Snares, Red Grouse and an Early Bath

Going a little mad after a cold bath.

Just thought it was worth documenting a great walk up the hill this afternoon, under a mild sun with views down to the Lake District and the Isle of Man. My snare midden has been working for the past two weeks and although it hasn’t produced the goods yet, it’s come tantalisingly close. Yesterday, I found evidence to suggest that a fox had slipped in under one snare, picked up a dead hare from the stink pit and then knocked all the other snares over as it clumsily hauled its trophy out of the enclosure. It was frustrating to see how close I’d come to bringing him to book, but since he’s this cheeky, I don’t think it’ll be long before he slips up.

I skirted around the midden this afternoon as I set off for my walk, hoping for some success. There was nothing at all, and I realised that it may take a couple of days for my scent to fade away again after having re-set the snares just yesterday. I carried the .410 with me, which serves as a multi-purpose vermin dispatch tool and is as handy for a snared fox as it is for a rabbit pushed out of the rushes by accident. As soon as I had checked the midden, I went back to the car to fetch scoop. I’m trying not to expose her to the sound of gunfire, so any walking that involves the possibility of a shot requires solitude.

We followed the track up above the midden to the woodcock strip, which took a major beating in the storms at the start of January. I took some little corners out the wood before the winds came, and have been rewarded with some cracking windblow which will save me almost a week’s work. The wood is now broken into sections of flat sitkas, crisscrossing one another and lying with their huge foot plates sitting up at right angles to the ripped peat. The majority of the trees are still standing vertically, but this “mish-mash” effect was what I was aiming to achieve, breaking up the uniformity of a hard forest wall. The timber is so inaccessible that with the exception of a few trees, I will leave them in the wood to rot. Underplanted with silver birch and aspen, the fallen trees will take on a new (and much more wildlife friendly) aspect in 2012, although more on this anon.

Out on the hill, it was interesting to see heather that has been totally destroyed by the sheep. Scoop and I walked a different route from our normal “trap lap” and were rewarded by flushing a red grouse cock, which was so noisy and startling that it in turn flushed a snipe. The deer grass blew in golden waves across the hill, and it was an envigorating experience trying not to run as gusts of wind raged up from the southwest and slapped me in the back.

On the final stretch back to the car, Scoop took it upon herself to roll in a pile of freshly pressed fox shit, with the consistency of primula cheese. Thrilled with her acquisition, she bounded up to me to see if I wanted some. We ran together down to the burn and I hauled her into a peaty pool beneath the waterfall. The little black dog was swallowed up into the amber water as I waded in after her with a handful of moss to scrub her clean. Few things are worse than the smell of fox shit, so after she escaped from the water, I caught her and tossed her back in again, just to be sure that I’d got it all.

She then spent the next ten minutes tearing around the burnside in an attempt to get warm and dry again. Tucking her bottom under her, she ran around like a mad thing, barking and tossing tufts of moss into the air. The entire experience was viewed as a grand and elaborate joke, so I can say with some confidence that she didn’t learn a thing…


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