a white weasel in a nor’easter

December 16th, 2007 | Uncategorized


I was just looking out the window at the birds feeding in the blizzard when a white weasel popped up out of the snow! Then she disappeared and popped up again ten feet away near the trunk of a tree. She did this a couple times, tunneling at the speed of light from tree to tree. I ran to get my camcorder, not really thinking I’d find her again, but I captured this briefest little glimpse as she darts underneath my snowblower. I made a film loop of it for you. (Caution, contains strong language.)

I’ve only seen an ermine once before, and it was so quick I thought maybe I’d hallucinated it. Their fur is ever so slightly yellowish against the snow, and the tips of their tails are black. They’re about the size and shape of a paper towel tube.

Yes, I have a snowblower. Get over it.

94 Responses to “a white weasel in a nor’easter”

  1. Saskia says:

    Fabulous! Thanks for sharing this. I recently moved to a very urban, high-density neighborhood from a home surrounded by woods, and I miss such surprise moments very, very much.

  2. Susan Stinson says:

    Wow. That’s amazing! An ermine!

    A little blue cub cadet riding mower with a snowplow on the front, turned on and left unattended, drove into my parked trike before the last storm. I ride it all winter — it’s how I get groceries and do my laundry, so am eagerly waiting word on repairs. But in this weather, only ermines seem at home out there, anyway. SO cool to get that glimpse.

  3. Daña says:

    white weasel and a little ‘tude from AB…life is good.


  4. leighisflying says:

    SO COOL! Thanks AB, I’m stuck in a Toronto hotel room also experiencing the effects of said nor’easter. No wildlife spotted around here sadly. Weasels are cool…always reminds me of the one from WB cartoons with Foghorn Leghorn.

  5. jayinchicago says:

    are ferrets the same species?

  6. Cate says:

    Leigh, I *should* be in Toronto, but I’m stuck in ottawa, with screeching snowbound tiny nieces. Perhaps I should dress them up as weasels and chase them around.

    Thanks for posting this, Alison.

  7. Bookbird says:

    It’s a great little sketch, too.

    I love the way the gray wash defines the ermine’s shape.

  8. Pam I says:

    A summertime story – when I was about 9, I used to wander around the woods near home, looking for Nature. Came into a clearing under the beech trees, then caught a movement – a weasel, about ten feet from me. She sat up, stock still. So did I. We watched each other for half a minute, before she slipped away. I can still see that little beast and recall the feeling – as you can tell.

  9. towheedork says:

    Whoa. Color me jealous. (erm, of the weasel sighting, not the snowblower which however magnificent I cannot view due to technological limitations and which is a sadly necessary sin in a car-centric society at least until global warming does away with snow for good. *gasp*)

    Jay, same genus (Mustela) but different species, with ferrets about twice as large.

    A few autumns ago I was watching birds by a local trout stream and was trying to pish some warblers in for better looks when a young mink (also weasel family) came trotting up the trail, got to within five feet of where I was standing, noticed me, stopped and gave me a perfect glare “what the HELL?” and then bounced back the way it came. Either I sounded too much like a scuffle with potential meal ending, or said something terribly offensive.

  10. Deena in OR says:

    (grinS) I should know better than to click on links posted as potentially NSFW when I’m at work. But still, AB, waay cool. And the same thing would have come flying out of my mouth, for sure.

    Here’s hoping that you’re weathering the storm OK.

  11. Aunt Soozie says:

    Okay. that was pretty funny.
    My kitten liked it too.
    Just saw the Golden Compass.
    Not bad until the ending…
    it is part of a trilogy but my daughter said she felt like it just ended in the middle of the story. And even though it is a children’s fantasy film… the ending was totally corny.

  12. falloch says:

    Reclaim your ears!! Get rid of your snowblower(s) and leafblower(s) – exercise by raking leaves and shovelling snow. If you don’t make big horrible noises (like snow- and leaf-blowers) you MIGHT see more wildlife and they’ll be happier staying near you.

  13. Suz says:

    I love the paper towel tube analogy, AB.

  14. I totally agree about shoveling snow. I only use the infernal machine once or twice a season when there’s nowhere left to put the stuff, and I need to be able to project it some distance. As I expect I will need to do tomorrow. No joke, there’s a good two feet piled up out there and it’s still coming.

  15. NLC says:

    No joke.

