SWAN notes

editorial image

QUITE often I struggle to think what to write about but this week I have the opposite problem. I have been to three different conferences recently and they have given me so many different ideas of what to write about.

However I have decided to write about pine martens. Why them? Well they were mentioned at two of the conferences. Firstly at the Mammal Society’s Autumn Seminar, which was being held in Scotland for the first time, and also at The Wildlife Information Centre’s Autumn Conference.

It seems to be a common misconception that martens are found only in the north of Scotland but there are sightings of them across quite a bit of the UK, although many of these sightings are not recorded.

The pine marten is a member of the weasel family but is much bigger than the weasel with a male pine marten measuring approximately 70cm (just under two and a half feet) from nose to tip of tail. Although long they are very slender with chocolate-brown fur with a cream bib on throat and upper chest and a long bushy tail. The female is slightly smaller than the male. They are most likely to be seen in the evening or at night but can be active during the day, especially in the summer when nights are shorter. They move very fast over the ground and are expert tree climbers but are rarely seen as they are an alert animal and will often disappear at the first sign of a human.

Pine martens are usually found in conifer woodland but can be found in other woodland types, as well as rocky moorland and scrubby cliffs. They make their homes in holes in trees, old nests and disused squirrel dreys. They have a varied diet of small mammals, birds, insects, fungi, berries, birds’ eggs and also carrion.

There is some evidence that where grey and red squirrels are present, as well as pine martens, then the marten can have a positive effect on red squirrel population by predating on the more numerous greys. Pine martens are also known to visit gardens to raid bird tables or feed on food that has been left out for them and there are the odd stories of them turning up in quite urban areas so keep your eyes peeled.

If you see a pine marten then please report it. If the powers that be know where they are then they and their habitat can be protected.

If you are in Northumberland then let ERIC, the north east’s Environmental Records Information Centre know by contacting them on eric.ne@twmuseums.org.uk or 0191 222 5158.

If you are in the Scottish Borders then let The Wildlife Information Centre know by contacting them on info@wildlifeinformation.co.uk or 01875 825 968. Take note of the location and date as well as any other useful information, such as habitat.

A photo would really help to confirm that it is a pine marten that was seen but that is easier said than done with these elusive creatures.

That’s all from me this week.


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