Yesterday afternoon it began snowing lightly and when we got up this morning an inch had accumulated. The sky was overcast, the temperature 28 degrees, the moon nearly new. We headed into the Bear Creek Greenbelt at first light but before dawn, before other people began to stir, to see what animals had left their tracks in the snow. We saw coyote tracks right away, as well as rabbit tracks, squirrel tracks, raccoon tracks, and beaver slide/drag tracks.
We were also hoping to catch sight of the mink. We had just crossed the bridge to the north side of Bear Creek when my better half spotted a beaver near the beaver dam. A muskrat joined it. I was far away and the light was dim, but this shot gives perspective into the relative size of each of these creatures:
Muskrat and beaver
As the morning unfolded, we also gained perspective into the relationship between these two. The beaver slid into the water and disappeared, leaving the muskrat on the log. Then the mink appeared, upstream to the west near a fallen log. It walked downstream, on the ice, to the newer of the two “beaver deceivers.”
Mink near the “beaver deceiver” intake
The mink slipped back under the ice. When I looked back at the log near the beaver dam, the muskrat had (wisely) disappeared, but the beaver was back. Then the muskrat crawled out of the water to join the beaver on the log, slipped back in the water, and then swiftly got back on the log behind the beaver.
At this point, my better half spotted a winter wren hopping around the dam. I switched my attention to the bird. Here’s the best shot I could manage:
When I looked back up again, the mink had reappeared near the intake to the original beaver deceiver. Then it slipped back under the ice, swam upstream, and reappeared near the log where the beaver and muskrat had been.
Then the beaver popped up behind the mink:
Beaver popping up behind mink
And then the beaver moved closer and stopped:
Beaver parked behind mink
The mink dove:
Almost immediately, a muskrat popped up downstream in front of the log. The beaver watched it swim by:
But then the muskrat turned back, climbed on a log, and the two faced each other:
Muskrat and beaver looking at each other
The beaver submerged, leaving the muskrat on the log. The mink reappeared upstream. It walked across the ice to the north bank:
By this time, the beaver had taken up a spot in front of the dam with a clear view of activity upstream.
Beaver in front of dam
And the muskrat stayed on the log, close to the south bank, and chewed a few twigs:
There seeming to be equilibrium, we continued on our walk. My better half, star spotter of the day, picked out this female common goldeneye:
We saw a female belted kingfisher and a few mallards. At the pond that never freezes, Canada geese had taken over from the mallards:
A song sparrow was noisily flitting along the eastern edge of the pond that never freezes.
As we made our way back toward the bridge, approaching from the east, we saw lots of beaver slide/drag marks between Bear Creek and the woods to the north.
Back at the dam, the mink was peeking out, seeing if the coast was clear:
It eventually crawled out of the dam and slipped back under the ice, only to emerge upstream again:
When we left the area, only this muskrat was out: