To see one snowy white squirrel is a one in a million chance but Grangewood Park has seen three white miracles born this year.
No one has managed to get a picture of all three siblings but our pictures taken by park users show the white infants.
The park is a haven for wildlife and much loved by grey squirrels because of abundance of acorns from the mature oak trees.
There were two white squirrels living in the park about 18 months ago and one nicknamed Walter had become a firm favourite. The Friends of Park even dedicated a mural to him painted on the side of the park hut and he was immoratalised in a t-shirt (pcitured below). It was with much sadness when the squirrels inexplicably vanished.
As you can imagine the arrival of the trio has caused much excitement amongst park users keen to catch sight of the trio squirrelling around.
One onlooker said: “I wondered what everyone was looking at…”
A rare genetic trait known as leucism can turn a grey squirrels fur a milky-white colour, pure albinos are seen even less frequent.
A pure albino has distinctive red eyes while a leucistic squirrel has dark brown ones.
Native to the eastern half of North America, grey squirrels were first introduced to Britain in the 1870s. They were originally imported as fashionable additions to estates, but became a threat to the survival of the native red population which is just 140,000 compared to over 2.5million greys.
The white anomaly is unusual in the UK but in parts of America there have been hundreds of sightings of white squirrels including in Washington DC and that’s not fake news!
In Brevard in north Carolina they hold an annual White Squirrel Festival to honour their ‘special wildlife critters’.
Legend has it that a carnival truck overturned in northern Florida in 1949 and a couple of white squirrels escaped. They formed a colony in a pecan grove and in the 1950’s a pair was trapped and given as a gift to a Brevard resident. After one escaped, the other was released as well. They reproduced and established the white squirrel colony in Brevard.
The May festival includes music, food, art and crafts and includes a guided white squirrel tour, photo competition and white squirrel races in handmade go karts where contestants compete for trophies for the fastest critter, the squirreliest theme, and the nuttiest design.
Rob Nelson, an ecologist and filmmaker from Hawaii is carrying out a research project on the rare white squirrel phenomenon in the US.
The Chronicle contacted Mr Nelson and he was intrigued by our the Grangewood sightings. He said: “I’ve been collecting for about 10 years now. I have close to 25,000 reports. Yours is interesting given that it’s in the UK. That’s why I was curious of the species. I think you have invasive American squirrels. The only species I’ve ever seen white is the Eastern Gray Squirrel.”
The park on Grange Road which is part of the original Great North Wood also has its own owl which residents report hearing hooting at night.
The London Wildlife Trust is conducting a project to map London’s hedgehogs in a bid to try and enhance greens spaces and gardens to benefit them.
It is likely that there are hedgehogs inhabiting Grangewood Park as a skin was found in the park by a dog walker having probably been killed by a fox.
Hedgehogs have been spotted elsewhere on Grange Road and in Egerton Road Jarmila Whiteley took a picture of a hedgehog taken in her garden in 2016.
For more information or to report a sighting, visit www.wildlondon.org.uk/hedgehog