Bouncing is unusual in nature. As in rising to the same height as before, again and again. It was a bit like a marshland version of the Barnes-Wallis bomb, or a small version of the balloon that was always pursuing poor Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner. So naturally it caught the eye.
I had the bins on it pretty quickly. It was about the size of a football — and furry – but almost at once it vanished behind a tussock. Another bounce: another lightning glimpse. Clearly a stoat was involved: I could see the white chin and the black tip to the tail.
I followed a series of bounces, each once covering a prodigious distance, like the Dufflepuds in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It must have covered 50 yards in a dozen bounces before I lost it for good, and I never really saw it plain. The whole thing took about 20 seconds and for most of them the bouncer was invisible.
Make that bouncers, plural. A solo stoat moves in a series of bounce-pouncing movements, but both this was a quite different style of bounce. Two stoats? Was this stoat love? I checked up: stoats mate in summer, just after the kits are born, but with delayed implantation, the females don’t give birth until the following spring. And surely they wouldn’t bounce unless the lady really did protest too much.
A stoat punch-up? That wasn’t right either: battling stoats would be more inclined to roll than bounce. Then I remembered the time I saw a stoat seize a young rabbit. The rabbit tried to escape at a fast bunny-hop, but the stoat wouldn’t let go: though bounced and body-slammed, he held fast.
You don’t often see rabbits on this bit of marsh. But I see hares every day. This was a stoat taking out a fully-grown hare: an animal a good ten times his size and weight. That’s nature: always one more thing to astound.