Yesterday morning's sensational sighting in our garden was of the handsome mammal above: a pine marten (Martes martes). We had great viewings as it moved calmly through our shrubs, seemingly on the prowl for baby birds. We had plenty of time to view her (?) through binoculars, but they were barely needed - she was less than ten metres from the house. We felt sad for the infant dunnocks, whose parents were agitated but powerless when their nest was raided, but we felt so privileged to have such a clear sighting of this elusive predator. It belongs to the carnivorous family Mustelidae that also includes weasels, badgers and otters.
Persecuted nearly to extinction and confined by loss of habitat, by a century ago pine martens were found only in remote parts of the north-west Highlands. They were unknown south of the Border. They gained full legal protection in 1988, and according to Scottish Natural Heritage they are making a comeback and recolonising their former haunts in Scotland. The SNH methodology involved "DNA analysis on possible scats gathered along 1-km transects"; our methodology was to open our eyes and rub them in disbelief (it was about 7.30 am).
We were delighted to have our friends Nick and Margaret as house-guests and witnesses to this. And today we have been treated to a second daytime sighting of this amazing animal - agile enough to catch a squirrel. Previously we have seen a wild boar (once, in the adjacent field), a dog otter (twice - both times in the garden) and, of course, roe deer are regular visitors. Truly this is a remarkable place to live, and having decided with regret that after 20+ years we need to downsize and move on, we will miss these jaw-dropping sightings perhaps more than anything else about Landrick Lodge.
I was too excited to grab a camera, so the image above is courtesy of Country Diary, theguardian. And because trees are so important in the pine marten's ecosystem, and because they remain mercifully stationary while I pick up a camera, here is a closing shot of what IMO may be the finest birch tree in Scotland, captured in our back garden at sunset (about 10 pm).