Cute and deadly

Stoats

The Grouse moors and high meadows in North Yorkshire are alive with new life at this time of year with Red Grouse and the visiting seashore waders who have been with us since spring all busy trying to distract attention away from their young. The other evening I was enjoying the late afternoon sun and watching the antics of the parent birds. I had intended to visit a spot where I knew ¬†golden plovers regularly nest; hoping to hear what must be the most heartbreaking of bird calls, they are surely happier than they sound. As I made my way along the road a family of red grouse exploded from the heather by the road and made for deeper cover, all except one youngster who apparently had learning difficulties, he proceeded to run in front of me for so long I was able to get a photograph. Sadly my golden plovers were missing but I enjoyed the walk. On the way back I had put my camera away because the light was fading when I saw; about fifty yards in front of me; two stoats tumbling around on the road, I nipped over (that doesn’t quite describe the level of difficulty) the wall and using that for cover was able to get level with them before peeking over the wall. These two were obviously having a great time playing tag and I was able to watch unobserved for some time and get some photographs. Despite being delighted to observe this playful interlude, it occured to me that these charming animals would take a heavy toll of the young birds I had seen that evening. I have often seen the traps the gamekeepers set to control the numbers of these efficient hunters and I must say I understand the need to manage predation but resent the tendency of some gamekeepers to adopt a scorched earth policy to anything remotely conflicting with ground nesting birds. I applaud the holistic approach of some enlightened estates who determine the number of ¬†birds of prey an area can sustain and set about managing the BOP population. I am not a great fan of reintroducing every animal who ever lived in this part of the world (beaver, wild boar etc.) but I am all for protecting existing bio-diversity.