Welcome, all content is the copyright of the author © Geoff Gradwell
Please do not reproduce without asking. Thanks.
New at this and finding my way around. Any help appreciated!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Searchers

'ya   want   me  to   paint   ya   a   picture?' – John Wayne, 'The Searchers' a film directed by John Ford, 1956 (named the Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute).

I'm afraid I live my life with quotes from films – sad.

I was off my patch and wandering aimlessley when I came across a small water course adjacent to a picnic site, public footpaths and huge public car park, not a promising site for wildlife – hence the reference to 'The Searchers' (the story of wandering 'indian country' looking for that needle in a haystack or something you may never find).

Now I'm giving away a major secret here; the 'trapper' in the web address for this blog refers to the film 'M*A*S*H' (answers on a postcard for the definition please), Trapper and Hawkeye being two of the characters and infamous in 1970 and cross-referenced by my chums for my ability, when I was younger, to find and see wildlife that others didn't and catch fish when others didn't; well that's what they thought and the nickname stuck (with some anyway). 

On this watercourse I thought there was a protruding stone in the middle of the water as there appeared to be current generated ripples either side of it. Then I realised it was actually something small moving in the water, needless to say I must have come into view and whatever it was disappeared. So much for my 'invisibility' skills. Into 'Trapper' mode.

I'm sure skulking about in the undergrowth can get you into trouble!

A blade of grass, here a blade of grass there, something was moving deep in the adjacent undergrowth alongside the watercourse. Was I sufficiently merged with the surroundings – probably not... and then suddenly no warning out of the undergrowth, adjacent to the watercourse not 8m (15ft in old money) was a stoat. THAT was the last thing I expected. Looking left and right and then disappeared again, only to keep reappearing in various locations in archetypal pose, raised on rear legs, straight stiff back looking over the vegetation. The photos really tell the story so you may as well take a look at them. (as always double clicking an image provides larger images and slideshow). 

Only of course it wasn't a stoat, it was a weasel. I spent some time with this rascal even though people were constantly walking to the car park not 30m (100ft) away and two dog walkers passed within 3m (10ft), oblivious to what was going on – hence the reference to 'Trapper'.

any ideas as to what the kill might be? ... please comment

Incredibly some of these images, full size are bigger than the weasel in life, the body being only about 7 inches long (you'll have to work out the mertic... about 18cm)!

This weasel (it isn't a stoat, my first impressions being incorrect) was in and out, shuffling the vegetation here and there and in and out until it appeared with something in it's mouth – it had made a kill. I had a pretty good idea what is was (hence the John Wayne quote – 'ya   want   me   to   paint   ya   a   picture?', a reference in the film to what happened to a white girl captured by 'red indians', or in this case the weasel 'kill'). I can't be completely sure but I have a pretty good idea the kill was a water vole – which is what had stopped me in the first place, swimming in the watercourse. So while I was out 'searching' clearly this weasel was also busy 'searching' and made it's kill. (See how I got two references in for the film! Eh!)

At one point I was stood on a small wooden bridge and I though the weasel had passed underneath, only for it to appear less than 2m (6ft) away, at the other end of the bridge – took one look at me, stared me in the eyes and disappeared under the bridge only to reappear on the public footpath a few metres away (6ft), on the grass verge where only two minutes earlier two large dogs had passed. At one point it must have realised I was there and dropped it's kill – which was to my benefit as it returned a few moments later to collect it and I managed the last few photos. The weasel repeated this once or twice, dropping the kill, looking around then returning and I don't think it was because it was too heavy – I think it was dropping it and 'recce'ing' the way ahead and around it before proceeding, making sure it was safe to move on. I was hoping it would lead me to any 'kitts' (?)

The weasel got itself onto the adjacent embankment and was covering 4m (15ft) in about two seconds flat.... hence the last image, I have a few hundred blurred pictures of it and few in focus! I headed off in front of the direction it was travelling anticipating where it may appear – and incredibly at one stage it was literally at my feet, I mean in the grass/undergrowth six inches from my feet but no chance of a photo opportunity. It disappeared into the undergrowth and I didn't see it again having decided to leave it in peace. I think it got the whiff of my feet!

Sadly unlike 'The Searchers' this story doesn't have a happy ending, well depending on your outlook. Unfortunate to lose a Water Vole, if indeed that is what it was, yet the weasel had managed to capture food for itself or more likely it's young (also a dilemma in the film The Searchers). The 'worrying' thing is this weasel may return to the same location and decimate the local population of Water Voles if it thinks it has a food source. 

I may have to make return visits but it is a bit far from home and on a traffic route I avoid like the plague normally... early mornings perhaps... then again maybe not... returning is all too often never the same... I may just leave it at this delightful encounter and continue searching (see how I did that again!).

And in another quote from John Wayne in the same film – 'That  'll   be  the   day', yep inspiration of the Buddie Holly song and another movie – but that will have to wait for another post. 

I am now off back to K-Pax.


Martin Jump said...

Wonderful story Geoff and great images,thank you for sharing these special moments with us. mj

Geoff Gradwell said...

Thanks Martin

If anyone has any ideas about what the weasel 'kill' is, I'd be pleased for any votes left on this comment section... I thought perhaps a juvenile water vole but it may be a bank vole... any thughts or any votes folks?

Christian said...

I'm sure that skulking can get you into trouble mate! Superb images of the Weasel-one of the best creatures our land has to offer I reckon. Great write-up too.

Brian Rafferty said...

Geoff. What a wonderful experience.. You were definitely in the right place at the right time. Your great observational and photographic skills have captured these magical moments to perfection.Congratulations and thanks for sharing with your fellow bloggers.