Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meeting a Mink, and Various Spring Sights

For the past few days, I've been visiting my family in Maryland, where spring is in full swing -- flowers everywhere, reptiles and amphibians out and about, mid-70s temperatures, the works! I very much enjoyed the vacation, but I was a little worried that I might be missing some key springtime events up here in Connecticut. So when I got back home this afternoon, I took a trip to Naugatuck State Forest, to see how much had changed while I was gone.

And I did miss some things, but not too much. The Wood Frogs have made their first appearance, for starters. I didn't see or hear any of these frogs during my walk today (it had cooled down significantly by the time I got out there), but I did find the results of their earlier activity:

There should still be many more eggs to come, and I'm confident that I'll get to see the frogs when they continue their reproductive activities on future warm days. I heard a few scattered Spring Peepers calling today as well, so it seems the time for amphibians has really arrived!

And there are tiny leaves emerging out there -- the new-spring greenery I saw today was all on invasive plants, but I'll take whatever green I can get right now. The Multiflora Rose stalks were sending little green shoots out all over the place:

Some of these rose leaves were even starting to unfold and take shape:

The Autumn Olive leaves were peeking out, too:

While not green (and not invasive), clouds of puffy gray pussy willows spoke of spring as well:

The most exciting part of my visit to the woods today, though, wasn't strictly spring-related. I was rounding the lake towards the end of my walk, when a long, thin, furry creature bounded across the rocks just to the left of the path, then dove quickly down into a crevice and out of sight. I only saw it for a split second, but I was pretty sure I knew what it was: an American Mink.

I had seen what I thought must've been a mink at this lake once before, last May, but that was from a great distance and I hadn't seen any more signs of the creatures until now. I was really curious to see this creature a little better -- and so close! -- so I decided to see whether, by some chance, the mink would venture back out while I was waiting there....

So I stood as still as I could, and sure enough, after about five minutes or so, a dried plant stalk rustled slightly, and then out of the rocks came a tiny searching nose, little ears and eyes:

Yes, you are a mink! Hello, little creature!

The mink was cautious, and gave me a good looking-over from its safe place in the rocks:

When I didn't immediately lunge forward and try to eat it (and the sounds of my camera's shutter didn't cause any harm), the little creature eventually became quite bold, emerging from its rocky hideout entirely to saunter along the water's edge right in front of me:

Well, that was way more than I expected! Seeing this creature up close, I was actually surprised at how small it was -- it looked about the same size as a pet ferret, and somehow I had pictured minks as bigger in my mind. (I mean, really, how much fur could you get off of this little creature? The whole idea seems less than practical, now that I've seen a mink in real life.)

There were plenty of little fish swimming in the water near the rocks, and I'm sure this must've been what the mink was after. (And hard at work trying to catch them, if that wet fur is any indication.) In any case, it seems like he or she has an excellent setup here: plenty of rocky crevices to hide in and travel through, and food that swims right up to the doorstep. When I left, the mink was popping in and out of the rocks and water a little further along the shore, keeping an eye on me but basically just going about its business as usual:

I suppose it's possible that this mink has gotten fairly used to people, living as it does right next to a path. In any case, it was a wonderful treat to meet such a bold creature. Happy fishing, little mink!


  1. How lucky to get such a good long gander at that mink. I've seen them along the river bank, but only as a blur of dark fur disappearing.

  2. Just priceless! And you're right - a coat?! its fur is best left on it, not on some fashion statement!

  3. Thanks, everyone! It was quite a lucky encounter. Of course now I'll have to look closely at this place every time I walk by, to see if there's any sign of the mink still living there! :P