I have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the world’s most deviously adorable mustelid (weasel) in my dreams, but I have only seen a handful of Pine Marten (aka American Marten) in ‘real life.’
Up until this past November, I had only photographed two:
Murray the Marten, photographed on November 9th, 2015 in Banff National Park, AND;
Marty the Marten, photographed on November 11th, 2017 in Jasper National Park.
Can you see the hint of an emerging pattern here?
There are a lot of ‘Ms’ – thanks to my naming scheme, and there are also the ‘Novembers’ two days apart and two years apart, and two Canadian National Parks.
Check out my newest Pine Marten Gallery before continuing your scroll:
Banff National Park
In the hopes of honouring synchronicity and aligning myself with weasel energy, on November 9th, 2020 I set off on another Marten-seeking mission.
The plan – three days/two nights in Jasper – allowed me to explore not only the general territory of Murray in Banff, and Marty in Jasper, but several Marten hotspots scattered along the route.
On November 9th a Marten materialized much quicker than I had imagined. About 90 minutes into my drive (in Banff, within 2 kilometres of where I saw Murray in 2015), I saw a Marten cross the road!
At least 300 meters away, the distance made it difficult to pinpoint the exact spot. There was no snow, no tracks – I was unable to find my Banff Marten, but additional synchronicities related to time and location seemed to be stacking up.
‘Good Omen?’ I thought to myself. At the same time wondering – do I dare believe it possible to be given multiple Marten sightings in one trip?
Perhaps the universe would deem my magical wildlife sighting quota filled for this trip.
OR, perhaps there is no such thing as a quota in the world of magic.
Jasper National Park
I arrived close to sunset, with just enough time to quickly explore ‘Marty-territory’ before dark.
No further Marten were found that day, but I was confident Marty himself was still likely in the area, based on reports from friends who had seen him as recently as 2019.
I knew, of course, that Marty is one of many Marten in Jasper, just as Murray is one of many Marten in Banff.
I hesitated to name even the general locations of Banff and Jasper as my Marten encounters, due to the stigma of wildlife photographers sharing locations. I may be judged for this.
But really, there is no secret formula to finding and photographing Marten. Virtually all picnic areas and human establishments (like lodges) in the Canadian Rockies attract Pine Marten.
I have seen hundreds of tracks zig-zagging over pristine slopes of crystallized snow.
The tracks are beautiful, in and of themselves, in the way they speak to what I consider to be the erratically focused energy of weasels.
Here are a few of my favourite Pine Marten track photos from 2019 and 2020:
November 10, 2020
I spent the whole day following marten tracks, constantly ping-ponging between a state of sheer frustration and the quiet solitude of being in an environment overflowing with such potential.
On November 10, I was meet with the same Marten-less-ness of so many tracking missions before – so many tracks followed, so few Marten.
November 11, 2020
I woke up with a renewed sense of hope.
I chose to focus my search on the two kilometre radius surrounding a busy parking lot where I had seen the densest volume of tracks the day before.
The tracks over-lapped on each other, varying in ages from fresh to old. No, doubt, this parking lot area was the established path of a Marten.
‘F@*K!!,’ I blurted out, about two hours into my search, having just slipped in the snow for the umpteenth time.
I was walking on a path, but the ground was slippery with a soft layer of fresh snow from the night before.
Fatigue makes me lose my balance. When I start falling, I know it is time to throw in the towel.
I gave up on finding my Jasper Marten.
I was not feeling completely defeated, however, knowing there were several Marten hotspots I could check out on the way home.
I walked along the bridge crossing the river that feeds into the reflective beauty of Maligne lake.
As my feet crunched along the snowy surface of the narrow pathway, I could not help but notice all the Marten tracks my steps where erasing.
I looked up and was suddenly taken aback by the beauty of my surroundings.
All Marten-related aspirations flew from my head as I quickened my pace back to the car, on a new mission, to retrieve my ‘landscape’ camera.
I am not a great landscape photographer, but it is difficult to resist the urge to attempt to capture the majestic beauty of the Canadian Rockies, especially when it is being reflected in a calming pool of mountain water.
I had taken a few photos, my favourite of which is on the right (or below), when a sense of ‘swift browness’ drew my vision downward.
THE Marty, the exact same Marten I photographed on November 11, 2017, appeared at my feet.
The second we made eye contact, he scurried across the narrow bridge foot path, right at my feet.
I lost my mind.
I followed him to a nearby pathway and randomly thrust my camera in his direction, firing erratically in the hopes of capturing an image.
I was fortunate to have captured a handful of images, given my frantic state.
My most recent Marten encounter, along with the brief glimpse of a Banff Marten two days prior, merged with a mountain of Marten-related synchronicities.
And there is so much more than just the ‘Ms’ and the ‘Novembers‘ and the National Parks.
So much more…
Putting aside all the synchronicities, there was also something extraordinary about Marty’s actions. They spoke to the innate boldness of not only weasels, as a species, but Marten, as a sub-species.
Just as Gandalf the Grouse stood his ground in the face of ‘human enemies’, Marty the Marten did not change his trajectory simply because a human was standing in his path.
Obviously he saw me, the picture proves it, but he could easily have taken a wide berth and veered around me. Or turned around.
Most animals would have turned around. A bear, cougar, wolf – any of our ‘vicious’ Canadian predators would almost certainly have changed their trajectory.
Weasels are different – when we really allow ourselves to see, all animals defy our preconceived notions of how we think they should behave.
Such beautiful alignments! And I have not even mentioned the most obvious of all – with the exception of one vowel, I share my surname with my favourite weasel.
What does that say about me?
I have yet to think too deeply about this, but there is something about naming and identification brewing in my mind – I may expand on this in future posts.
Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild 🙂