    Just to confirm what AB wrote, I have a picture around here somewhere of my wife and daughters standing in the middle of the side walk from our front door to the end of our driveway.

    The sidewalk is about sixty feet long, and the path cleared is about a yard wide; but the walls of snow on each side is taller than their heads.

  16. Ellen O. says:

    I grew up in the northeast with a snowblower and I believe they have a place in this world. It’s one thing if you’re allowed to stay inside for days on end, shoveling yourself out slowly, or if there’s a family of six who can all help with the shoveling, but New England snow is heavy and deep. When used in moderation, they are miraculous.

    Leaf blowers and power washers, on the other hand, I just don’t get.

    By the way, a weasel sometimes kills its prey by wrapping itself around it and squeezing hard.

  17. Deena in OR says:

    If it’s anything like my childhood in northern Labrador, that’s about right. My parents used to dig a tunnel in the winter from our back door to the trash shed.

  18. LM says:

    Weasel-constrictor? Humm.

  19. Blue says:

    Snow above your heads?! I’ve seen snow, I went skiing once, but it doesn’t actually snow here… In fact it’s 32 centigrade here (New Zealand) today, phew! Alison, you should come visit! No snow blower required!

  20. Lizzie from London says:

    Comforting to know there’s still that much snow somewhere in these globally warmed days. It’s always breathtaking to encounter wild animals. I have a very close relationship with the bees that come to my lavendar bush in the summer. And even seeing a sleek fox from a suburban train window yesterday – on my way to an early Solstice ritual – was magical. It was trotting down some steps near a station, russet with a white bib, totally alert and purposeful. Reminds me that this ugly though at times enchanting “civilised ” world we’ve created isn’t the only one and by no means the most important.

  21. AnnaP says:

    Nicely drawn ferret, thank you Alison

    So that`s where all the snow has gone to!

    The winter here is seriously injuring my mental health. Usually there is a fine pile of snow by now but not this, or last year.
    And you can imagine how dark the days are without snow, when there won`t be sunlight before February.

    I do not think I know anybody who has snowblower, but there has not been any use for one for the past 2-3 years now anyway…

  22. nic h says:

    isnt it a stoat?
    when that goes white in the winter, the fur is called ermine.

  23. Eva says:

    Nice watercolor and/or ink wash of the white weasel and/or ermine.

    For me the best thing about winter is the quiet during a heavy snow and the pared down beauty (color and line) of the flora and fauna.

  24. Blushing Girl says:

    Lots of little furry things here in Northern California, but nothing so pretty as your suibokuga weasel!

  25. Nick Mullins says:

    “Caution, contains strong language.”

    The irony of a video of a hopping ermine containing strong language made me laugh. But thanks for the warning. I’ll turn the sound down when I show this to my three-year-old. Though she’s probably heard worse from me…

  26. Jana C.H. says:

    Aunt Soozie– Re: Golden Compass. Your daughter is absoluetly right. I’ve read the book, and the rescue of Roger (with which the film ended) occurs about three-quarters of the way through the first book.

    The MOC started a thread on Golden Compass a few weeks ago, and it is still slightly active. I politely suggest that further discussion (if any) be carried on there.


    Jana C.H.
    Staying on topic as best I can…

  27. geogeek says:

    I’ve never seen an ermine in the wild, but I did once have a martin (yet another weasle-family member) jog past me about 4 feet away while I was sitting still, thinking about nothing, after a lunch in the woods. THe watercolor is neat – I’ve never managed to do that space-subtrating thing.

    Hey, Jana, I was back from AK briefly and then left again, but I”ll be in Seattle again the 2nd week in January. Would you like your book back, and to have some tea?

  28. Suz says:

    Jana, that’s a pretty major spoiler for the movie.

  29. Jana C.H. says:

    Geo– Love to! There’s a new teahouse in Ballard. That makes three, all quite different. Contact me at my blog, the Flying Sasquatch, and we’ll arrange it.


    Suz– Sorry for the spoiler. I thought I was doing pretty well by not mentioning what happens to Roger at the actual end of the book. Go out and read it, everyone!


  30. Kate says:

    Do I see a children’s book in AB’s future (possibly, “Slinky, the Snow-White Ermine”)? I think she’s already done the cover illustation! : )

  31. The Cat Pimp says:

    I will just have to take AB’s word for it and quietly envy her seeing something so rare and wonderful.

