Wee Stoater

August 24, 2019

As I mentioned, we’re off on holiday on Monday for a couple of weeks, and so it’s been the usual rush to get everything done before we go. So yesterday morning I was keen to get to my desk and get my head down, with a couple of work deadlines looming.

This would have gone better, had not a stoat decided to appear on our front lawn and – if you’ll forgive me the technical animal behaviour terminology – start wildly mucking about.

Up until now, my encounters with stoats have been pretty fleeting – something dashing across the road in front of my bike, or occasionally stopping to peer at me from the undergrowth. I’d certainly never seen one doing backflips before, let alone right in front of my study window. As a means of distracting me from work, it couldn’t have been bettered.

In fact, according to some sources, this was the point of the acrobatics: stoats apparently hypnotise their prey by acting weird and then pounce as their unsuspecting audience edges closer for a better look. This would be more convincing if there had been anything else around to watch than us – stoats are also known for taking prey much larger than themselves, but even so I think a couple of humans (however fascinated we were) might be overambitious for something that weighs a couple of hundred grams. Another school of thought is that it’s the side effects of a nematode infection (although there’s no reason both couldn’t be true and that the stoats have evolved to profit from their infestation-induced antics; after all, it’s been suggested a similar thing might be happening in humans).

Either way, by the time I’d extracted myself from an Internet-sized rabbit hole of animal behaviour work really was looming, so it took until today before I managed to get the resulting poor quality video up online to prove I wasn’t imagining things

This morning’s distraction was just as cute but rather less acrobatic.

young hare

Given the stoat is still around, if the dancing really is an effective form of hunting behaviour, and the leverets prove as susceptible as we were, we might have a dilemma on our hands …


A Weasel is Weasily Recognised*

October 18, 2008

Well, well, well, you learn something new every day. As I was riding down to the garage this morning for the paper just for a change, a long thin scuttling beastie crossed my path. I assumed it was a weasel just because I’ve always called those little scurrying things weasels, stoats seeming somewhat out of my league. But having looked it up on t’internet, it turns out that the black tip to the tail – plus the fact that it was big enough for me to think it was a squirrel at first glance – marks it out as a stoat. A nice addition to my list of positively identified wildlife I’ve seen from my bike. Not only that but a kestrel took the chance to show itself off in a sudden patch of sunshine, gliding and darting through a field of indifferent sheep. Throw in a wren, darting across at ankle-height on furiously flapping stubby little wings, and the top of a telegraph pole that suddenly transformed itself into a buzzard and flew heavily away, and the fact that I came back with a paper at all seems like a bonus, rather than the whole point of the ride. (The roadkill total was also enhanced to the tune of one dead badger, but let’s not dwell on that one).

*Whereas a stoat is stotally different