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  • Writer's pictureSpeyside Wildlife

Precarious Pine Martens

At the Speyside Wildlife Hide, we have been enjoying the glorious summer evenings, a welcome respite from the harsh cold of winter. The mammals that have been coming to visit us in the evening have been arriving very relaxed in the late summer sun. They do not appear to be in a frantic rush to consume the bait put out for them, but rather are quite happy to take their time to forage around the area. The Badgers will often stop for some time to work out some peanut butter that has become wedged between cracks in the log. The mood is relaxed, and the animals look to be a healthy weight. The increase in body fat that they gain during the summer months will help them to survive through the harsher winter months later in the year. Yet even in the relaxed summer sun, we can still be surprised by erratic bursts of energy in our viewing space. Recently, we have had an adult Sparrowhawk explode into the Hide, landing briefly on one of our Pine Marten poles, before taking off again and giving everyone a fright!

Badgers Enjoying Peanut Butter

The male Pine Marten has also been charming guests with spontaneous appearances. The Pine Martens are often very tricky creatures to predict. Their arrival times can greatly vary depending on which part of their territory they begin the night in. As they don’t necessarily follow the same routes each night, unlike the Badgers, keeping an eye out for these sneaky Mustelids entails casting your eyes in all directions at all times. The male Marten’s lack of routine and unpredictability keeps our guests on their toes and asking questions like; What time will he arrive? Which direction will he come from? No night is the same and no appearance repetitive. His behavior is greatly influenced by events that occur as he makes his way towards the Hide. Changes in the weather, his mood, and a successful hunt may affect the time that he may arrive. This in turn affects the variety of different experiences the guests might have with this elusive creature.

Male Enjoying Peanuts in Evening Light

On some nights, the Pine Martens will arrive in a relaxed state, sloping in and slinking down the tree casually and with ease. Often they will settle down immediately. On these nights they will work through the peanuts and sultanas put out for them in a lazy manner, barely casting an eye towards the ground. On other nights they will arrive anxious, muscles tensed, and movements choppy and quick. They will often freeze- poised- holding themselves stock still while listening out before rapidly moving between tasks. This can be a rewarding time to watch the Pine Marten as we can witness both the impressive physical strength of the individual as they rapidly spring out of danger as well as watch the animal cleverly calculate and assess threats. If there are any sudden loud noises or quick movements the Pine Marten, in a flash, will bolt up into the safer levels of the treetops. But they will not immediately abandon the Hide. We can watch them from above weigh up their options before making a clear decision as to whether or not they will come back down or retreat further into the trees.

Alert Pine Marten

In exploring the area, the Pine Marten, our largest tree-dwelling mammal, enjoys making use of the upper levels. They will scale the trees surrounding the area and ascend to the upper levels quickly, balancing precariously on tilted branches. However, they do prefer to feed at ground level and will occasionally drop down into the foraging space below in search of a mouse! They will only feel comfortable doing this if there are no Badgers around in the lower part of our foraging area. The time which they spend at the hide, the direction in which they can arrive and depart, and their behavior are constantly changing as they react to their environment. It creates a special kind of excitement when these mysterious creatures arrive as we never quite know what to expect. On one occasion, we watched the male begin to climb out of the hide after feeding on peanuts. Our guests were able to watch his silhouetted form against the lingering light as he produced a large yawn before leaping out of sight. A moment of boredom perhaps for the Pine Marten, but only elated beaming faces could be found within the hide.

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