I’m sitting on the wall overlooking the mouth of the River Loughor. Across the water is Pen-clawdd. Behind me is a screen of bushes. It’s a private spot. Very peaceful. I relax and tuck into my apple.
When, suddenly, there is a soft slapping sound. A kind of “thumph” sound. Very close. Startled, I look around.
Next to me on the wall an animal has appeared. I think it’s a rat and freeze in horror. Then I realise it’s not a rat. It’s a small rabbit. A bunny.
The furry body is only about 18 inches away from my thigh. And it certainly wasn’t there earlier.
For one moment I think the bunny must have jumped up onto the wall, seen me sitting there, and the fright of this unexpected encounter sent it into instant cardiac arrest. But then I realise the animal is very dead. Not in the process of dying. Dead for many minutes. Or possibly longer. And has blood on its face from some sort of wound.
Next I think maybe the body has been dropped by a bird of prey. I’ve seen kestrels, and I know there are hen harriers in Wales. But the gentle “thumph” sound I heard didn’t sound like a body dropping from a height.
Movement on the ground. I look down. And catch sight of a streak of brown. It’s a weasel or a stoat – I don’t know the difference. And it’s darting around like a maniac.
First one way then the other. It’s running between bushes and the wall.
I pull out my camera (of course) and the thing runs out again, sits up, trembling with anxiety, and stares at me.
Then it looks at the baby rabbit lying next to me.
Then it turns to glare at me again.
And I realise what’s happened. The stoat (or it might be a weasel) has been out hunting and has killed the baby rabbit – almost certainly by stealing it from its burrow. And now it’s dumped it up on the top of the wall. Why? I don’t know. But the stoat/weasel is now in a state of high anxiety. Torn between fear of me and a desire to reclaim its meal.
Carefully I put my apple down (actually, I tuck it into my rucksack, because I don’t want the stoat/weasel stealing my lunch!). Then I lever myself off the wall and gently step backwards.
Now I am standing about five feet away from the animal. It fixes its attention back on the rabbit. You can see how high the wall is from the photo below. It’s hard to imagine the tiny thing climbing up there, never mind with a rabbit in its mouth. The bunny might be a baby, but is large compared to the stoat/weasel.
I wait patiently, camera ready.
The stoat/weasel seized its opportunity and leaps up onto the wall. It moves so fast, I only manage to capture a few blurred shots. Here it is, on the wall.
It grabs the bunny and, in the next instant, is leaping off the other side , down into the grass and scrub of the river bank.
I lean over and can see it among the bushes, peering up at me. The bunny lies beside it.
Then it drags the rabbit off, pulling it into the heart of the bushy area and into its den, I presume. Maybe it has baby stoats/weasels to feed?
The wall is empty again. No sign of the little drama that has just played out.
What do I do next? I climb back onto the wall and finish my lunch, of course. My apple and my bar of emergency chocolate. And I wonder if the stoat/weasel is enjoying his own lunch somewhere below me.
Later I look up the differences between stoats and weasels. They look remarkable similar and they both prey on small mammals. But stoats are larger than weasels and more likely to carry off baby rabbits. It must be a stoat, mustn’t it? However, stoats have a black mark on the tip of their tails, and this little creature didn’t have a black mark on its tail. So maybe it was a weasel? Still can’t make my mind up.