Since the last blog update the recovery project has really progressed. Not only have all 20 of this year’s pine martens made it safely to their new home in Wales, they have also begun to establish their own territories. If you have been keeping an eye on our Facebook page then you will have seen that we have even started to catch some of our released martens on remote camera (see video below). Most of our pine marten team have spent years fruitlessly trying to catch a glimpse of Welsh martens on camera in this area. So now it is amazingly exciting to know that when we hike through the woods to find the perfect camera spot, we actually have a good chance of successfully getting one on film!
PM11, a female pine marten, recorded on camera trap
It is interesting to begin to really see the differences in the personalities of the individuals. Some animals can only be tempted onto camera with a mixture of blueberries and peanut butter, whereas others prefer honey and real peanuts. Some martens seem more disturbed by roads and people and have set territories up deep into the forestry, while others seem quite content to live much closer to human presence. And then there is PM07 (a.k.a. Miss Piggy) whom nothing fazes, so long as you leave her a generous pile of peanuts, grapes and honey to eat of course.
Now the martens are really beginning to settle we will be spending the next few weeks attempting to find their den sites. So instead of triangulating individuals from afar at night whilst they are on the move, we track an animal to where it is asleep during the day. This is quite a delicate process as we don’t want to disturb the animals from their safe bolt holes but we do want to get information about where and what our martens are denning in. So far we have mostly found our animals denning above the ground either in our specially designed den boxes, squirrel dreys or large ivy-covered trees. However we have had a few martens that seem to favour ground level dens. PM20 (a.k.a. Pat) has established herself a regular den in an area of fallen trees and thick forest undergrowth; perfect hunting ground for mice! Remote cameras have been placed along her regular route so watch this space for footage of her over the coming weeks.
We have been incredibly fortunate to be able to have a wonderful pool of local volunteers to utilise for this project. Over the past year they have helped with everything from release site surveys, release pen building and now radio tracking the animals. Aberystwyth University students, local professionals, land owners and even former VWT staff have all come to lend us a hand and it is wonderful to see real community involvement in this project. This was definitely something we wished to foster and with new opportunities for scat surveys, den box surveys and camera trap distribution we hope that this is something that will continue and indeed expand. Tracking the animals has been an everyday of the week job for Dave and myself for the last few months, so having enthusiastic volunteers along every day (and night!) helps keep our spirits up when the martens are being particularly elusive.
We were also lucky enough to be accompanied by photographer Nick Upton last month who captured some pictures of the glorious Welsh habitat the martens have been released into, as well as some of us at work tracking and setting cameras (see photos on the right). It’s good to know that once these animals have truly settled we can hopefully get some shots of the animals out in the wild and we won’t have to rely on blurry pictures taken on my mobile.
Four months into my employment tracking these martens and I haven’t yet managed to see one with my own eyes out in the wild, but just to know these animals are not just surviving, but thriving in their new Welsh home is more than enough for now!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you may have spotted a pine marten or you wish to get involved with volunteering.
Josie Bridges, Pine Marten Recovery Project Field Assistant