I HAVE never seen a stoat perform like this, It was almost beyond belief. I have watched these ferocious and fun-loving tricksters all over Britain from Cornwall to Caithness but have never seen such antics before, and all from my kitchen window.
I had convinced myself that I was watching a grey squirrel. Only squirrels can run up and down trees, that is to say perpendicular oak trees, as though the whole world had become horizontal instead of vertical, It took me a whole day to work out that I’d been fooled.
Laughable really. My stupid brain had been compensating for the correct information my eyes were trying so hard to give. Yes, it said, some squirrels do lose their tails in accidents. Yes, greys can sometimes have a browner tinge, some are jet black and summer coats are browner too.
All quite muddled up because I was not concentrating. All the time I was watching a stoat. It was galloping up and down the vertical trunk and onwards into the crown, It was up to something, because once it reached a certain point it disappeared, and after a minute reappeared and galloped down to the ground and out into the wood through all the dead leaves.
Then back it would come, gallop up nearly to the top and repeat the exercise. After about the third trip I noticed that my funny squirrel was carrying something in its mouth each time it hurtled to the ground.
Late in the day, everything clicked into place. I was watching a stoat carrying kits, babies. That I have seen many times. Always at the gallop, often a distance of 200 yards to a new den.
Hold on, it’s January not April or May, so it doesn’t fit together. It was getting something or other out of a tiny hole in a dead branch. But what? Do stoats cache food?
Again if it was spring, I would say it was moving baby blue tits and taking them back to its young.
Then another strange thing happened. I trap mice in the back of my car in the garage and during the frost had thrown six out into the hedge for the badgers which patrol the garden. One night all six bodies had vanished.
A week later I noticed that some small animal had made a new burrow under the garage.
It had thrown a bucketful of earth out. Amongst it all were the bodies of those mice, now fairly decomposed.
It could only have been the trapeze artist herself, making provision for herself during the frost weather.
All very odd. Perhaps a reader can add something to this puzzling story.