Country diary: the stoat's winter coat is no camouflage now

Allendale, Northumberland: One of their main predators is the domestic cat; an ermine will be particularly vulnerable once the snow has gone

I’m eating my breakfast when I see a flash of white hurtling down the garden path. Reaching for the binoculars that are always on the kitchen table, I see it’s a stoat, part ermined, starkly revealed now the snow has gone. Its fur is a rich red-brown with white patches, the brilliant winter coat contrasting with the jet black tip to its tail. Flowing lightly over dormant flower beds, it streaks over a wall and disappears into the field.

Minutes later, I see the stoat again, a limp vole in its mouth. It runs around the square of the garden keeping to the inside of the boundary before slipping between the stones of one of the drystone walls. It emerges without the vole, which it has cached, storing the surplus food for later. For the next half hour I watch it hunting, undulating along coping stones, its neat little face popping out from under the topiary, as the sun comes up, a mistle thrush sings and backlit winter gnats take to the air.

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Source: The Guardian
Country diary: the stoat's winter coat is no camouflage now