On another note, I recently watched a Stoat hunting, it seemed to be randomly wandering about, before suddenly picking up the scent of an unseen (to me) young Rabbit. The Stoat launched itself onto the Rabbit from about 18" away and grabbed it by the back of the head/neck. Quick as a flash, another unseen Rabbit, adult this time, appeared from the nearby scrub and kicked the Stoat off, the young Rabbit had been silent (to me) during the encounter. The Stoat trotted off and seemed to continue on its way. Three minutes later, with the young Rabbit still where the initial attack had taken place, the Stoat returned and again launched itself onto the Rabbit from about 18" away. This time the Rabbit squealed and once again the unseen adult shot out of the nearby scrub and kicked the Stoat off. Unlike the first occasion, this time the Rabbit took up a hot pursuit of the Stoat and I was able to watch for two minutes as the brambles and Gorse shook where they were chasing about unseen to me. When the bramble movement finally stopped the Stoat reappeared about 20 yards from the young Rabbit and headed off away from its potential meal. I waited around for ten more minutes but saw no further sign of the Stoat. The young Rabbit was bleeding heavily from its head and clearly in the last throes of life from the two attacks so the best course of action was to put it out of its misery.
I've often seen Stoat carrying prey but in forty years this was the first time I'd actually seen an attack, the whole Rabbit protecting the youngster was an added bonus to the sighting.
Fabulous account. Moments like this are so few and far between in a lifetime's Nature-watching and are to be treasured. A few years back, on a farm in Cornwall, I saw a Stoat wrestling with a squealing Rabbit on the brow of a small hill. On seeing me the Stoat ran off a short way leaving the Rabbit to scuttle off a short distance over the top of the hill, momentarily out of sight. A couple of steps took me up and over the hill where a Buzzard with its undercarriage down and talons out was inches away from pouncing on the Rabbit, only to pull out of its pounce suddenly at my appearance. I stepped back for a minute and the Stoat reappeared, finished off the Rabbit and started dragging it back to its burrow. I didn't intervene.
Last year we had an extraordinary display from a family of six Stoats that we captured on a trail cam. A few days later I saw a Rabbit chase three of them across an open area for a few seconds and had to rub my eyes, thinking: isn't that the wrong way round! Your story has helped to confirm I wasn't hallucinating!
I remember 100 birders standing at Potteric Carr in 1984, waiting for a Little Bittern to appear, when all of a sudden, a quivering Rabbit appeared at point blank range, followed seconds later by a Stoat which grabbed it and proceeded to wrestle with it right there in front of us all. (I actually can't remember the final outcome to this event...apart from seeing the Little Bittern!)
All of these events were blink of an eye, ephemeral moments, easily missed if you were looking the other way.