I’m a planner. I like making detailed plans, based on thorough research. This works for seeing some animals: working out where to go and when, and what to do when you’re there. Others you can’t really plan for – you need to be lucky.
So far in my British Animal Challenge I have focused on animals I can more or less plan to see. I have done my research, and gone to likely places, (as with water voles) or, even better, joined in surveys to find them (as with newts). Of course, even going to places you know the animal frequents doesn’t guarantee you a sighting (see my water shrew and otter attempts).
But there’s a whole host of creatures who can’t really be pinned down like that. Take, for example, the mole. I can’t plan an expedition to see a mole. It’s going to take luck for me to ever see one. I can look out for molehills, and spend time in likely habitat at the most likely time of year (when youngsters are dispersing), but ultimately it will be down to luck. (I was very jealous when I read FoDrambler’s post about seeing a mole, thanks to a dog – maybe I should get one. Fat Cat would never forgive me!)
When I was looking through my British Animal Challenge list, working out how to see every type of British animal, there were some where my conclusion was I’d just have to spend enough time in the right sort of habitat to eventually see one.
Stoats were like this. They are not particularly rare, and quite widespread, but going out deliberately to see one may be tricky. So I was delighted to get a glimpse of one as it dashed across the road as we drove in Dorset. Stoats, like otters, badgers and weasels, are members of the mustelid family. They have long, thin bodies, and move with the flowing gait that seems unique to mustelids.
My glimpse of stoat reminded me of the value of just spending time in wild places, even if I’m not on a particular mission to see something. You never know what will cross your path.