One afternoon in Mine Falls Park, I got to witness one of nature's spectacular dramas unfolding less than two miles from my house.
There was an unusual mink that lived near the west end of the Mill Pond, not far from my favorite sitting-rock. He was pure black. Unlike most minks, which are dark brown with a white patch on the throat, this mink was black as coal with no markings at all. I'd often see him under the pines across the narrow upper reaches of the pond, or sometimes nosing through the litter of oak leaves on my side of the pond.
Like any carnivore, he was always on the prowl. I figured he was the end of many mice and young birds. Chipmunks and even squirrels kept silent as he passed. But I never saw him actively hunting anything.
Until this day.
I saw him making his way through the thicket under the power lines on the other side of the pond, moving in that peculiar slow-motion gallop that most members of the weasel family use. He moved very deliberately through the pine grove, where there was almost no undergrowth to hide him.
As he approached the higher grass at the east end of the pines, he slowed down and took cover. I could see him clearly from across the pond, but he was stalking something that couldn't see him.
I couldn't see what he was stalking. Must have been something hiding in the grass. The only thing I could see was a small flock of ducks preening on a log near the point of land where the pines grew. Each duck was half again as large as the mink, and they stood twice his height. And they could fly! Surely, he must be hunting some smaller creature in the grass or at the water's edge.
Then the mink exploded out of the grass, swam to the log, and made a strike at one of the ducks!
The duck got away, leaving the mink a few feathers for his trouble, and all the ducks swam out to deeper water, halfway between the mink and me.
They didn't seem too shaken. There was no mass panic. They didn't fly. They just calmly repositioned themselves and went back to preening, this time on the water instead of on a log.
The mink eyed them from the log. Then he silently slipped under the water.
Was he looking for something of a more manageable size now? Maybe he'd find a frog or a turtle or something.
No, the mink had decided it was a bad day to be a duck.
Before I or the other ducks knew what was happening, one of the ducks began quacking in alarm. It fluttered along the water, dragging the mink a short way, before again leaving the mink with a mouthful of feathers.
And again, once the intended victim was out of the mink's jaws, the whole flock calmed down and moved off a little way. This time, they moved back to shallower water, near where the mink had first attacked them.
About this time, I started hearing the snarf in a tree above me, but that's another story.
The mink swam on the surface back to the log where the ducks had first been. He watched the ducks for a while, then slipped quietly into the water again.
The ducks' strategy didn't seem so foolish now. In the shallow water, I could see where the mink was churning up the muddy bottom, and so could the ducks. He popped to the surface, but the duck was already fleeing before he got a fang on it.
This time, the ducks had had enough, and they all flew off to the east, where the pond is much wider and farther from the reaches of any mink.
Watching a one-pound mink attacking a pound-and-a-half duck is comparable to watching a 300-pound lioness attacking a 450-pound zebra. Except there aren't many zebras or lions within a five-minute drive from my house!