  32. Andi says:

    I live in the mountains and have three very small dogs. My neighbor’s son has dubbed them “The Snack Pack,” since they look like tasty treats to the local mountain lions, foxes and eagles. Yesterday morning I looked out and saw a fox curled up just outside the dog pen, waiting for a four-legged domestic munchable to appear. She was so beautiful — red with black legs and feet and a black spot on her tail. Pointy ears just like a dog. Little smug smile below her little black nose.

    I put on my big snow boots and stomped out there, determined to chase away the little dog eater. When I got within a few feet, she looked up at me lazily, as if to say, “What? Is there a problem?” I got even closer and she finally got up, stretched slowly, licked her tail a few times and sauntered off. She was so beautiful I couldn’t even shoo her away. Wild animals are so majestic, and hey, they were here first. Just gotta keep an eye on the puppies! (I hope ermine don’t eat kitties, AB! If so, keep that girl in the house! And get out that roof rake! Fooomp!)

  33. Suzanonymous says:

    She said it’s the size and shape of the tube of a paper towel, so it’s not big enough to kill her cat..

    (Stay warm, AB. :-))

  34. leighisflying says:


    I have to agree totally with your post about the majesty of wild animals. I was camping one cold May long-weekend in a pretty deserted and remote campsite in northern Manitoba. We had a fire going to chase off the chill (there was snow falling) and a lone wolf sauntered into our campsite and paused to look at us for awhile before padding away. She was incredible to see. My gf was freaked out because she grew up in the north and had been told the evil wolf stories adults tell children to keep them out of the woods. I was simply awe-struck.

    I think it’s a gift to be able to observe the wildlife that share our space whether it be rural or urban.

  35. cheese says:

    i saw a red fox yesterday. exciting because i live in a city of a million people. i also once saw “lady with an ermine” up close in poland in a museum. i stepped in for a closer look and bells went off, and uniforms came a running. We were escorted out. it was beautiful.

  36. leighisflying says:

    Hey Cate,

    Did you make it out of Ottawa yet? I’m stuck here in TO until Dec 24th doing training, so I wasn’t really marooned by the storm. I still haven’t spotted any critters, wild or domestic around the hotel.

    I saw a reproduction of “Lady with an Ermine” at the Leonardo da Vinci: Man | Inventor | Genius show at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. I’m glad cheese got in for a closer look at the real thing!

  37. Silvio Soprani says:

    Your red fox story reminds me of this one:

    Last summer I was camping at Janes Island State Park on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. There is a long strip of beach that one can only get to by boat, so I rented a canoe and spent the morning looking out at the Tangier Sound, and swimming a little bit. I was sitting on a broken down wooden boardwalk when suddenly a red fox appeared. It walked out of the dunes onto the shore and just stood there looking at me. Then it sipped at the brackish water of the Sound, walked a few steps, sipped a bit more, and kept on in this manner, ambling down the beach. I was not aware that you could drink brackish water (it was definitely somewhat salty.) We had quite a drought this summer and if this fox lived on on this island, I suppose it was thirsty.

    It was really beautiful. About the size of a small collie dog. And definitely red.

    The last wild mammalian encounter I had before that was in Arizona with a coyote. Apparently they don’t eat people, I was relieved to learn from the park ranger. (But he said that even though humans are not part of the coyote food chain, something like a small poodle would be…)

  38. Ginjoint says:

    It’s not a stoat. It’s the governor of Vermont.

    And hey?! I live in Chicago, and saw a red fox in the huge cemetery near my house. It was merrily running, neatly hopping over the grave markers. Luckily, this cemetery (which has a big lagoon) is large enough, with enough trees and nooks and such, to support such wildlife. But that moment when it was running right towards me, before it dodged off, was magical.

  39. leighisflying says:

    I watched one run beside my car late one night on the edge of town. I remember thinking that it’s back didn’t hunch up and down, it stayed straight and even with it’s tail extended horizontally behind it while the legs did all the work. Looked fluid and beautiful. My mother had one steal her golf ball on a course in Pinawa Manitoba. I guess the fox thought it was an egg…

  40. LondonBoy says:

    Lots of foxes here in inner-city London: I’m frequently disturbed by them at night.

