Those of you who follow my facebook page will be familiar with my Daily Marten posts, which give a day-to-day update on how things are progressing at the marten site. It's fair to say that some days are better than others but you'd expect that with any wildlife? Martens are such hard work and it's taken me along time to get to this stage. I've lost count of the miles I've driven and the hours I've put in at various sites across The Black Isle.
I have been working on the current site for about 4 years now and like other sites, I discovered that martens were visiting my squirrel feeders through the night. They've always visited in daylight through the summer but they must've known when I was in the hide and rarely came to pose for pictures. That all changed in 2015 and I was able to run a few hide rental days with all but one of the visitors getting images of the marten.
I've kept at it through the winter of 2015/16 and the female marten has kept coming to the squirrel feeders and to the other food I leave for her. It became obvious through her behaviour in May of this year that she had kits and I soon had them visiting the site through the night before getting my first daylight sighting and photographs of the adult and her kits on June 24th.
So far this year all but one of my hide clients have left with images of either the mother marten or the entire family. I was genuinely gutted for the guest who never seen her as he decided to leave a wee bit early and in typical photography style, she arrived 30 minutes after he'd gone! I have offered him a free return visit and hope he will take me up on the offer.
At the time of writing, the marten/s continue to visit on a daily basis although rather frustratingly, there is no set pattern to her arrival. Recent days have seen her arrive at 10:25 am. 11am. 2pm. 5pm. 8pm and so on and so on! I have several booking from this point forward and I will continue to spend as much of my own time in the hide as possible to keep things going.
It's important to me that everything is done in an ethical manner making sure that the marten only gets natural food. It's also important that they're not overwhelmed by too many visitors and too much disturbance and that the food I give them is only supplementary to ensure that they have to hunt for themselves. I now know that the marten visits local gardens where, along with other martens, she gets another meal and brings joy to the people who watch her through their window.
Everyone who has visited the hide this year (and last) has been very understanding of my 'rules' and I send out some very basic T&C's before I take a booking. I will do the same next year and have hopefully learned a wee bit more about martens and how best to operate the hide.
If you'd like to book for next year then please get in touch.