Monday, March 23, 2009
I expressed my inner ferret this morning. I had decided to do a little off-trail exploring before the ticks and poison ivy take back the woods for the season. I was trudging up a leaf-covered hillside and stopped to look at some sort of orange fungus that had sprouted on a fallen tree. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a patch of leaves move. At first I thought they were just being shifted by the breeze, but then they moved again. Something was definitely under there.
I generally try not to harass the creatures I come across on my daily walks, but I felt an uncontrollable desire to go after that mysterious, quivering bump. I grabbed a strip of bark and pushed aside the dry top layer, but the thing—Vole? Lizard? Mega-sized wood roach?—moved away from me, down into the damp, rotting leaves. I kept digging, thinking C’mon, I just want to see what you are. I’m not going to eat you or anything. The object of my desire, however, recognized my predatory compulsion for what it was. It kept moving, and soon it was clear that I had lost my quarry.
I got a nice little consolation prize, though. As I was headed back down the trail I saw a veery perched on the bare branch of a dogwood tree. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a veery before, but I recognized it immediately, thanks to all the time I’ve wasted poring over bird books. The veery is a migrant here, and never comes to feeders, as far as I know. This one was a birdwatcher’s dream. She posed prettily for me, turning around a couple of times as if to say, Get a good look, lady. I’m just passing through.
Ferret drawing from Het Leven der Dieren, A.E. Brehm (1829-1884) via Wikimedia Commons
Veery photo from Wikimedia Commons.