  41. Pam I says:

    There are dozens of foxes living around these mean Tottenham streets. I see at least one a month in that period between parking the car and the radio play/ fascinating documentary/ news-piece ending – they trot along the road checking out the bins and gardens. Mostly they live off kebabs. If I sit still enough they can be watched for ages. If I move, they will stare me down, then saunter off. It’s always quite breathtaking. You think, how can something that big find a place to hide? Derelict gardens and railroad embankments are favourites.

    When I grew up on the edge of a village, I saw one fox, at a distance, in 18 years.

  42. Silvio Soprani says:

    London Boy,

    No doubt it is that leather jacket attracting all those foxes.

    But what do you find so disturbing about them? The last time you shared with us, you were enjoying their attentions.

    [Now removing tongue from cheek:]

    But on a more serious note, what sound do foxes make? Are they mute? I have never heard the term “howling foxes…”

  43. geogeek says:

    I know whatever kind of foxes live in the Brooks Range in AK make a range of noises, from sharp barks to yips. And they find it funny to leave squiggley fox poops in the middle of your camp… I’ve lived a number of places where there were coyotes, and heard them howl, but not foxes, AFAIK.

  44. NLC says:

    in re: sounds make by foxes.

    The verb typically used is “bark”

    c.f. Pink Floyd’s
    Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dog fox gone to ground.

  45. Silvio Soprani says:

    Well, that’s interesting.

    geogeek, what in the world does AFAIK mean?

    Yes, the coyotes certainly do howl. in that same campsite, I also saw and heard the roadrunner bird. There was a mama and its baby; they were crossing the road in “indian file.” Just like the “keep on truckin'” man in the cartoons–leaning back and taking big steps. And the roadrunner makes a strange noise that sounds kinda like making a raspberry.

  46. geogeek says:

    As Far As I Know

  47. You wouldn’t think a weasel could eat a cat, to look at one. But my neighbors claim they lost some roosters to a weasel. A rooster’s as big as a cat. Maybe it’s that constriction technique someone mentioned earlier? And on YouTube, there’s some disturbing footage of an ermine eating a dead pheasant six times its size. Not for vegetarians.

  48. Butch Fatale says:

    Ginjoint, I live in Chicago too, and there’s a hawk living in my neighborhood! He flew right past me a couple weeks ago as I was walking to the train just before 8, and then last week my partner and I were having breakfast, and he was sitting in one of the trees in our alley. He sat and scanned for mice for several minutes while we watched, I looked away for a minute, and out of the corner of my eye saw him swoop down out of the view of my window.

    I hope I get to dine with him again soon!

  49. Norwegian Black Metal says:

    I attract weaselly types myself…

  50. Silvio Soprani says:

    That was one athletic ermine! My first thought was that it was not that much weirder than watching a human eat an ear of corn… but on the whole, quite an aerobic activity!

    So my real question was, did someone deliberately hang that pheasant there knowing an ermine would show up to be filmed? That makes it kind of a snuff movie. Now that IS disturbing.

    On the other hand, from the ermine’s point of view, quite a welcome meal on a cold, windy, snowy evening.

    I have to say, I was okay for the first minute or so, but 4 minutes of watching the ermine chow down was a bit much.

  51. Suzanonymous says:

    Alison, I think a cat has more resources to fight a weasel than a rooster — fast reaction time and at least the back claws and lots of muscles. Can roosters even fly? If they can, then that’s got to be their strongest muscles, in their wings. So I think a cat who isn’t aging or disabled could fight off an ermine. I remember this episode of Our Gang where the kids are arguing about who could win a fight, Tarzan or some other super-hero whose name I’ve forgotten. Porky said he didn’t know who would win. I feel kind of like Porky. Maybe your neighbors’ rooster was killed by a fox.

    Butch Fatale, I was astonished to look out the window the other day and see a hawk. I visit palemale.com on a regular basis, so I knew that’s what I was seeing. Following the hawk was some smaller species of bird, something very dark. They were just flying around, leisurely. Awesome sight. (I’m in Denver, though, not Chicago.)

  52. Suzanonymous says:

    Flash Gordon was the other one, ha ha ha 😀

  53. cheese says:

    who the hekk is andi? by the way the red fox lives on a golf course.

  54. Alex K says:

    My bet is that AB’s neighbours did not lose their rooster in a daylight, open-ground match between rooster and weasel. Chickens are susceptible to predation at night – on the roost – asleep. Skunk, weasel, fox, mink, raccoon, even rat, all will kill poultry with bites to the head and neck. Often every bird in a henhouse will be slaughtered.

