I was early to the workshop this morning, in an attempt to get some carving done before it became too hot and it wasn't long before I had to stop to take breath. The sun scorched into a baking heatwave in no time. I sat in the shade with my back against the trunk of my old sycamore tree and after a few moments caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. There was a dash and a dart and a shiny head appeared, blinking and bold. Then another, and another.
The mother stoat had brought her brood out - they played and bounded in ripples and rolled and twisted, sprang and pounced - she called and they were eagerly around her and in a blur withdrew under the shed.
What a magical few moments! Last year a stoat made her home under one of my pallets of stone and also had young - it would be nice to think it was the same female. I made a number of sketches of her, and I will try to do the same with this family. This sketch has become one of my best selling greetings cards.
Watching the mother stoat later that day, it reminded me of an article by Mike Bagshaw in local paper the Gazette & Herald 'The Stoat at Work in the English Hedgerow' as there she was bounding down the lane, through the hedge and back to my sheds carrying prey. She knew I was there and skirted around me, taking cover where she could, and popping up again in a different spot - despite her heavy load she was much too cunning, quick and agile for me to get a picture.