First published: 30-Jul-2011
This morning I woke up very early and couldn’t resist going back to the hills to try and see the stoats again. I read more about them this week and am intrigued by these fierce little creatures. However, I had forgotten about some other fierce little creatures in the Highlands.
I think Hitchcock missed a golden opportunity. Instead of his film ‘The Birds’, he should have made ‘The Midges’. Now THAT would have been a horror movie. Much more convincing too. Ask anyone who has ever experienced a full blown midge attack.
It was a beautiful morning without any wind and the moment I parked the car on the moors I realised it was also a perfect morning for the midges. Thankfully my jam-packed car with lots of coats, waterproofs, hats etcetera contained a midge-net as well. And I have never been more grateful for my own invention, my midge-mittens.
So: trousers in wellies, elastic band of my midge-mittens over my long sleeved coat, midge-net over my head and hat on. It was the first really warm summer day, so I was roasting by the time I got to the place where I saw the stoats last week. While you are walking the midges are all around, but as soon as you sit down there are thousands, millions of them in a cloud around you and on you.
The midge net and mittens were working fine, but it is not easy to sit still or be fully aware what’s happening around you. The midge net blurs your vision, then there is this cloud of dancing midges, plus the thousands that crawl all over the midge net, your hat and your camera. A whole bunch of them were doing a constant polonaise right on the edge of my hat.
It sounds a bit sad but after two hours you start to recognise the different buzzes. The constant light buzzing of the midges is quite obvious. The innocent buzzing of flies and bees going about their business. But then I started to recognise the distinct buzz of the horse-flies. That was very helpful, because they are not as easily stopped by a net as the midges. Fighting off horse-flies does not make for great wildlife watching.
Not very surprising that I didn’t see any stoats for hours. They may have been there, but I just didn’t notice them amongst all the buzzing wildlife around me. Mid-morning thankfully the wind picked up and the midges disappeared. And for some reason the horse-flies gave up on me as well. I didn’t dare take ofF the midge net in case the wind died down again (which it did now and again). Hard times for a coffee-addict; try dinking a cuppa with a net around your face.
After three hours I was rewarded by the brief appearance of a stoat. I was happy to see a stoat in the same area I photographed the stoats last weekend. There must be a den underneath the rock. Even though it was less than a week ago I was again surprised by how small they are.
I took a few shots and around mid-day I left to do some ‘normal’ Saturday activity, like visiting friends and enjoying the summer weather in a midge-free garden. After comparing the photos later on I noticed by the brown pattern on its face that today’s stoat was different from the ones that I saw last week.