    I write as someone who as a child had to collect and bury the corpses from our henhouse on several occasions, when the hen-door had been left open or a ‘coon had worked a board loose.

  55. Lizzie from London says:

    Foxes make a kind of shrieking noise. It’s particularly disturbing is they are mating . It sounds like children in the most terrible distress.

    For anyone interested in Medieval literature I recommend the tales of Reynard the Fox. A verbal cartoon strip – unbelievably violent and very funny.

    leighisflying – wish I’d seen your wolf.

    AB can you start weaving wildlife sightings into DTWOF – a whole new range of visual metaphor.

  56. leighisflying says:

    I say again…remember the weasel from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons? It was always hungry and willing to eat anything bigger than itself. I base all my worldly knowledge on cartoons.

  57. Eva says:

    Thanks for the link leighisflying! The foghorn weasel is awesome!

  58. Ginjoint says:

    Hi from the Nort’ Side, butchfatale! Across from the hospital I go to, there’s a big park. My mother and I saw a hawk take down a pigeon, who put up a bit of a fight. It was awful. I was torn between wanting to run over to save the poor pigeon, yet knowing that the hawk had to eat too. Circle of life, Poomba. I stayed out of it.

  59. Butch Fatale says:

    Ginjoint, I suspect I’m a little farther north than you, but who knows, we might even be neighbors! The circle of life is cruel, but I cheer on any creature that picks off a few pigeons for its dinner. Someone in my neighborhood likes to feed them, and frequently in the mornings on the way to the train I am nearly beset by a cloud of them flapping their way to a free breakfast.

  60. askStella says:

    Has anyone ever happened upon a fisher cat?

  61. The Cat Pimp says:

    A kitty may be better able to defend itself than a chicken when it comes to weasels, but you may be looking at a big vet bill anyway. I had a kitty get bitten by a rat. She had a big abcess and it was miserable for her and $220 for me.

    I was at a marina in Marin County one evening. We were all on the second floor of the clubhouse. At the picnic table downstairs, there were four foxes enjoying our carelessly placed leftovers. We piled up to the window and watched them until one idiot ran down with a camera and they all bolted. I get raccoons and possums in town regularly. One Saturday, there was a deer trotting along the sidewalk on my street (30 mph zone!). A different morning, I had to shoo a wild turkey down the street to get her away from the traffic’s bustle. This is in a metropolitan area of millions of people. I think its really neat.

    Its also another reason my cats have a screened enclosure and are not let to wander.

  62. leighisflying says:

    Circle of life indeed; one tragic summer we lost our family dog (a Lhasa Apso) the cat that was his best buddy (who died of grief after the dog disappeared) and my own Siamese. It was later determined that a cougar had been picking off family pets because they were easier game. Cougars have an incredibly large range. They usually stick to the deer, but apparently this one got used to smaller, easier morsels.

    Cat Pimp, I would agree with your enclosures after my own experience (but I guess it depends where you live).

  63. Ian says:

    Weasels, stoats, ferrets, etc regularly hunt, kill and eat rabbits, so anything rabbit sized has to be vulnerable.

    Londonboy and Pam I, I was staying in London recently near Kew Bridge (right by the Thames)and was entertained every morning by the site of 2 foxes playing in the morning sun, well hidden from passers by in the garden of a deconsecrated church. What was just as special, though far weirder, were the green parakeets roosting in the leafless tree outside the hotel window!

    Foxes make very disturbing sounds – shrieks or quite often like a baby crying.

    Foxes are

  64. Ian says:

    By the way, did I imagine it or did my news channel just tell me Bush has *increased* fuel efficiency standards in the US to 35 mpg? Am I dreaming?

  65. Betty T says:

    Remindes me of a story I oncew heard about a man who was thrown out of a disco danceing competition for haveing a weasel in his pants.

  66. Ellen O. says:


    The Democratically-controlled Congress and Senate passed the bill increasing fuel efficiency. Bush agreed he wouldn’t veto it if they made it less progressive, so Congress took out some of the muscle. It’s still a step in the right direction, though.

    here’s more information:

  67. Maggie Jochild says:

    There’s a reason why weasel and stoats had to be driven from Toad Hall…

  68. askStella says:

    here are some pics and info on the elusive FISHER CAT(also of the WEASEL family) – definitely known to frequently drag off the housecat and also the housedog.
    Sorry, I’m new here and don’t know how to hyperlink!


