A few days before our first signficant snowfall recently, I looked out our front window and saw a small flash of white glinting along the edge of the beach. Watching carefully, I glimpsed it two or three more times, instantaneous flashes, “white lightning,” that confirmed my suspicion: an ermine hunted the windbreak!
We rarely see the ermines (also called weasels—my preferred term, because it’s so fun to say!) that frequent our land. Our best opportunities come at this time of year, when their lovely russet fur coats turn to white for the winter (see photos of that in “Wermine” Visits the Homestead). If no snow covers the ground, or we’re lucky enough to glimpse one crossing a bare patch of ground, their winter camouflage backfires briefly, making them easier to see. Even so, their small size, stealth, and amazing speed makes them very hard to see. Mostly, we learn of their presence after the fact from delicate trackways in the snow.
Ermines may be my favorite woodland neighbor. They’re cute, intelligent, and fearless (see Never Tease a Weasel: A Brief Visit with a Neighbor). While we almost never see them, every sighting brings us joy, even if it’s only the briefest glimpse of “white lightning”.
(For more of our weasel encounters, see Ermine Tales.)