After Christmas away from the Chayne, I headed up this morning to inspect the damage caused by more than a month’s uninterrupted snow cover. The ground is still as hard as a board beneath half an inch of slushy mud, but the grass is looking decidedly fresh and invigorated after a month free from grazing.
The last two times that I have been up to the Chayne, I have seen a stoat. I don’t know whether or not the cold weather is making a difference to their behaviour, but after seeing my first stoat (the same one twice) in more than a year of observation, I can’t help wondering why he is so suddenly conspicuous. Both times I have seen him, I was incredibly impressed by his speed and agility, and it was thrilling to watch him soar over obstacles as if he were being pulled by an extremely rapid lead.
I can only assume that it was the same stoat twice because the two sightings took place within four hundred yards of one another, and on both occassions I noticed that it had an unusually dark brown head. The second time I saw him, he vanished into a pile of stones and poked his head out to watch me with a quizzical expression.
It is worth noticing that none appear to have changed into their traditional white pelage after more than a month of snow, although from what I can gather, the transition seems to take place more on an individual basis than regionally. It could be that there are some white ones around while others did not make the change.
Stoats really are charming little buggers, and it was with a degree of regret that I set up a couple of traps this afternoon near to where he likes to gambol. Hopefully he can be dispatched as soon as possible and I can make a proper start on stoats and weasels as soon as my new traps have been weathered underground for long enough to lose their human smells.