Gardening Magazine

The Stoat And The Pigeon

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

I’ve just returned from a few days in Norfolk.  We stayed in a relation’s holiday home (featured in The Norfolk Coast) and I spent happy time looking out over surrounding fields and marsh, clutching my camera, sipping tea.  On my first morning, I was watching hares, when a stoat leapt over the garden wall.

Stoat (1)

I’d never seen one so close and barely had time to take a couple of photos

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before it skipped out of view.  Oh, well.  There was so much other hot-wildlife-action going on, I barely registered the comings and goings of a stoat.

Stoat (2)

But the stoat hadn’t gone far.  We saw them often and their antics entertained us during breakfast and an evening’s glass of wine.  (I say entertained, but some of these photos are a little red in tooth and claw.  And chin).

Stoat (18)

Much to the owner’s annoyance, the stoats had nested within the roof space of the house.

Stoat (17)

They scampered about just outside the windows and then leapt up behind the wooden-cladding and scritch-scratched up to their lair.  We knew when they were at home because we could hear them.  Goodness knows what they were up to.  DIY?  Clog dancing?  Or both … simultaneously.  What a racket and we understood the owner’s annoyance.

Stoat (16)

A child’s beach bucket provided a handy drinking hole.

Stoat (14)

One morning, one of the stoats produced a pigeon which, presumably, it had killed.

Stoat (13)

Despite being twice its size

Stoat (12)

the stoat tugged its prey

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up and down the wall, trying to get the huge prize into its nest.

Stoat (10)

I have twice seen stoats at the Priory.

Stoat (9)

They once made my terrier apoplectic with rage by hiding selfishly, and unreachable, in the woodpile.

Stoat (8)

And on another occasion, as I supped Earl Grey, I looked on enthralled as a pair danced in and out of a rabbit warren – a balletic, if slightly chilling display, of hunting skill.

Stoat (5)

This Norfolk stoat was struggling to heft that pigeon up behind the weather boarding.

Stoat (4)

And stopped often to slake its thirst.

Stoat (3)

We watched as long as we could but were, after all, on holiday – we had fun and cake to find.  When we returned after several hours, bar a few feathers, the pigeon was gone.  Did the determined stoat haul it up to the nest?  We assumed it impossible but perhaps.  Or maybe some other opportunistic predator grabbed it.  But whatever, we could hear the stoats above us: hammering in nails and dancing … with clogs on.

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