Country mouse on the weasel

I love the fields at harvest time-golden vistas filled with sculptures of bales dotted throughout. But, these days, the farmers are quick to plough up the stubbles for autumn plantings, so it’s now an ephemeral joy.

What the harvest does still do, however, is to trigger the mice and rats to move from the fields towards the barns and houses. I was reminded of this on seeing a weasel hunting around the grey barn. Weasels are tiny but savage killers; barely 9in long, they can follow a mouse down its hole or, through sheer aggression, kill animals as big as rabbits.

And, being so small, they need to eat all the time, hence the old expression: ‘Catch a weasel asleep if you can.’ Unlike its bigger relative the stoat, it neither goes white in winter nor has a black dot on its tail.

Gamekeepers kill them due to their habit of taking eggs-something the great naturalist Shakespeare was aware of in Henry V: ‘For once the eagle being in prey, To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot comes sneaking, and so sucks her princely eggs.’ Weasels are, however, attractive in appearance, with chestnut-coloured fur above and white below. They are our most common carnivores.