Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Lifer Mammal

It was the Peninsula Field Naturalists nature club annual picnic on Saturday June 25 and I was not expecting any first of the year birds as I led the group for a hike along the river side trail at Merritt Island in Welland. I was thinking that the club members would take in whatever we came across in the municipal park situated between the Welland River and an old shipping canal.

There were the usual breeding species of bird. Red-winged Blackbird, Mallard, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird and Downy Woodpecker to name a few.

Flowering plants included, Daisy Fleabane on the native side and Moth Mullein on the non-native side. Northern Catalpa trees were in full bloom.

Eastern Grey Squirrels, Eastern Chipmunks and a Red Squirrel were observed but the best mammal, scratch that, the best sighting during the walk was a family of Short-Tailed Weasels.

Our group was split into smaller groups along the trail and two members at the front were the first to spot the four weasels in the middle of the path. I was not that far behind when the weasels were brought to my attention and I quickly called out to Jean so she could capture some images.

The adult female managed to move her three young along the tree-lined slope above the trail without issue. If one of the young began to lag behind, the female would pick up the slow moving kit by the scruff of the neck and throw them forward.

Though Mustela erminea are found throughout the province of Ontario, I did not expect to see a family of four within a kilometre of the downtown core of Welland. I thought I was more likely to encounter this species while hiking a trail in a provincial park. Just goes to show that you should always be prepared to observe an unexpected lifer whenever and wherever you choose to spend your day.

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