Pine marten

The first post on a new website is always a tricky one. After all, almost no-one will ever read it. Traffic (visitors) accumulate as the site gets indexed by search engines and as the volume of posts increases.

No one knows about The Sunart Diaries, so no one will visit. Yet.

Therefore, rather than write something rambling, thoughtful or thought provoking, I’ll simply post this 10 second video.

One of the reasons to visit Ardnamurchan is the wildlife. The geography and the remoteness means that there’s a lot of it. In the loch, in the woods, on the hill and overhead.

Like Africa, Scotland has a ‘big five’ list of animals, originally promoted in 2013 by Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. The term ‘big five’ is derived from the original African ‘big five game’ which were the most difficult or prestigious game for hunters to bag - the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo.

Scotland’s ‘big five’ were the golden eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter and harbour seal. Of these, only red deer are hunted 1. I say ‘were’ as the list was prepared in 2013 to boost the tourist trade. Presumably the list was chosen as being challenging and achievable.

Ardnamurchan’s big five

But the ‘challenging and achievable’ all depends where you are in Scotland.

In Ardnamurchan, four of the five - red deer, golden eagle, common (harbour) seal and otter - are hardly challenging at all and can often be seen on a daily basis. Red squirrel are also present, though the impression I get is that they are rather patchily distributed.

I don’t know what I’d choose instead for Ardnamurchan’s big five. This is a topic previously discussed - again with no conclusion - on the now defunct, but still viewable and recommended, Kilchoan Diary.

Pine marten

However, I’d definitely have pine marten on the ‘big five’ list. They’re not uncommon, but they are reasonably elusive. You sometime see them lolloping 2 across the road, or disappearing into the undergrowth, and there are some people who regularly feed them (digestives with jam is good).

The pine marten above was captured on a trail cam behind the house in early October. We knew they were around as they leave droppings (more correctly termed spraints) in conspicuous locations around the garden.

The pine marten (Martes martes) is a member of the Mustelidae 3 together with stoats, weasels, otters and badgers in the UK … all of which can be seen on Ardnamurchan.

Polly Pullar has written about Ardnamurchan pine martens in her book, A Richness of Martens.

  1. At least, hunted legally. There are numerous cases of illegal raptor persecution, including the senseless slaughter of golden eagles. ↩︎

  2. Lolloping isn’t quite the right word, but neither is bounding. They have long legs and undulate when covering the ground at faster than walking pace. ↩︎

  3. From the Latin mustela, meaning weasel. ↩︎