope this will allow me to develop some of the skills required to work in such a competitive industry.”

Currently, Will is far away from his red squirrels. He is taking “gap” time before university and has embarked on a three-month solo expedition to Cambodia with his cameras.

An exhibition of Will’s work is on show at Allendale Forge Studios in the town’s Market Place until November 30. Will’s book is available from good bookshops or www.wagtailpress.co.uk

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