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Pine marten family

Working on the great snipes in Poland kept me very busy in the evenings and most mornings. But during the day I had a lot of ‘free’ time. I’d go for a long walk in the big forests nearby, mainly looking for beautiful landscapes. On these kinds of walks, I usually leave the long lens behind, because ‘snapshots’ of wildlife aren’t really my thing. I prefer good preparation. And even with a good sighting, you usually don’t get what you were hoping for. But this time I decided to carry the heavy 600 mm anyway.

Hiding behind the bush

A few hours into the forest, I heard a scream near a ditch and animals running around, but the sight was hidden by dense vegetation. Suddenly, a head popped out of the branches: it was a pine marten! My first reaction was to hide and enjoy the observation. I knew from experience that grabbing the lens out of my backpack, connecting it to the body and changing all the settings would have the animal be long gone. But when the pine marten screamed again, I knew what was going on: this must be a female with her cubs nearby, which meant she would not leave quickly, at least not without her cubs! So I discretely prepared my gear.

No time to play

Just when I was ready, one of the youngsters appeared and climbed up a branch. This made the mother nervous and she ran away, hoping the cub would follow her. But it only climbed higher, which made the mother furious. This was no time to play!

I started taking pictures, but I knew I couldn’t stay long. The mother marten knew I was there, and wanted to get her cub as far away from me as possible! I didn’t want to stress her more. She was still creaming when I heard a splash in the ditch, and then another one: two more cubs! The family had just crossed the water, and while the mother was very agile and experienced, it was quite a challenge for the cubs, who couldn’t follow their mom that easily.

I stayed for five more minutes to observe the cubs crawling out of the water, but the vegetation was too dense. Photographing was impossible. So I took off and left the family alone. I had seen pine martens several times before, but to be so close to them for so long is one of those wildlife-experiences you never forget!


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