Christine's All-Weather Field Notes: 8/11/15
Thursday, August 13, 2015 11:50 AM
After five years of living in a one-room summer cabin in a grove of birch trees, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting when the mice will decide to move in. It’s roughly correlated with an abundance of spiders, increased nocturnal ramblings of skunks, blooming goldenrod, and the appearance of bats over the fields at twilight.
Late last week, after the first cool August night, I predicted the mice would move in over the weekend. A single mouse arrived Saturday night, clambering up the wall next to my head and skittering across the rafters while I was reading Kate Braestrup’s new book.
“Go away,” I said. It hid behind the canned goods on the top of the cabinet. I got up and set three mouse traps with cheddar Goldfish, then squashed a wad of steel wool into the entrance hole.
They didn’t take the bait, but they did avoid the hole, deciding instead to make a racket coming in through the steel screening around the soffit on Sunday night and peering over the rafter at me, ears all perked up, then scampering on an already known route and then munching noisily on what is probably my favorite sweater. Noisy neighbors. I should charge them rent. And a damage deposit.
Last week, the family renting my house asked what little brown animals lived on the Rockland Breakwater. In the water? No, on the breakwater.
It turned out to be a family of minks, a deceptively cute member of the weasel family that frequents marshes and other watery places, where it happily takes on fish, frogs, and the occasional duck. These were frolicking kits on the breakwater, still hanging out with their mother until fall. Minks are very curious. I whistled and clucked at one once and it ran over and was about to jump in my lap when I said “Shoo.” It squeaked, did a back flip, and galloped into the marsh grass.
It’s best not to be deceived by cuteness. Not only are minks able to spray a nauseating odor as noxious as a skunk (though, fortunately, they can’t aim), they have been known to successfully take on immature gannets — an eight-pound seabird with a sharp beak and a five-foot wingspan that nests in colonies with thousands of other birds.
I wonder if they like mice.
Christine Parrish recommends mainemasternaturalist.org.