Death at Fox Hollow.
21st November 2011: It has rained for most of the day; I am not complaining, the marsh needs the water. We all need the water. The marsh animals don’t mind being out in the rain, and neither do I.
I might be wrong about a fox was using the old badger sett I mentioned in an earlier post; it, being used by at least one badger, as my remote camera reveals. I had noticed fox paw prints around the sett and figured a fox might be using it; I guess I could be mistaken. However, foxes have been known to share setts with badgers; they don’t live together in the same living chambers, though – they use redundant or vacant chambers. Badgers are very tolerant animals, but there must be mutual benefits to justify two different types of carnivore living in such close proximity. Maybe the foxes pay rent, in the form of free meals for the badgers. I moved my remote to a faint badger track leading to the sett, just identify the animals using it.
I read a blog post this morning by the Badger Watching Man http://badgerwatcher.com/. He talks about his difficulty in getting out of his warm armchair to watch badgers on cold, dark, and sometimes rainy winter evenings. I totally sympathise, I will shortly climb from my comfortable reclining chair to tend to my remote camera down on the marsh.
I am now back at home relaxing on my recliner again. It wasn’t so bad out on the marsh this evening. I didn’t mind the rain and there was enough light to see where I was going. It was very humid, though; my glasses kept steaming up. There were only two images on my remote camera memory card: a steaming jungle type of an image, and another showing mostly infra-red reflected glare. You can’t win all the time. I use Scoutguardsg550 remote cameras http://www.trailcampro.com/hcoscoutguardsg550.aspx. These cameras are really good, and very reliable. I have lost the date and time function on my oldest Scoutguardsg550, after it fell from a great height, but it works well enough apart from this. It takes colour stills and videos, and black and white stills and videos when operating in infra-red night vision mode. A set of 8 AA batteries last for more than a year. The camera is very compact and fits easily in a jacket pocket. With the camera in my pocket, it is easy to put it to work when I encounter little mysteries around the marsh. The main problem is remembering where I last positioned a camera; it’s easy to forget, as I have found out on several occasions. When using more than one remote camera at a time, I sometimes waste too much time looking for them, particularly in the dark.
On Saturday evening, I was at the extreme southern end of Hoo Wood, looking down into Fox Hollow with my night scope. I heard a muffled noise from somewhere close to my feet. All of a sudden, a squealing rabbit shot out from a hole in the bank. A second or two later, a light coloured streak rocketed out of the same hole, chasing after the rabbit. The light coloured animal was a weasel, and was tiny compared with the rabbit.
My night-scope shows a black-and-white image, and it has five-times magnification, so keeping track of the goings-on was not always an easy task. The rabbit zigzagged with the weasel close on its tail and turned through 180 degrees. It began a series of high bunny hops, before it tripped and fell. The weasel wasted no time and was on the rabbit in a flash, expertly and viciously sinking small, sharp teeth into its neck. There was immediate somersaulting, high hopping and tight turning tactics used by the rabbit in its attempt to break the weasel’s grip. Sometimes the tactics worked, and the weasel found itself launched into the air. Each time this happened the rabbit made a break for freedom. The weasel, having none of it, launched itself at the rabbit again and again, determined not to let its prey escape. They twisted, rolled and danced in an embraced of death. The weasel’s body was relaxed and floppy, but its jaws remained tightly clamped on the rabbit’s throat.
The weasel’s tactic was to maintain its bite at all cost. The rabbit flipped itself over one way, then another, screaming all the time. The weasel’s body slammed against the ground with each flip and somersault. Eventually, totally exhausted, the rabbit’s movements began to slow and the screaming gave way to a low whimper. In its last death throes, the rabbit accepted its fate. I could just make out the weasel’s head jerking as it deepened and tightened its bite into the rabbit’s throat. The rabbit’s back legs gave a final jerk, and the weasel finished the job by pulling, twisting and tearing into the rabbit’s windpipe. Having witnessing this rarely seen event, and the rabbit’s death, I took one last look and went on my way.