  69. iara says:

    In Philadelphia (USA) there are many hawks hanging out in parks downtown. I live right in the center and once watched one up close eat a pigeon. The hawk wiht its prey – still alive – had conveniently landed on the flat roof in front of my daughter’s bay window, so we could see it through the window, right in front of us. It is strange to see something like this happening less than a mile from, eg, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. We also have an opossum living in our backyard… it is quite big and now I am worried about our cat, after the stories on this blog.

    As others pointed out, it is amazing to see wildlife in an urban area, and a nice change from all the bad news about the environment. I was so happy to learn that not only hawks and other wild things, but also a bald eagle came to build its nest in Philadelphia this Spring– for the first time in 200 years! Here is a link to the article:

  70. Pam I says:

    Welcome askStella. I’m really old here and still can’t do the orange thing.

  71. ms says:

    Thank you for the awesome gift of your craft and for sharing it with all of us. It’s given me a lot of joy over the years. Happy holidays & here’s to a peaceful 2008 full of magic and surprises.
    – A common reader

  72. Donna says:

    There was a movie that had it’s key scenes based upon a fox sounding it’s call outside a couple’s (I think) London flat; I remember it as a sad and disturbing sound. Can’t recall the name of the film. The sound was meant to be a metaphor for the characters’ failing relationship. So then maybe it’s a somewhat common occurence in London for the film to have those scenes in it; I thought it was kind of an oddity at the time. Now that’s one more tiny puzzle figured out; which I had completely forgotten about until I read this thread. Maybe there is some synapse in my brain that’s available for other tasks now – hey thanks you guys!

  73. Donna says:

    Also, there’s wild flocks of parrots all over California. The documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill shows one of these flocks surviving and thriving in S.F. It’s pretty amazing how some animals are able to adapt themselves to not only an urban but also a non-native habitat.

  74. The Cat Pimp says:

    Parrots and parakeets do amazingly well in the U.S. There are many colonies of monk parakeets in Brooklyn, NY. If you are in SF, do go to Telegraph Hill and visit the birds. The neighbors who might be gardening tend to be nice and helpful in spotting them.

    iara, congratulations to Philly for their new eagle overlord. I love seeing raptors perched on overhead lights in my area. They seem to sit on the same ones each time. There are two on 880 in Oakland, for example. I made a point of visiting the birdwatchers in Central Park to watch Pale Male and Lola’s kids attempting to fledge a few years ago. (They succeeded three days after I got home. )

    leighisflying, I am sorry to read about your loss. An enclosure would help in rural areas prone to pumas, as much as they help in an urban area. Another motive for my enclosure was that, when I took time off from work to catch up on gardening, I met a very dapper neighbor whose pit bull was bigger than he was (exaggeration, but still). My cat wanted to go at it with the dog, and the neighbor and I had to work to keep them apart. The enclosure was up two days later and I joked with the neighbor that his dog was now safe. (Who knows? The dog could have been a total sweetie, but we don’t need injured dog noses or totalled cats.)

  75. Ian says:

    In Britain, formerly endangered species of predatory birds such as peregrine falcons, kestrels, hawks, etc, etc, are recovering by moving into cities and feeding off pigeons. I wonder if they eat green parakeets as well?

    I adore foxes. I sometimes go out to a 24 hour supermarket and spend hours in the middle of the night watching the foxes that hang out there. I nearly freeze (though we rarely have snow), but it’s worth every moment.

    Red pandas are my current fave “awwwww how cute” animal at the moment. I’m sure you all needed to know that. 😉

  76. Maggie Jochild says:

    There’s more than one colony of monk parakeets (a.k.a. Quakers) thriving here in Austin, Texas. They build huge nests around the light poles where they can stay warm in chilly weather. You can see them around Town Lake and also a huge, noisy nest across the street from Cafe Mundo in East Austin.

    I live in an apartment complex in a very urban section near Saint Edward’s University, but there’s a small greenbelt/wilderness area saved from development adjacent to my parking lot, and I frequently see grey foxes at night. (Plus, of course, ubiqituous racoons, possums and skunks.) The foxes used to come over my patio fence when I kept out kibble for stray cats, sending my indoor cats into screaming vapors. My Best Cat Of All Time, Alice, was rescued by me as a kitten at the edge of these woods from becoming a raccoon’s dinner.

