‘Weasel!’ ‘Weasel?’ ‘Wait – Stoat!’
I doubt I was the first person to get my mustelids mixed up, and no doubt I was the last. In reality these two mammals differ in many ways – size being one determining factor, but either way I was giddy from excitement, having never seen either creature before (a poor show for someone claiming to be a British naturalist). This particular sighting was through a car windscreen, in this case on a meandering Scottish Highland road, and involved a squeal of brakes accompanied by a squeal of joy. The stoat, in contrast, seemed far from thrilled. His chestnut back arched and his black eyes glared indignantly at the great metal monster that had disturbed his peaceful afternoon. He stood for several seconds, before bounding across the tarmac and diving into the verge, where he obligingly left his black-tipped tail poking discreetly out of the grass. Definitely a stoat.
This piece was published in the ‘My First Time…’ letters section of BBC Wildlife magazine, November 2012, p.107