I sat in, backstrokes for a bit to get my heart pumping, and slowly my body adapted. Although I mostly kept my feet above the water, my hands began to feel stiff about halfway through my usual trip. I noticed the uppermost water wasn’t too chilly, and wondered if that was due to less leaves on the trees allowing a bit more low angled sunshine to reach the river’s surface. But just a few inches down the water temperature dropped. The water was clear yet dark, and the banks seemed more stark—the boulders and tree trunks more prominent. Things felt still, as if nothing wanted to waste precious energy as the cooling evening approached.
I heard then saw a kingfisher chattering as it zoomed from an outstretched branch ahead of my arrival. But as I watched, it surprised me by making a U-turn and headed back past me like an arrow. As I silently cruised downriver near where it reversed flight, I could hear several birds chattering an alarm on the left bank. It was the bird version of a public 911, but it wasn’t about me. I scanned for the usual suspects: a hawk or cat. Then I saw something entirely unexpected.
It was a small, lithe, four-footed, svelte all blackish form, with a long tail, darting in and out of a fallen stump. As quickly it slipped inside, then out again, and onto a few boulders, then around them, sniffing furiously the whole time, seemingly oblivious to me. Its movements were nimble and quick. I barely managed to grab my iPhone and snap some shots in time. It paused for just a few seconds, head up like a prairie dog, and looked me in the eye in a quizzical but self-assured way. Apparently fully aware it could disappear in a heartbeat if a clumsy, slow creature like me ventured toward it. And then it was gone.
My first thought was a ferret, and I posted this on a friend’s timeline — she’d revealed yesterday was “Black Cat Day” (and requested images of any all black animal pals). I was accurate in thinking weasels are not entirely black or brunette, and it seemed too little to fit my memories of otters in the zoo. I’m still not certain, and even joked there were none in these urban parts, but some quick web research suggests it may in fact have been a mink. For certain it was a new animal sighting on the river for me. It doesn’t verify anything, but it did keep me plenty warm for the remainder of the float.