  77. towheedork says:

    In Britain, formerly endangered species of predatory birds such as peregrine falcons, kestrels, hawks, etc, etc, are recovering by moving into cities and feeding off pigeons. I wonder if they eat green parakeets as well?

    Ian, I wouldn’t doubt it. Merlins, sparrowhawks, and peregrines, I’d guess, species of raptors that feed heavily on small- to medium-sized birds. Here in the US, some of our Cooper’s Hawks and merlins have taken to nesting in cities and feeding on the introduced House Sparrows and starlings, and our city peregrines are known for their pigeon preferences. (I imagine that, pre-white-people, the American peregrines tended to go more for Passenger Pigeon, ducks, shorebirds, that kind of thing. Maybe even our extinct Carolina Parakeets in the SE.) I kinda worry about longer-term health effects on these ‘citified’ raptors, but many of them seem to be doing well so far, fledging lots of seemingly healthy kids and all.

    -towhee (and other bird) dork

  78. --MC says:

    It’s a nice day for a white weasel
    It’s a nice day to .. start again

    If I don’t get back here before the holiday, have a good one, you cats.

  79. Donna says:

    I don’t really see how so many conures survive here in Los Angeles. Having a conure myself, I know the food that I give them from the pet store is composed of completely different foodstuffs – safflower, barley, millet – than what’s readily available in the suburban and urban environment that l.a. consists of. Part of their diet can consist of fruits and vegetables – but it’s not like there is fields of zucchini and apple trees around here. And conures do not walk about on the ground like crows and pigeons asking for scraps and scavenging. I never see them eat!

  80. leighisflying says:

    MC – that was going through my head for days too! I’m glad I’m not the only one LOL

  81. Ian says:

    Not so long ago, I saw a documentary about the Red Kites nesting in the tall buildings surrounding Central Park.

    My back garden ends in a riverbank with bats nesting in the trees, owls hunting at dusk, stoats (rather than weasels) wandering around and, sadly, mink, which means we don’t get the full Wind in the Willows experience (mink in Britain eat Ratty for breakfast). We have ducks raise their broods at the bottom of the garden and sleep there in rainy weather. I’m told that the river’s now being colonised by otters but have yet to be lucky enough to see one – it remains my ambition.

  82. Ian says:

    PS thanks for that Ellen O – I should’ve guessed the increased fuel efficiency made too much sense not to come from Congress. I’m just amazed Bush signed it. I did notice that it’s all planned to come in by 2020.

  83. Maggie Jochild says:

    Ian, do you mess about in boats?

  84. leighisflying says:

    We had two otters living under our boathouse one summer (tragic ending to that one due to gun happy neighbours who couldn’t tell the difference between a beaver and an otter – not that I advocate killing beavers) and they are SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME to watch up close. I’ll keep my fingers crossed you’ll get to see them Ian. They just seem so…happy. It’s hard to describe.

  85. LA Steve says:

    Why wouldn’t you have a snowblower? You live in SNOW COUNTRY. Contrary to rubber-stamp reaction, you are also permitted to have indoor plumbing, electricity, a working telephone, a CAR, and even a television if you want.

    I grew up in snow country, where every year too many able-bodied people in their thirties and forties drop dead from heart attacks while shoveling the white stuff. Let the anti-snowblower folks volunteer to drive up to your place and shovel it for you, and then we can take their piety more seriously.

  86. falloch says:

    When I was growing up in near NYC, western NY state and further west (1960-70s), there were either none or very few snowblowing machines, and not very many reports of people dropping dead from shovelling snow either. Either people were more physically fit, or didn’t report deaths by snow shovelling. With the US focus of being physically fit, gym-obsession, etc. why are people so adverse to shovelling snow (admittedly occasionally heavy snow), or raking (usually not very heavy) leaves?? My brother and sister-in-law are obsessed gym-bunnies, but pay their gardener a few hundred bucks a month to cut their grass, blow their leaves, shovel their snow – remove nature from their lives basically.

