Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Mink Encounter

I did my monthly WeBS count of the River Aire on the way to work this morning (a day late, but Monday was so hectic with the house move happening this week). I walked through Hirst Wood to get to the start point at SE125380. Despite the foggy conditions, the wood was filled with song, as you’d imagine for March: Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Wren, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, all heard but not seen.

Conversely, it was very quiet on the River Aire around Hirst Wood and Dowley Gap, with just one Mallard and Goosander. As I rounded the corner to the aqueduct, I realised the birds had probably been spooked further downstream by the Mink standing by a small wooden bridge. It glared at me as I approached, allowing me to get within four metres, before it slid into the small stream. It sat up on the opposite bank and stared at me, as bold as brass, twitching its nose, while I cursed myself for forgetting to bring my camera.

The Mink was dark brown all over, save for a whiteish spot on the chin and another blotch on the chest/belly. Smallish, slimmer than a cat, like a big, dark stoat. Otters also frequent this stretch of river, but this was easy to ID as an American Mink, Mustela vison. It eventually swam away, completely unperturbed, as I got a couple of poor shots with my rubbish phone camera. Regardless, it was a pleasure to have shared a few moments with the wily character.

American Mink, Hirst Wood, Shipley, March 2011

As I suspected, the water birds were further on, including seven more Goosander on the flat stretch above Hirst Weir, a Grey Wagtail and two Dipper on the wier itself, and a Kingfisher at Salts Sports.

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