Pine Marten Walk Dec 2019

A lovely morning in the woods with Stuart and Dave of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and the Shropshire Pine Marten Project.

Clunton Coppice is about 40 minutes from me; after buzzing along at 40-50mph for most of that time there’s a shar turn up the hill into a gorgeous little lane only a bit wider than my Clio. Near the top is a good car park with great views out over the valley, and there were Stu and Dave already waiting for me! IMG_20191205_115409
December woods are really sleepy, the trees are hunkered down working their roots in the soil for the Midwinter season while the birds and animals are mostly just doing the necessary to stay alive and conserving energy. Nature really does have it sussed how to work through the seasons … not really surprising when you realise she’s had 4.7 billion years of experiment and practice 😊. I still find the wood beautiful despite the low sun and consequent low light; the oak leaves is their myriad variation of warm browns under the feet are lovely; the trunks of the young oaks are able to show off their shapes and the lovely striations of their bark, and the lichens are like fairy webs clinging to the trees.

Now the leaves are down you can see the dreys and nests very well, including the goshawk nest and the buzzards. I’m thrilled we have goshawks here, I got to see the ones down in the Forest of Dean but I didn’t know we had them here too. 

bare trees & pine marten box in pine
closeup of pine marten box











And with the bare trees, Stu and Dave were able to show me the Pine Marten boxes up in the trees too. I’d read about them on the FB page but never seen one and certainly not in situ. This one looks a bit wonky as Stu said but, as Dave chipped in, that doesn’t matter a button to pine martens, it’s only humans who think everything has to be square and regular and tidy! We really do have to get over the nature isn’t regular or straight, it’s gloriously all over the place … and that’s how it works well.

We’d only been there for a moment when Dave, who had his bins on the tree, said, “I saw a shadow behind the box! A big shadow. It went up the tree and it’s up there in the crown where it’s really thick!”
We all peered up at the tree. There was a bit of wind moving the branches so you couldn’t tell if that was a critter or just the wind. Stu went down to peer around and get the camera card from the one pointing at the tree and the box. Then I saw what looked like an animal foot up in the top left of the crown, just for moment. We all held out breath …
Stu came back with the card and we hung over his shoulders peering at the images. Bother! Drat even! One showed a very handsome grey squirrel collecting leaves around the base of the tree and taking them up to the box! Ah well … for a moment there we all hoped we would actually see a pine marten but it wasn’t to be.
We set up another camera trap nearby. That was ace for me as I want a camera trap in my garden up here above Smethcott – I can hear lots of wildlife and I’d love to get it on camera. I now know a good, not too expensive, camera to buy and have watched how to set it up – certainly not rocket science so I’ll be able to handle it 😊. And the sort of rough thing to build for a bait too. Pine martens in Shropshire have not read all the learned tomes on marten behaviour and, not only are they ignorant of how all the expert humans say they should behave but they seem determined to rewrite all the textbooks too! That sounds like fun … and like good science! I’m married to an ex-particle physicist who worked at Rutherford Appleton Labs back in the day so I’ve had good science practice with the cornflakes for 45 years! I know that good, cutting edge, scientists are always looking for the new, they never believe they know it all, and are only too happy when an experiment shows they’ll have to rewrite the textbooks. How else do you think they hunted down the Higgs Bosun LOL? So if our pine martens are opening up new avenues of knowledge for us I’m all for it.
Anyways … our martens apparently are not interested in all the usual bait folks up north put out for them so we’re still experimenting. This bait trap we set up with a piece of orange (nice sweet smell) and some of my posh French cheese. What’s the betting our martens have champagne tastes ??? Have I just dug a pit for myself as the posh cheese provider for the marten group … arrrggghhh !!!
We got some more good pics of fungus on the fallen branches.

I’m by no means a fungus expert but I do love the stuff, it’s so beautiful, myriad shapes and colours … and fungus always stun me by how old they are. Right back before the beginning they go and, without them, there wouldn’t be life on Earth. Dave asked if I have fungus in the garden, indeed I do and we’re saving the old branches where it grows, actually have uses for them as well as just wildlife habitats. He tells me we have a fungus expert in SWT so I must get on his courses!
We finished the morning up with Dave and Stu carting pine marten boxes up the hill to the road for refurbishment! Crikey are they big! They managed but it was damned hard work, I carried Stu’s rucksack to help out LOL.
A fantastic morning … wanna do it again 😊.

If you enjoy wild nature why not join your local Wildlife Trust? They’ve all got lots of good people only too pleased to share their knowledge – and learn new too.

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