Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Culture: A Weasel Friend?

A weasel stopped by to say hello along the banks of the Humber River in Toronto, Ontario on 27-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I spend a fair amount time along the Humber River, which runs not far from my residence. The Humber once marked the western edge of Toronto, and amongst other honours holds the title of being the only Canadian Heritage River accessible by subway, at the Old Mill stop. While the river is one hundred kilometers in length, running from the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario, I am most often found in the segment between Bloor Street and Scarlett Road in Toronto. Sometimes I'm just walking for exercise and pleasure, sometimes I'm hoping to take pictures of a Canadian Pacific train crossing the river north of Dundas Street, and sometimes I'm actually on my way somewhere and managed to work the scenery of the river into my route.

Over the years, I've gotten used to seeing wildlife along the river, and these sightings sometimes have made the margin notes of this blog. I've seen ground hogs, beavers, a deer, a salmon that managed to make its way past all the weirs, and all kinds of species of birds, from Cardinals to Great Blue Herons. Yet, lately, I haven't seen anything particularly interesting. It seems like the time I've spent around dusk near the river during past summers has been most conducive to seeing something new, so I was starting to wonder if all the wildlife has left town.

Earlier tonight, I was along the shore of the Humber, waiting for the evening Expressway train to pass at sunset, as it often does this time of year. I was thinking about my lack of wildlife spottings, listening for any interesting bird calls, and watching for any motion amongst the branches. The water itself attracted my attention, though. I thought I saw some bubbles surfacing downriver, and wondered if maybe I had missed a duck diving in the area.

Pretty soon, I noticed strange wave patterns near the shore on my side of the river, slightly closer than the bubbles had been, but no noise. Ducks are never that quiet when they dive, so between that and the fact that I hadn't seen a duck in some minutes, I figured I was probably dealing with a quiet mammal. Soon, there was another wave pattern emanating just slightly closer to me. Whoever it was, he or she was headed my direction.

As I focused in on the shoreline in front of me, I wondered what it might be. The waves didn't seem to be big enough to be from a beaver; it seemed to be a pretty small animal. I had yet to hear a noise at all, and more waves were noticed, now perhaps only eight meters away. I started to watch the shore line about four to six meters away, figuring I'd be able to see whatever it was from there.

Suddenly, I looked a little closer and found a little face looking at me from not much more than a meter away in some bushes. The little guy was so wet that I wasn't sure what I was looking at, especially as it soon sat up and seemed to give me a closer inspection. I started to take pictures, which was tolerated for about fifteen seconds, and then the animal apparently tired of the attention and almost noiselessly slithered away inland.

Studying the pictures afterward, I think what I must have seen was a weasel, probably a long-tailed weasel. I did manage to get a picture of a portion of its tail as it disappeared into the underbrush, and it was definitely a furry tail, not that of a rat. He or she was pretty small, not more than the size of a domestic cat, perhaps even smaller.

My wildlife drought was definitely over; I had never seen a weasel along the Humber River before, and I had not been visited that closely along the river even by birds in a long time. I wonder where the weasel was going--will he be back to say hello again?

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