Guest Blog Post by Josie Bridges of The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT).
I am incredibly pleased that Denmark Farm have agreed to adopt one of our Pine martens, and as one of their closest they have decided upon K(16)2.
In the coming months they will be running a competition to give him or her a proper name, to help kick-start interest in pine martens a little further south than where VWT have been concentrating their efforts in recent years.
In the future we are hoping to collaborate on den box workshops, camera trap training and scat surveys, but first a little more about their new friend!
K(16)2’s story actually begins 2 years before she was born on a brutally wet and windy November night when a beautiful female marten named Lainey (PM16) first stepped a paw onto Welsh soil. She was part of week 9 of our translocation effort to bring back martens from the brink of extinction here in Wales and we have come so far since those first cautious steps! Back in 2015 the Pine Marten Recovery Project was launched by VWT with the aim of restoring a self sustaining population of Britain’s 2nd rarest mammal back to England and Wales. A huge part of this has been the translocation and over the past 3 autumns we have released 51 pine martens into mid-Wales, tracking their every movement via their radio collars. PM16 was one of our trickiest animals to keep track of throughout the time she was collared, she made big, and seemingly bizarre, exploratory movements throughout mid-Wales in the first few months after she was released. Happily though she eventually settled down and we finally caught up with her in a tiny patch of private woodland just outside Bwlch Y Geuffordd gardens. Gay and Jim (the owners of the garden) very kindly offered to host some cameras in their gardens and we got some beautiful footage of Lainey enjoying her new home. She spent several weeks religiously denning in a disused owl box and her settled nature here (in contrast to her flighty behaviour normally) made us hopeful she may have kits. On the 12th May 2016, we had a 3.30am start to try and visit PM16’s den site whilst she was out foraging, to check if she had given birth. By this point any kits would be around six weeks old and can be left by their mother for short periods. When we arrived at the site happily PM16 was already out foraging (in contrast to our 12 hour wait to check PM02’s den the week earlier) and so we immediately headed up to the owl box – and low and behold we found a single beautiful kit curled up inside.
After her kit had been weaned PM16 disappeared and remained AWOL until the October of that year. She was relocated south-west of Llyn Brianne in a den box that had been put up four years ago by ourselves and forest manager Huw Denman. PM16 couldn’t have picked a nicer, friendlier spot, and this meant Huw could bait traps for us to prepare for her collar removal. We decided amongst ourselves that this would probably be a marten we could no longer keep track of once her collar had been removed. She had been difficult to stay on top of even with her radio collar on, so we suspected she would now be impossible to find if she decided to move. Happily though she surprised us all by staying put (maybe she just really took a shine to those four year old den boxes?), and Huw regularly kept us up-to-date on her progress as he caught camera trap clips of her out and about in his woodland.
Her crowning glory came last year when Huw spotted her, along with three kits, in a tree with a den box. Huw subsequently set up a camera and was able to capture some amazing footage.
These were our first truly Welsh-born kits – they would have be conceived in Wales in 2016 (in contrast to her first kit that would have been conceived in Scotland before her translocation). Since that fabulous footage K(16)2 and its siblings have all grown up and have regularly been photo bombing the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Projects feeders giving the volunteers something a bit different to red squirrels! We are using this to our advantage and adapting some of these feeders to have a small patch of sticky glue inside to catch some of the martens hair which we can then use to DNA test. From this we will be able to tell gender and who the father of this litter is (the current VWT favourite is PM08, but PM14 has an outside chance!)
This confirmed Welsh mating has been an absolute ‘champagne moment’ for the team, as it shows that pine martens are undoubtedly happy, healthy and breeding here in mid Wales, and that they are hopefully here to stay!
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Our collaboration with Denmark Farm begins with an evening talk on Thursday 1st March, 7pm at Denmark Farm. Anyone who is interested in helping with monitoring, tracking and learning more about these charming creatures is welcome to join us. Please get in touch if you plan to come so we have a better idea of numbers. You can send and e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01570 493358.
Denmark Farm runs a wide variety of courses and volunteering opportunities, please see the website for full details.