Category Archives: Stoats & weasels

Mustela nivalis, unless I'm very much mistaken

A day out to Blackpool on Thursday (Jen's birthday). The weather was atrocious: incessant driving rain. We took flasks of tea, bought chips at Harry Ramsden's, and ate them in the car looking out to sea. There was nothing to see, apart from some very miserable-looking gulls and starlings. But it was a day out.

As we rounded the last bend up the hill towards home, a weasel scuttled across the road in front of us and disappeared into the grassy bank. Not as good as a badger, but pretty nice to see.

From now on, I shall refer to that corner as Weasel Corner.

Where was I? (And how I spent my summer)

It has been pointed out to me that I haven't updated this journal in several months. Not that it needed pointing out, you understand: I was painfully aware of the fact. To be honest, I had been toying with the idea of scrapping the whole thing and using the domain name for some other, as-yet-unidentified purpose.

I've been very busy, you see. I've been writing my book. In fact, I've written my book, and am now looking for a literary agent. Literary agents are extremely difficult to get hold of, apparently, but it's definitely the thing to do, if you can manage it. And, if you can't, there's always the self-publishing-on-Kindle option.

And the weather has been so damn awful, you see. ‘The crappiest summer since records began,’ the Met Office said. Or something like that. So I haven't been getting out as much as I'd like.

And then there's the backlog, you see. I haven't posted here since mid-June. That's over four months' worth of posts I would have to write. Which is a daunting prospect to say the least.

So, tell you what: why don't I just post a whole bunch of photos of stuff I've seen since mid-June, with no commentary except the photo captions, and we'll carry on from there as if nothing happened. Which it didn't, I suppose.

Of course, this means I won't get to tell you about all the stuff I didn't manage to photograph, like the two female goshawk sightings in Anglesey (or, more likely, the same female goshawk twice—my first ever goshawk sightings), and the stoat that failed to spot me sitting on my favourite rock, and the peregrine falcon which flew right by my windscreen while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M56 near Frodsham Marshes only last week. But you're not interested in goshawks or stoats or peregrines if there aren't any photos, are you?

So, without further ado, on with the pictures. First, a few shots I failed to include in my last post:

A lapwing spotted just below the Moor on a walk on 13th June.
Common haircap moss
Common haircap moss.

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Song thrush
On 25th June, on a walk around the lanes, I spotted a song thrush next to the daytime moon.

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I took another walk on the Moor on 12th July—a longer walk than usual, up to High Brown Knowl:

Mitchell Brothers' Mill
Looking down from the Moor towards Mitchell Brothers' Mill.
An unidentified caterpillar. (I am hopeless at caterpillars.)
A curlew circled above me, emitting alarm calls.

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Red grouse
I was back up on the Moor on 18th August, bagging grouse. (The red grouse is one of the stars of my book.)

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Sexton beetle
On a knackering walk with friends in the Yorkshire Dales on 18th August, I added this sexton beetle to my entomological photograph collection. (But, if you look very closely, you will see that there is more than one insect in this photo.)

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And then, in September, came Anglesey: one of my favourite places in the whole world. The photos are here, and the slideshow is here, but here are a few of my better snaps:

A rather tame guillemot.
Quite possibly my best wheatear photo so far. One of my favourite birds (and another star of my book.)
It's pretty much guaranteed you'll see a raven or two, if you visit the Anglesey coast these days.
Sandwich tern
This sandwich tern was fishing by the rocks every day. It had a newly fledged chick in tow, and was teaching it how to fish—feeding its lazy and noisy offspring in the process.
Bottlenose dolphins
I looked for them every morning, and was eventually rewarded with the sight of a group of three or four bottlenose dolphins heading off across the bay.

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And, other than a couple more walks which did not yield any photos of note, that's about it. We're up to date!

Moor Walk

A hot, slightly humid day, so I decided to seek some breeze on the Moor Walk.

The harebells are in bloom at the top of the lane. My favourite flowers: so delicate and subtle, yet always managing to survive and get noticed amongst the competing long grasses.

Harebells at the top of the lane
Harebells at the top of the lane

I had just got on to the moor when a weasel leapt out of the heather ten yards in front of me, scampered down the track, and leapt back into the heather. I had my camera in hand and ready to fire, but it was just too quick for me. As always, I was surprised at just how small weasels are: about the size of a large mouse, as contrasted with the squirrel-sized stoat. It was also surprisingly colourful: a glorious chestnut red.

Nothing much doing on the moor: too warm and still. No sign of the sought-for breeze. On the way down, I spotted some mushrooms. As ever, they were growing in old cow poo. I wonder if the mushroom spores are ingested by the cattle and pass through them, or whether they simply land on the cow pats.

Mushrooms in cow poo
Mushrooms in cow poo

Coming down from the moor, I heard a strange bird call from a garden willow at the side of the Lucky Field. I eventually spotted it flitting about, but it was too far away to make out any details. A willow warbler, I guessed, which seemed appropriate. I took a photo to see if I could discern more details at home. Later research, including listening to bird calls on the RSPB website, revealed that it was actually a chiffchaff: a bird so similar to the willow warbler that it took Gilbert White to work out they are two separate species.

A chiffchaff pretending to be a willow warbler.

Finally, on the Nook track, I gathered a few tufted vetch seed pods to sew in the garden at the base of our proto-hedgerow. I don't care if they're weeds. I like them!

More photos »

Weasels v stoats

As I was heading up Blackstone Edge on my way home from work this evening, a weasel sped across the road in front of me. I haven't seen a weasel for years—although I did see and photograph a stoat in Anglesey last summer.

Slideshow: A stoat last summer

When I was a child, I was terrified of stoats and weasels, having once had a nightmare that my grandmother's mink stole came alive and attacked me. I always got the two creatures confused in my head: in my nature books, they looked very alike, so I could never remember which was which (although I knew that stoats have a black tip on their tails, if you can see them).

What wasn't immediately obvious from books was the two species' sizes. This is surely the easiest way to tell them apart. Weasels are much smaller than stoats. Whereas a stoat is roughly the size of a squirrel, a weasel is more like an elongated mouse. And an elongated mouse is certainly what I saw scuttling across the road at Blackstone Edge this evening.

[You didn't seriously expect me to repeat the old weaselly recognised/stoatally different joke, did you?]