The Stoat And The Pigeon

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 were to see a pair 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.

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They scampered about just outside the windows and then leapt up behind the wood-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

Stoat (11)

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 popped 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.

48 thoughts on “The Stoat And The Pigeon

  1. I salute your plucky, Norfolk stoat, David, though you are being very humble about your ‘couple’ of photos – they’re enchanting. Here it’s possums who get the the gong, but we’ve all got to live, hey?

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  2. Lovely photos.

    We too have had stoats in our loft. The solution was simple, once we thought of it – leave the light on up there.

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  3. You certainly are a great photographer, I’m always impressed with your pictures. This little devil that you can’t figure whether it’s adorable or terrible (the stoat, not you!). By the way the hunting team was cuter than the hunted team (I hate pigeons) so I support the stoat this time. Maybe with a lovely rabbit I could change my mind…

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  4. We don’t get stoats here in Tasmania but they were introduced to New Zealand and are the number one reason for kiwi numbers plummeting in the 20th century. Stoats eat the eggs and kill the chicks. We have regularly visited NZ in the last 10 years and saw a few stoats, including one who ran across the road in front of our car. I think they are flat out trying to get rid of stoats in NZ not to mention brush tailed possums from Australia.
    I like your new profile pic! My husband looked at me strangely when I burst out laughing

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    • I didn’t know that stoats were introduced into New Zealand (and why on earth?) but I can imagine the damage they do. We have a similar problem here with mink – either escaped from fur farms or set free by animal rights activists. They are now so widespread it is next to impossible to eradicate them. Glad I gave you a laugh! D

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  5. Wow wow wow – amazing shots David you were so lucky to have them on your doorstep so to speak. I know they can be a menace but you have to admire them don’t you. Glad you enjoyed your trip – I am green.

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  6. I’ve never seen such good pictures of stoats, let alone seen the real thing. Beautiful animals but I am not sure how I would deal with them if they were nesting under my roof. It would be very difficult to watch them take off with the birds you feed every day. Maybe they would make you step back and teach you what nature is all about. Amelia

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    • Thanks Amelia. Difficult isn’t it? I’m increasingly seeing Sparrowhawks at the Priory and specifically near the bird feeders. I love seeing them but do rather wish they were vegetarian.

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  7. What beautiful looking creatures, though I agree with Stacy, very disturbing to see one drinking from that happy holidays bucket… Not keen on the idea of stoats nesting in my house though – bad enough getting woken up by seagulls landing on the dormer roof. Heavy birds, seagulls. They might join the stoats for the clog dancing. More likely to survive the proximity than a pigeon.

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    • It’d be a brave stoat to take on a gull, I should think. We have gulls here too and one raps loudly on the patio door – often and insistently. Makes me jump out of my skin as I sit with my back to that window and it’s driving us nuts. We’ve taken to throwing a tea-towel at the glass to dissuade it and that seems to be working. Just as well, my nerves are shredded.

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  8. There’s something spooky-movie incongruous about a predator drinking from such a cheery little beach bucket. Great photos, Dave. I once had squirrels nesting in my attic and was sure they were gnawing through every weight-bearing beam under the rafters (are they beams? I don’t really know) to create an open floor plan. Luther was very perplexed at the noise and kept looking at me as if I should do something, and he was not wrong.

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    • Yes, Stacy. That bucket is a little Toy Story One isn’t it? And snap! We had squirrels in the roof space over our bed in the cottage above the Priory. They drove us NUTS. But I am disappointed in Luther. HE should have done something rather than you, but then neither Hobbes nor Solo helped out either. Both loveable, both useless squirrel deterers. D

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  9. A lovely animal, looks cute but kills other animals, our neighbour who breads waterbirds in his garden knows what damage they can do !!! he also gets regular visits from foxes, he is not amused when they come and kill his animals !! but that is nature : cruel !

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    • I spent an awful lot of time trying to get a decent shot of the marsh harriers that hunted near the house, Brian. But wasn’t too successful. My in-laws, who stayed on after we had left, told me that a pair sat in a tree in the garden eating prey for about 10 minutes. So often, getting a decent shot is just down to sheer luck. I was very miffed to miss that! D

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  10. Your clog dancing reminds me of the first time I heard a possum run over our (metal) roof, shortly after we moved to Australia. I seriously could have sworn it was a herd of elephants. To this day, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if an elephant poked its head around an upstairs window, but I’m reliably told they are just cat-sized possums.

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  11. Fantastic photos, stoats are really small, I’ve seen them several times but as dots in the distance. I’m most aware of them when I smell their kill walking through woods.

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  12. I used to see them on the local common when I walked our dog there, one stood on its hind legs and tried to frighten us away, our dog was a lurcherX and I’m certainly not tiny! Your photos are fantastic as usual, such sharp focus each time, I don’t know how you do it. I could do with a stoat here, we have far too many prgeons!

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    • Hi Pauline, I’m not surprised that a stoat tried to face you and your dog off. They seem pretty fearless. I was taking the photos through glass in quite dark conditions but the stoat could see me – hence his frequent looking at the camera – but I didn’t seem to concern him very much. D

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  13. Wonderful photos – though I preferred the ones without the pigeon! I have never seen a stoat – they are certainly cute to look at, but not so in their nature. Cute creatures should all be vegetarians!

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  14. Cute? Looks deceive, yet again. Reminds me that many years ago I opened the curtains early to see a cat disembowelling a pigeon it had caught in my tiny garden. You were lucky in not finding any leftovers – I had to go out and bag up the carnage before my 7 year old saw it. Yeeeeeeuuch!

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  15. In all my born 80 years, I’ve never known of this critter – a stoat. Amazing and very interesting. Thanks for the educational moment.

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  16. This is a confession. We trapped a stoat the other day in a cage set in the garden for rabbits. It was dead when we found it the next day. I don’t know what killed it. Cold perhaps? More likely terror through being trapped. It wasa beautiful thing- attracted to the garden by the rabbits perhaps. I had only seen one in the garden once before. We were very sad- but more determined to rid ourselves of the rabbits.

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    • Interesting. I occasionally have rabbits in the garden and wondered about buying a live trap. But I hadn’t really considered that it might catch (and kill) other creatures. Stoats are certainly a major predator of rabbits, so I can understand you were sad in killing an ally. I’d thought stoats only capable of catching young, small rabbits … until I saw this astonishing film (the relevant bit is from about 1:50mins):

      Dave

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