Tag Archives: moles

Another year in the Wild South

Today is the 2nd birthday of this blog, so to celebrate I’ve been back over my posts from the last year, and picked a couple of my favourites from each month. I quite enjoyed looking back – brought back lots of memories!

September 2014

Looking from St Agnes to the Gugh
Looking from St Agnes to the Gugh
  • Photo Special: Isles of Scilly – I had to choose this one, really, as not only do I quite like some of these photos, but, as it happens, I’m actually in the Isles of Scilly at the moment. It’s a beautiful place with excellent wildlife watching opportunities.
  • Hedgehog pawprints – I just love hedgehogs really.

October 2014

Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground
Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground
  • Scrumping badgers? – it’s so exciting seeing badgers (even if I didn’t get any photos)!
  • Moles: perfectly adapted – I’ve still never seen a mole in the wild (alive, at least), but you can’t help admire how suited they are to their subterranean lifestyle.

November 2014

Nut nibbled by a dormouse. Note the smooth inner surface of the hole, and the scratches outside the hole.
Nut nibbled by a dormouse. Note the smooth inner surface of the hole, and the scratches outside the hole.
  • Looking for Harvest Mice at an airport – this day of surveying for harvest mice at Gatwick airport was really memorable, even if we didn’t find any in the end. It’s fascinating to see what wildlife can exist even in the most unlikely places.
  • How to tell who’s been nibbling your nuts – some close-up photos of nuts nibbled by dormice and other mice, with guidance on how to distinguish between the two.

December 2014

New growth from beaver-coppiced willows on the River Otter
New growth from beaver-coppiced willows on the River Otter
  • Dormouse licence! – It took a long time to get enough experience with handling dormice to obtain my licence, so this was quite a significant milestone for me. This year I’ve enjoyed having my own site to survey.
  • On the trail of wild beavers – I’ve really enjoyed following the story of England’s first beavers in the wild for hundreds of years, and it was amazing to see signs of them when we were visiting the River Otter.

January 2015Grey squirrel

February 2015Skeletal hydrangea flower

March 2015

What you need to set up a footprint tunnel: tunnel, tracking plate, tasty food, masking tape, vegetable oil, black poster paint powder, something to mix the paint in, A4 paper, paper clips, tent pegs, footprint guide
What you need to set up a footprint tunnel: tunnel, tracking plate, tasty food, masking tape, vegetable oil, black poster paint powder, something to mix the paint in, A4 paper, paper clips, tent pegs, footprint guide

April 2015

Supporters of Christian charities call for action on climate change
Supporters of Christian aid agencies (and others) call for action on climate change
  • British Animal Challenge: March and April 2015 – a summary of my progress on seeing every species of British Animal
  • Church speaks and acts on climate change – While the new government seems to be implementing as many policies as possible to increase climate change (fracking, cutting subsidies to renewable energy, imposing the climate change levy on green electricity, the list goes on), it’s encouraging to see the church take a strong stance on this issue

May 2015

Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues
Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues
  • Election summary – I spent a couple of months during the election campaign trying to find out where the main British parties stood on various issues relating to nature, the environment and wildlife. I must say, I didn’t enjoy the process much – it was quite dispiriting. But this post summarised all that work.
  • In which I learn I need a new approach to seeing bats – another batty adventure.

June 2015

Torpid dormouse found on my box check in June
Torpid dormouse found on my box check in June

July 2015

Work in progress: my barn owl cross stitch
Can you tell what it is yet?
  • Too darn hot (or how to help wildlife during a heatwave) – I think the rather dull summer we’ve had might be my fault – I wrote this post during a hot period, and since then heat has not been a problem. But still, it’s good advice for if we do get another heat wave.
  • My barn owl project – this is a little different from the projects I usually write about on this blog, but I’m enjoying it, and making good progress.

August 2015

How my garden birds did in 2014-15 compared to previous years
How my garden birds did in 2014-15 compared to previous years
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Profile: Moles – perfectly adapted

They are one of our most common and widespread mammals, but few people will ever see a live mole. I think this is a shame, as they are fascinating creatures, perfectly adapted for their subterranean lifestyle. I haven’t yet seen a live mole, so don’t have any photos to show you. Luckily my friend Moley has agreed to help show you what makes moles so great.

Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground
Diagram of how moles are adapted to life underground

Talpa europaea, the mole we get in Britain, is surprisingly small in real life, usually between 11 and 15 centimetres long, with a short tail.

Moles are insectivores, and have a long, pointed, mobile nose like hedgehogs and shrews. The sensitive hairs on their noses help them to detect food. Their favourite food is earthworms, bit will eat other insects (and sometimes other small creatures as well).

Sight isn’t all that useful in dark tunnels, so moles have tiny eyes (1mm across), but they can tell the difference between light and dark. This may be to help them detect when intruders break into their tunnels from above.

Moles don’t have external ears (presumably because they’d just fill up with mud).

Moles are usually dark furred, like Moley. But as colour doesn’t matter too much in dark tunnels, other colours (like white or light brown) are not uncommon. Their fur is short, velvety, and can lie flat in any direction, to help them back up through narrow tunnels.

Digging is what moles do best. Their powerful, spade-like front paws help them shift lots of earth quickly. A mole can dig around 20m of tunnels each day. Moley, being bigger than most moles, assures me he could manage 30m easily.

There is less oxygen in the air of underground tunnels than above ground. To make up for this, moles have more blood than other similar-sized mammals, and twice as much haemoglobin (which carries oxygen in the blood).

Moles leave obvious signs of activity, creating mole hills from the spoil from their tunnels. This makes them unpopular with gardeners, but unless you’re tending a lawn for competitive bowls, croquet or tennis, I can’t understand people wanting to kill moles. It’s easy enough to rake the molehills away.  Their tunnels also help aerate the soil.

Moles spend most of their lives below ground, but they do sometimes come up to the surface. Your best chance of seeing one is in June, when youngsters are heading off to find their own territory. I hope that I will get to see one someday.

 

British Animal Challenge: May Update

May has been the most successful month so far for my British Animal Challenge. I’ve seen two new species of amphibians: smooth newts and great crested newts. I’ve also ticked off common pipistrelle bats from my list as well.

More generally, I’ve seen quite a few species that were already ticked off my list, but it’s always good to see them again:

  • Adders
  • Slow worms
  • Woodmice
  • Roe deer
  • Common frog
  • Dormouse
  • Water voles

Sadly I haven’t managed to cross any new reptile species off my list, although I do have a plan. I also failed in my second attempt to see water shrews, but I’ve found out a bit more about where I could see them. I’ve also heard rumours of natterjack toads in Surrey, which I’ll have to investigate more.

So, what are my target species for June? Well, my new bat detector should be arriving any day now, so I’m keen to try that out and see some more types of bats. I’m also going to be keeping my eyes peeled for moles, as this is the time of year when they could be dispersing from where they were born. I’m also hoping to see a yellow-necked mouse.