I am always thrilled to be afforded the rare treat of encountering a weasel, especially if I have my camera with me. Encounters with weasels are infrequent, and— because these hyper-active, frenetic little mammals have large territories and bound around erratically—fleeting.
Several years ago, I was privileged be able to observe a female Long-tailed Weasel transfer her babies across the yard at Ellis Bird Farm, moving them from some unknown (but obviously undesirable) location to a more upscale condo under the floor boards in the Grain Elevator. It was a warm early evening and the site was quiet; it was just the Ma weasel and me. I grabbed my camera, placed myself at a respectful distance, and proceeded to witness her make three journeys with her precious cargo gently but firmly clenched between her teeth. After she had them tucked in safely, she zipped around among the flower beds, peeking out occasionally to cast me a nasty stare. Alas, my camera system was and antiquated one, so I didn’t get many focused shots. But the experience was a memorable one.
We also had a male Long-tailed Weasel make a brief appearance a couple years ago. I was only able to photograph him bounding away, which meant for a lousy photograph but enough of a view of his anatomy to confirm his gender.
During the past weeks, we’ve been privileged to have another Long-tailed Weasel visit us at Ellis Bird Farm, appearing for brief moments at random spots around the site. I’ve been able to get a good look at this individual, confirming that it is not a male. I have named her Wilma. August is their breeding season, so I hope that Wilma sticks around and will bless us next year with some young ones.
Early last Sunday morning, I was unloading my van when Wilma suddenly appeared out of the grass, an apparition of energy and stealth. The lighting was perfect and my camera was handy, so I spent a heart-stopping couple of minutes trying to capture her frenzied movements. It wasn’t easy. She would leap down a ground squirrel hole, reappear, disappear, then reappear and bound off to the next hole. Luckily for me, she stood up on her hind legs a couple of times to survey the landscape, a pose that gave me a second or two to try to focus on her. I was disappointed with all of the out-of-focus images, but was grateful to get at least a few clear shots of her.
I will hopefully have more updates on Wilma over the next weeks!