It was more in hope than expectation that I set out a trail camera in the woods at Sheskinmore on 11th January 2015 with the help of my brother Mark and Chris Wylie. However I thought the habitat looked good for pine martens and we found a likely-looking scat; dark and curly, smaller than fox scat but with a similar tapered end. We attached the camera to a tree at grid-reference IG697960 and put out peanut butter and jam on the tree opposite it.
Almost two weeks later on 24th January I returned and collected the sdcard which had 174 photos on it! I was delighted to see some of them were of pine marten. This is probably a newly recorded mammal species for Sheskinmore, although recently one was caught in a live mink trap at nearby Summy (… it was released).
The marten was present on the nights of 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th January and on the 13th it was there for about two hours. In the photos above it can be seen moving right to left over the tree branch. The bushy tail, pale throat patch and pale inner ears are distinguishing features. The photo below shows the sinuous appearance of this species; the eyes and ears are visible in the bottom centre of the photo.
A final photo below, while not of great quality, demonstrates a pine marten’s climbing ability. The animal is on a very thin, vertical hazel branch in the centre of the photo.
While there were 19 pictures of the pine marten (presuming it was a single animal) the other photos were of some of the reserve’s grazing cattle! There are foxes and badgers in this woodland and an outlying badger sett close to where we placed the camera so it was perhaps strange there were no images of them. I also found deer droppings nearby.
These woods are on the lower slopes of the hillsides north of Sheskinmore Lough and the machair. They are a valuable habitat of mainly hazel with some old oak and ash. Further west there is quite a lot of silver birch and blackthorn. The woods are low and scrubby in character but natural regeneration is taking place with saplings spreading out across the slopes, especially further west. As well as the species mentioned above there are red squirrels (Emer Magee pers. obs.), wintering woodcock, possibly breeding sparrowhawk and the usual mix of nesting woodland passerines.
Grazing rabbits, deer and cattle are a threat to these woods which formerly would have been greater in extent. Perhaps regeneration could be encouraged by reviewing cattle grazing numbers on some sections of the reserve.
We used a Bushnell 119438 Nature View HD camera with a SanDisk 32GB Class 10 memory card. Both of these items are available on Amazon.com.