Pine Martens in the Forest of Dean Field Trip - May 2024
On a lovely sunny Saturday in early May, 19 of our members made the trip over the bridge to the Forest of Dean. We met up with the Pine Marten Ranger, Jamie Kingscott-Edmunds, (a previous pupil at Wellsway School in Keynsham!) and had a brilliant 2-hour walk around the Cyril Hart Arboretum where 31 pine martens had been re-introduced in 2019. This is an area of mixed woodland, ancient and modern, so there are trees of varying ages which is important for many animals including mammals, insects and birds. 
Pine Martens are semi-arboreal mustelids related to badgers and weasels with omnivorous appetites, so they will eat small mammals, birds, insects and fruit. They sleep in holes in old trees, and usually hunt on the ground. This is why (in their homeland of Scotland) they are more successful at catching grey rather than red squirrels, which are faster and more arboreal. 
Camera traps (using eggs, jam and sardines as bait) are used to monitor the pine martens, as they are active at night. As a good proportion of the woodland is managed, so not old enough to have rotting trees for nest building, den boxes have been set up in the timber plantations. Unfortunately these are usually inhabited by nesting birds, not pine martens!

However, as their numbers are increasing, there must be enough mature trees for their natural nests. We did not see any pine martens on our tour, but this was expected as we were there during the day. We kept a watch out for scat (pine marten poo) on the paths, their favourite site, to be rewarded instead by many Dor beetles which have wonderful greeny-blue iridescent bodies. 

We also saw Speckled Wood and Peacock butterflies enjoying the sunshine, and saw and heard many birds including blackcap, coal-, great- and blue tits, wren, blackbird, chiffchaff, chaffinch and nuthatch! On the lake were mandarins, mallards and greylag geese. As it was early May, many wild flowers were at their best, including violets, daisies, English bluebells, wood sorrel, wild strawberry, stitchwort, dandelion, celandine and speedwell.
Greylag Goose
Mandarin Duck - male
Mandarin Duck - female

Jamie told us that many volunteers help to monitor the pine martens, which is so important now that they are starting to increase in their ancestral homes, after they were taken to the point of extinction many years ago.

This was his last official guided walk in the Forest of Dean, as Jamie is moving back to Somerset with the RSPB later this year. Good luck in your new post, Jamie!

Report by Liz Wintle                        Photos by Liz Wintle & Andrew Harrison

Master and Student! 
Our chair Dave Sage with field trip leader Jamie Kingscott-Edmunds
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