Ya Wee Stoater, I Got You at Last!
Many a long year I have been trying to get a photo of a “Stoat”. They are there one second, and gone the next. No matter how quick you are at getting your camera fired up, you will not even come close to the speed that the stoat will disappear into the undergrowth, or in this case, into a drainage pipe.
This one was spotted on the Loch Ascog road, just up from the farm. I came upon it just as it had emerged from a pipe that connects the two ends of a ditch together, and is covered with rubble to enables tractors to cross over into the fields. It looked at me for a few seconds, then, it was gone. By this time I had started to get my camera out of it's bag, then it reappeared, had another look at me, then disappeared once more. I continued with my camera, and was now ready for a third appearance of this marvellous little mammal, but it had headed off up the ditch. I followed it for a few seconds, then it was gone. I waited for it to surface for about three minutes, and I made sounds to attract it. These sounds are made by pursing your lips and sooking the back of your hand, emitting a high pitched noise that the stoat reacts to. ( recommend that you check that there are no members of the public around before you try to make these sounds as you will look a right numpty.)
After having no luck with my sounds, I moved back towards the pipe, and there it was, it had returned via the undergrowth and was looking at me and waiting until I got a photo of it, and now you see it as I did.
I would have much preffered to show you a photo of a whole stoat, but maybe sometime in the future I will manage it. As I said it was waiting for me, but maybe it could not move for laughing at my antics trying to attract it?
I have seen many of these mammals in the past, and the one that I remember best was when I was repairing the Loch Fad road, between Barone Park farm and the Chapelton woods, which are the ones that you will see a short distance after you pass the farm, and are on the right hand side of the road. We were in the lorry having our lunch, when out of the nearby ditch, appeared three stoats, but not ordinarily ones, no, two of these had their winter coats on, and were pure white,(Ermine) except for the tip of there tails which always remain black, and the other one had not changed entirely and still had patches of brown on its upperparts. They danced around the field beside the ditch for ages, just three weans having a good time, and giving us the best lunchtime entertainment that you could ever wish for. We would never have wittiness this, if we did not have the lorry to sit in and be quiet.
Another time I was at Kilmichael Farm, and had just parked the car, when I spotted a stoat carrying a dead rabbit (their favourite food). Then it encountered an obstacle in the shape of a fence that had chicken wire on it, which is squares of wire of about 100 mm ( 4 ins) The stoat tried for a few minutes to pull the rabbit through this small space, without much success, then with one last big pull it managed it. It then continued on it's way until it spotted me and dropped it and scarppered off. I was upset as it may have had a young family to feed and I was the cause of it abandoning their food. But all was okay very soon as it returned and carried on with it's mammoth task of getting the rabbit to it's den. I do not know what distance it had carried it for , or how long it had taken it to do this task, but it was certainly worth watching. Sometimes, as you walk along country roads, you may hear the anguished calls of a rabbit that has been caught by a stoat, this is a good way of pin-pointing it's whereabouts. Not much fun for the rabbit, and the same goes for any of your children that you happen to have with you, they may prefer the cuddly rabbit to the slimline fast killer that the stoat is. How the stoat can carry/ pull a fully grown rabbit more that twice their weight is unbelievable.
Identification is made very easy with the coat colour being orange-brown above with clear demarcation lines from white underparts.
With the winters being a lot milder nowadays, there does not seem to be as many donning their winter coats, which is a shame as they look fantastic. They look good at anytime, but to see one in white is enough to make anyones day.
First published in the Buteman 2006