Early on Saturday, the house was quiet and I was drinking my first coffee of the morning as the sun shone through the living room window. The idyll was soon shattered by an almighty commotion of Jackdaws at the feeders outside our kitchen window.
Suspecting the subject of their attention to be one of the local Sparrowhawks dropping by for breakfast, I went to investigate.
The shocking frieze unfurling on the ground below the feeder pole was totally unexpected. At first it was difficult to make sense of what was on show, but a Jackdaw was fanned out like an open umbrella at the pole base and appeared to be being pulled into a hole by an unseen adversary while it was surrounded by half a dozen very agitated flock members in full mobbing mode.
There is an old buddleia growing here, right up against the wall. Behind the trunk is where, when we get them, rats often appear. Although I’ve not seen a rat for months now, it looked as if one had returned, re-opened its hole and was pulling the distraught bird into it.
Being no fan of rats in my garden, I dashed out to end the violence. Armed with a garden hoe I approached the bird, whose head remained unseen, to look for the predator. A quick jab with the implement, luckily missed both predator and prey, jarring short against the buddleia trunk. Then, below the crow, a ginger and white piece of fur was showing.
Last night we were walking near the coast path and had nice views of a Stoat so, with it being only a couple of hundred metres away, I assumed it would be the same animal. Mustelids are scarce here with only a couple of sightings in any given year so it must have made its way along the field while hunting the local rabbits.
This was clearly going to be something of an epic struggle, so I left them to it and dashed indoors for my camera.
By the time I returned, the grim dance was continuing out in the open near the bird bath, but it was still very difficult to see what was happening. The mammal was holding the bird by the head, above its right eye, while it frantically struggled to free itself by grabbing with its feet.
As they wrestled, snatched views showed not the expected Stoat but a much smaller Weasel on the attack. This was a first for our garden and only maybe the third on the patch in 12 years. They were common when we lived in SE Northumberland on brownfield sites but up here the field sports fraternity seems to be doing its best to make all small predators extinct by placing a kill trap at the bottom of every blue pheasant feeder bin, and there are a lot of those.
Photographs were hastily taken of the scene through the porch window, but after only a minute or two, the Jackdaw managed to fly off around the gable corner out of view. At this point I assumed the Weasel would be running around the drive wondering where its substantial meal had got to but there was no trace of it either, just an empty patch of grass.
What has happened? On checking the shots I had taken on the back of the camera, the answer was almost unbelievable.
In only one shot the Weasel’s face can be seen in a grimace, while the Jackdaw’s feet are clutching its head. One toe of the Jack’s left foot appears to be in the corner of the Weasel’s jaws while the next shot in the sequence shows the Weasel at full 6 inch standing height reaching up with legs and paws outstretched and finally a 1000th of a second later, its gone, with only a curled back in the top of the frame showing of it. The predator had locked its grip on to the birds foot and had been carried away into the air as it escaped!
|The right toe of the birds left foot is in the Weasel's gape.|
|The Weasel is not letting go of its prize.|
|Just up along the top edge of this shot you can see the curled back of the Weasel off on its maiden flight.|
I checked around the garden but there was no trace of them anywhere. The whole thing was so reminiscent of that famous photograph of a couple of years ago when a Weasel was riding on the back of a Green Woodpecker as it flew off.
It makes you wonder how often this happens and what danger the Weasel is in by tackling prey several times larger than itself?
The whole drama was over so quickly I returned to my coffee and it was still hot enough to drink. What a start to the day…