Yesterday we decided to climb Tinto hill, which rises to be the highest point in Central Scotland at 2,333 feet. It wasn’t supposed to be a wildlife-orientated trip, although the area does have a good variety of bird species, such as Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Red Grouse, Buzzard, Lapwing, Curlew, Skylark, Snipe, Kestrel and rare sightings of Hen Harrier and Merlin. No, instead it was part of a fitness drive to prepare my other half for bagging her first Munro. However, we ended up having the most unexpected encounter with the world’s smallest carnivore.
Having climbed to the very windy summit, we descended down the enormous cairn to a more sheltered spot. As I stood admiring the panoramic views, the wee mustelid popped its head out from under a rock crevice and looked straight at me. It then began darting back and forth across the cluster of rocks at warp speed, as I frantically waved at Debbie to bring me the camera. As it turned out, my 300mm telephoto lens was more of a hindrance than a help for this close proximity photo shoot; but Debbie got better results with her compact. After twenty frenzied seconds of shutter clicks and whispers of “where is it?”, we watched it bound across the barren landscape away from us down the hillside.
Considering our lack of preparation, I’m amazed we got any shots of it at all, let alone in focus- although the slideshow below is definitely an exercise in ‘Spot the Weasel’. Very surprising to see one living at this altitude, but after a bit of thought, the habitat is suitable, with no shortage of birds for it to prey upon, along with the odd mouse or vole. Their extremely high metabolic rate means they usually have to consume at least one-third of their bodyweight every day.