Saturday, 29 May 2010

A dash for home

It has been rather dry recently, something that is underlined by the slow growth of the vegetables in my raised beds and the dust that comes up from the forest tracks with my passing. These dry conditions are likely to have had an effect on some of our wildlife, with soil-dwelling invertebrates moving deeper into the soil profile in order to find the moisture that they need. The knock-on effects of this may be felt by the thrushes and Starlings which probe our lawn for worms and leatherjackets (the larvae of craneflies). The dry conditions might also explain the large number of Moles being seen above ground over recent days.

I encountered my first wandering Mole whilst out doing a bird survey, the first of the season’s visits to my Breeding Bird Survey square, operated by the BTO. It follows the line of the Peddar’s Way (fortunately just a short section and not the whole 50 mile route). Coming out of one of the smaller Breckland villages on a minor road I spotted what I first took to be a couple of Starlings in the road, distant as they were. As I approached it dawned on me that one of the Starlings was actually a Mole, a not unusual casualty of a passing car I thought. It was only when I got to within a few feet of the Mole that it moved; a first tentative sniff of the air then a full-throttle run towards me and away across the road. Such a turn of speed is wholly unexpected in a creature more suited to a subterranean existence. I managed to follow the Mole for a couple of minutes, even capturing it on my phone’s video camera, before I had to be on my way again, counting birds.

Later the same day, while out nest recording with the county’s mammal recorder, Dave Leech, I commented on my Mole sighting and we both remarked on how uncommon it was to get such a good view of a Mole in this way. Imagine our surprise then, when barely 20 minutes later we came across another two Moles foraging above ground. This time, however, they were foraging in the leaf litter and somewhat less easy to view. Since then, I have heard of a number of similar sightings from across the county. Moles are more commonly seen above ground during the period when the young disperse away from where they were born. Since this dispersal does not normally begin until late June, I rather suspect that the Moles we saw might have been having a hard time of it. Some rain would be good, both for the Moles and my vegetables. 

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