The Back from the Brink Pine Marten project is the first time we have volunteered with The Vincent Wildlife Trust (which we thoroughly enjoy).

We were introduced to the many aspects of this species and project when we saw it advertised in the local press and social media. We knew Kevin O’Hara (project officer) from his previous mammal work in the region and thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more from him and the project.

Firstly, we met up in Kielder Forest doing transects of forest trails looking for signs of Pine Martens (their scats and footprints), then we were given some remote cameras that we learned how to use and deploy, with a range of bait and lures in appropriate places. The training and encouragement we received from Kevin and The Vincent Wildlife Trust was excellent, practical, fun and informative.

We were shown what to look for and the habitat required for the Pine Martens, which augmented our existing knowledge gained from nature watching. Kevin made sure we could read maps and understood all the protocols and H&S requirements of the forest, with anyone unsure paired with people who could help and were more experienced. All questions were answered in a clear, concise and easy-to-understand manner - with Kevin’s very own brand of humour and vast experience.

We both enjoy wildlife-related volunteering, and do things on a scientific basis for wildlife's benefit, as we realise the importance of accurate data. We also undertake extensive volunteering with Northumberland Bat Group, including radio tracking (on foot and in a car) of Nathusius’ Bats over wide tracts of Northumberland (also being quizzed by the police whilst doing this in the early hours!); helping with hibernation studies; bat box checking; bat care; and the NBMP (National Bat Monitoring Programme) for BCT (Bat Conservation Trust), the NHSN (Natural History Society of Northumbria) and the National Trust. We also trap moths and record them as part of the Garden Moth Scheme.

In the field, with the cameras, we listened to Kevin’s advice but used our local knowledge to position the cameras in the best areas. Each camera took about an hour to deploy, to get everything just right, after extensive map and aerial photography reconnaissance work at home. The cameras were placed where there was enough natural food such as voles and squirrels, with good access to neighbouring habitats. We learned a lot from Kevin and the VWT's work in other areas in Wales and Scotland. Placing the cameras near or along existing animal tracks and areas less frequented by humans was also important as it meant hopefully the cameras will be there when you go back!

We were snowed in for a while and couldn’t wait for a break in the weather to find the cameras again.
Once home, the SD cards were downloaded. It is a long process sifting through hundreds of 10 second videos - sometimes of absolutely nothing, then a Fox, a Badger or a Deer.
Imagine our joy when checking one of the first cameras we deployed; we had video of a Pine Marten - on two separate occasions! Just rewards for all those countless Fox and mice videos. Seeing a Pine Marten on them was 'better than winning the lottery,' as getting the first Pine Marten on video in Northumberland can only be done once! We feel so privileged to be part of the Pine Marten project and to be a part of the history being made; it's great!


Neil and Amanda Tomas

Pine Marten Volunteers


Would you like to help this incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.