Where the Weasels Were!

April 7th, 2010 | Written by Simon Rice|

The week ended with a late flight into Barcelona after two hectic days in Paris – a lifestyle I thought I’d left behind long ago when I moved to Spain! Having Nick Lloyd’s company during the drive home to the Pyrenees made all the difference though, and the following day we were able to spend time naturalizing in the wildwood around Casa Rafela.

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Recent rainfall ensured that there were plenty of tracks clearly visible and Nick’s expertise soon identified the passage of a badger (Meles meles), a very common species hereabouts that I normally notice from their latrines. Much more rare – and infinitely more exiting – was our stumbling upon  two weasels (Mustela nivalis) apparently playing among a pile of boulders beside the track.

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One had darted across the lane as we approached, drawing our attention, but we were amazed when it, or another one, re-appeared among the rocks. Soon there were two ducking and dodging about and although both were evidently aware of our presence – we were downwind and stood frozen to the spot, of course! – they were apparently unperturbed. Indeed they appeared to be curious about us. I was able to slowly remove my pocket camera and attempt a few images as they continued to gambol around their ‘fortress’ – disappearing at times and turning up a few yards way, tantalisingly ever closer.

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But at length they failed to reappear and, somewhat reluctantly, we continued along the path home. But in the gathering darkness another treat was in store; just a few hundred yards from home I saw a female red deer (Cervus elaphus) crossing the field ahead of us. It was by then too dark for photography and in any event the deer was gone in a few seconds – not before we could both positively identify it. I was amazed to find such a large animal so close to home, a home range that I’d been walking almost daily for the last dozen or so years! Nick postulated that it had wandered from the nearby Serra de Boumort game reserve, which is especially noted for its large population of red deer, and this led me to wonder if it was an adolescent male seeking a new herd. With no digital image to enlarge this will remain forever a mystery – and is, perhaps, none the worse for that!