Having joined a couple of Scottish wildlife photography groups on Facebook recently, I’ve been getting all sorts of useful tips on where to find local wildlife. Amongst these was Nature Nuts Photography who run day trips to see mountain hares and beavers (amongst others) and also have a hide, just an hour or so away from me, where you can see Pine Martens. Needless to say, I was pretty keen on this idea and took advantage of my week off work to book a visit. Since Mum had come up to stay with me, the timing was perfect.
We found the hide easily enough and settled in to watch the birds. Fortunately the hide has a heater as it was -3C. I was delighted to see my first ever brambling, although my photos of it aren’t so great as it kept hiding amongst the chaffinches. The treecreeper and woodpeckers were my other favourites amongst the avian kind. Bob, who runs Nature Nuts, was a fount of information about all the local wildlife. Usually there are plenty of squirrel visitors, but none of them decided to show themselves for us, unfortunately. Although the day had started off quite bright, it had dulled by the time we arrived at the hide, and we were under the cover of trees so the lighting conditions were a little hard for the camera, and I had to shoot at a high ISO to compensate.
Once it hit about 4.30pm the birds left us and we had a bit of a wait until it grew dark. Just as dusk was falling, but before we had the lights on, we spotted some movement in the distance. Something dark and close to the ground. About 5 minutes later the shape passed by again, much closer to us. Almost certainly the dog pine marten, really quite a large chap. He didn’t hang around for long, though.
Bob got the lights set up and we waited again, with the hope of a sighting of ‘Donna’ who tends to show up quite consistently in the early evening. Sure enough, at around 6pm she appeared out of nowhere and jumped up onto the logs in front of us. Although she was clearly aware of our presence, she didn’t seem at all perturbed by us, and concentrated on clearing up some of the remaining bird seed. After 5-10 minutes she moved into the light and posed for us – what a beautiful sleek creature.
Once she wandered off we thought that the show was probably over, but we waited patiently, just in case. Then, unexpectedly, I saw a small face poking up and looking around uncertainly. This marten was more shy and took a little while before she dared climb up on to the logs. It was clear that she was less comfortable, perhaps worried about the male we had seen earlier, as she frequently checked over her shoulder to be sure that she was alone. Bob is pretty sure that this was ‘Bonny’, one of last year’s kits.
We waited around for quite a while after Bonny left. We had one false alarm when we thought we saw the lights coming on again, but it turned out to be a vehicle instead. All in all, a fantastic afternoon/evening.