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July 2014

Image of the Month



European Pine Marten

July 2014

July provided an opportunity to photograph one of Britain's most elusive mammals, the European Pine Marten.  These beautiful creatures used to live all over Britain but the population steadily declined until 1988 it was given legal protection.  Due to habitat protection and an increase in forest plantations, the Scottish population of Pine Martens is slowly growing.  For the most part, these are shy and semi-nocturnal species but this is probably due to human activity.  Pine Marten are part of the Mustelid family, and like badgers, otters, weasels and wolverines, they are carnivourous.  

The biggest population of Pine Marten is to be found on the west of Scotland where in some places, they range through their extensive territories during the day, giving patient photographers a chance to try to get some images of them.

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Pine Marten may be relatively well habituated to humans but, the Scottish midges are something else!  They appear in huge clouds as soon as the breeze dies down.  They get into ears, eyes, lenses, gaps in protective clothing and can be carried on clothes back into buildings where they wait their turn to bite.  I was smothered in 'Smidge', ate copious amounts of Marmite and swallowed anti-histamine....and whilst I may have looked a complete plonker covered from head to toe in my midge suit, I survived and couldn't have given a damn!  Happily we had quite a bit of rain and wind and so I think we were let off relatively lightly.

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Pine Marten have large territories and range around.  I had the impression that they knew their territories fairly well because as soon as they spotted something new, like the branch that we put up for them, they rushed to investigate, a bit like small children with a new playground.

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We saw a Grandpa Pine Marten who looked a bit worse for wear, a young female and a big male. The mum and her 3 fairly small kits made fairly regular appearances.  2 of the kits seemed quite bold and liked to rough and tumble.  The 3rd seemed much more shy and it was easy to stereotype them into 2 young males and 1 shy female.  

i really enjoyed watching them bound across the grass or jauntily stand on a stone and peer around. Enchanting little beasts! 

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Some of my favourite photo opportunities were around a low wall where they obligingly peered over the top and occasionally posed for a nano-second.  I didn't manage to get a decent image of the 2 young kits together in one frame which was a bit frustrating.  It takes time, patience and luck. They are speedy little things and always rushing about.  I suppose it's unreasonable to expect them to stay for a while and pose prettily! It would have been nice though.