    As per white weasels: we have weasels that turn white in the winter here in the UK, called ermine, and killed to adorn the gowns of the aristocracy (House of Lords, etc.) We also have brown mountain hares in Scotland that turn white in the winter, cause the winter weather in the moutains can be Arctic conditions – in their white winter fur, these hares are very beautiful.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

  87. Ian says:

    As a matter of fact, Maggie, I have messed about in boats … Not on that river though.

    I’m afraid I can’t help being proud of it. A few years ago we found out that the river is named after a Celtic deity and a mile upstream, they found a hoard of gold that had been made as an offering to the river (by burying it in the riverbank). Apparently water was sacred to the ancient druids and ritual offerings were made regularly. So weird to think that over 2,000 years ago, people were worshipping some aspect of the river.

  88. HGD says:

    Sigh. I had a dream the other night that I was reading the fumetti comic. That’s just sad. It’s also sad that I may not be spelling “fumetti” right.

  89. Silvio Soprani says:


    When I lived in Maine, back in the 70s, my landlady was an 80-yr old woman (a “spinster,” I suppose would describe her, in the best sense of the word!) When those 3-foot snowfalls came, she would be out there at 6 AM shovelling snow. (Not out of macho; just because there was nobody else to help her…certainly not this lazy college student renter…)

    On the other hand, where I grew up in New York State, we lived on a country road where there was one guy who had a plow on the front of his jeep, and every snow fall, all the families had a standing arrangement where he would plow our driveways and the grownups would pay him. Otherwise nobody could have gotten to work, short of hand-shovelling for 4 or 5 hours. I don’t think anyone begrudged him this form of income; we were grateful and it worked out well for everyone.

    Where my brother lives in Pennsylvania on top of a mountain, pretty much everybody owns a jeep or an SUV, for good reason.. Again, otherwise nobody could get out and do what they need to do.

    While I do see the irony in what you said about people spending so much time in the gym but no time doing their own physical labor on their own property, I suppose in a way that is just a way to “share the wealth.” In an economy where everyone is self-sufficient, there is no space for non-land owners to earn money.

    I noticed this one time years ago when I visited my late in-laws’ summer home on a Carribean island. They had a maid who came by every day to do the housework. I felt really embarrassed, and a little annoyed, having never grown up with any servants. My mother-in-law explained that Americans who owned land on this island felt obliged to create some income for islanders, who had few other ways to earn money except from foreigners. [I suppose the logical conclusion of this is revolution where they seize the interlopers’ land, but in the meantime, you have maids and gardeners.]

    I suppose it was inevitable that this thread would turn from discussions of wild life to discussions of class struggles. I was telling some friends last night about my city neighbor who lets her mean dogs run wild behind my house. They suggested I take it up at a community association meeting. I replied that being a renter, I don’t feel comfortable going to a meeting where all the married homeowners talk about how they are remodelling their kitchens, and here I am scraping to pay the rent. As I listened to myself talk I realized I have a major chip on my shoulder.

    Let the damn gardeners and snowblowers make a few bucks! Let the “leisure class” go work out in the gym. I do envy Ratty and Badger and even Mr. Frog “simply messing about in boats.”

  90. Minnie says:

    The picture above sure does convey the wild bleak feeling of the blizzard — and what a graceful line the little beast has! I checked the video — what speed! Keeps the mice in line, I am sure.
    To think that all that white fur will grow in brown again!

    Talk about class struggles! It’s the critters versus us here in Los Angeles. For a time I lived in the hills close to UCLA, in a not-too-big area bounded by four major freeways. There were coyotes, opossums, raccoons, various snakes and lizards, and big deer. Burrowing critters aerated the soil, and one day we came home to startle a leggy spotted fawn in the yard.

    I’d read in Beatrix Potter’s bio that as a child, she’d dissected dead animals and mounted their skeletons. Encouraged, I obtained the skull from a dessicated ‘possum carcass by soaking the head in a mild bleach solution. T’was a popular Hallowe’en adornment for many years.

    I never saw a skunk, though its faint persistent smell perfumes the early morning now and then. Rumor has it that a certain star has a skunk refuge at her home in the glamorous Hollywood Hills, to the east of the 101.

  91. Flossy says:

    I am the monitor on a school bus and last winter on a side street right in the middle of the small town, Malone, NY, an ermine ran across the road right in front of us, disappearing into the shrubbery. Amazing. I feel fortunate to have seen this very illusive creature.

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