The Cycle of Life
by Simon Knight
I am starting my diary series with one of my most memorable mornings spent in the park.
I rank this little encounter right up there with seeing wasp spiders mating last year, where the female killed the male immediately after. Please understand that I don’t enjoy the death side of nature, but it’s what happens, it’s the natural world and I feel privileged to witness these moments that we don’t often get to see.
I had been drawn to the area of this encounter by a squirrel that was kindly posing for me on the trunk of an oak. Whilst I fired off a few shots, I noticed movement on the ground. I looked down to see a mouse walking along a fallen branch, only a couple of feet away from me. As I was cursing myself for not adopting a lower position to photograph the squirrel (which would have positioned me better for the mouse) the tiny head of a weasel popped up from behind the branch.
I couldn’t believe it! I had never been so close to a weasel, and this was only my second ever sighting of one. Obviously the shock of seeing me was enough to scare it off, but I was ready to wait it out in case it appeared again. I froze on the spot for fear of causing any more disturbance, desperate to get another look at this tiny predator. I watched for signs of movement amongst the young nettles, ivy and dead oak leaves. Suddenly, off to my left by only a few feet, movement. The nettles moved and then in a small clear patch, a brown furry streak disappeared into the ground. It must have been the mouse. Within a few seconds, that thought was proven incorrect as the weasel popped its head out of the hole like a submarine periscope checking to see if the area is clear. I took a picture. The weasel disappeared into the hole again.
I couldn’t believe that I had got a picture of this frantic little creature, but I figured that I had just had my one and only opportunity at getting a shot of it. Wrong again. It came back out, this time carrying a dead mouse! It carried the mouse off to my right and disappeared under a log, and that was the encounter over. Luckily, I was able to get some more shots. I was now on such a high and I just couldn’t believe my luck!
Weasels are so small that they can fit into the burrows of their small rodent prey, in this case, probably the mouse that I had originally seen. The mouse didn’t seem in too much of a hurry, so I think the weasel may have been following the scent of the mouse, which led it to the mouse’s burrow. And considering that the weasel is perfectly capable of taking down a rabbit, a mouse would be easy picking.
It was now time to head home for breakfast, but there was another exciting wildlife encounter to come before I left the park, which I will tell you about next time!