I met a new mammal at the Arcata Marsh this morning! While walking down a path lined with piles of large rocks next to the bay, I thought I saw a small furry thing dash across the path ahead of me (and just behind a passing bicyclist). So I waited for a bit, watching the rocks, and wouldn't you know it, a beautifully auburn animal popped out:
It's a Long-tailed Weasel! What a lovely, pointy, weasely face it has:
This is the third time I've come across a creature in the weasel family among piles of large rocks next to water, although the previous two times that creature was an American Mink: I met the first mink at Naugatuck State Forest in Connecticut and the second at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve in Ohio. And I've never seen these creatures in any other habitat. So as far as I can tell, weasels and minks live in piles of large rocks next to water, and that's it.
Big rocks, little weasel:
In any case, this weasel spent the next several minutes working its way along the rocky stretch, popping in and out of crevices as it went. I wonder what it was doing in there. Hunting? Checking on a burrow? Just getting from one end of the area to the other? The weasel seemed remarkably unconcerned about me and the several other people (and dogs) that passed right by, although my camera clicks briefly drew its attention:
It paused for only a few seconds at a time before continuing on its way. Sometimes its path took it over the rocks rather than under them:
I kept walking when the weasel was out of sight, and it would always pop back up again, sometimes just a few feet away from me. Ah, you beautiful creature!
I can't believe how bold this weasel was. It must have been at least little wary, but it just wasn't interested in hiding. It certainly gave me plenty of time for pictures. I love this charismatic face:
And again! Note also the lovely little brown spot on its chin:
That extra long and thin body must be helpful when you're sliding between rocks:
In case you haven't had enough of this wonderful creature yet -- these pictures don't even show its black-tipped tail! -- here's a brief video of this weasel moving along the rocks. Of all of the people walking by, was I really the only one to notice this small but bright dash of red and orange fur? Or maybe I'm the only one who'd never seen a Long-tailed Weasel before.
So that was amazing. I left the weasel to its business. On the other side of the path, a Song Sparrow sang in my direction:
And a couple of big Caspian Terns dove after fish in the bay:
In a meadow, a Yellow-breasted Chat sang loudly from the very top of a tree and then did a weird, halting, half-hovering/half-falling dance in the air. I didn't get a video this time (and I haven't been able to find a video of this weird display online), so I'll keep an eye out for this behavior again when I'm next at the marsh. I'm sure I won't be able to stay away from this place for too long!