Date: 10/29/20 7:35 am
From: Ted Levin <tedlevin1966...>
Subject: [VTBIRD] October 29, 2020: Coyote Hollow, Thetford Center
7:02 a.m. 34 degrees, wind NE 1 mph. Sky: morning swaddled in fog, dim and
somnolent, and so joylessly damp, an owl hoots in the hemlocks, where
midnight still lurks undiminished. Condensed fog drips from branches and
twigs. An under-the-covers morning (if only I could). Permanent and
intermittent streams: after yesterday's showers, a slight volume increase,
crystal-clear, filled with music. Wetlands: across the marsh, the density
of fog suggests evergreens and bony-fingered hardwoods pressed against the
suggestion of limitlessness. A flat, seemingly unmarred landscape, a
two-dimensional mural accented by an owl, a disembodied voice in the
loneliness of late October. Pond: juvenile male merganser hugs the east
shoreline, glances at the dogs and me, and then glances north toward the
cattails. Keeps glancing. I look, too. A mink, moving like an expanding and
contracting slinky, enters the cattails, slips into the water, barely a
ripple in and out of the water three times. Four times. Five times. Unlike
last summer's otter, the mink avoids the middle of the pond. Stays put in
the shallows, diving, and swimming, catching tadpoles and crayfish—all

A mammal on the cusp of two worlds, aquatic and terrestrial. I've watched
mink catch sunfish in a lake and voles in a woodpile, and climb into the
lower limbs of silver maple. So unique the mink Darwin affords it cameo in
chapter 6 of *The Origin of Species*.

*It would be easy to show that within the same group carnivorous animals
exist having every intermediate grade between truly aquatic and
strictly terrestrial; and as each by a struggle for life, it is clear that
each is well adapted in its habits to its place in nature. Look at the
Mustela vision {*now, *Neovison vison*} *of North America, which has webbed
feet and which resembles an otter in its fur, short legs, and form of tail;
during summer this animal dives for and preys on fish, but during the long
winter it leaves the frozen waters, and preys like other polecats on mice
and land animals.*

Now I see it. Now I don't. Now I do, long and thin. Cute but toothy. A
water weasel, sleek and brown, the mammal that kept my mother fashionable.
Eventually, mink swallowed by foggy woods, and I head home swept along in
currents of good fortune. The merganser, freed of concern, drifts back
toward the cattails.
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