10 January 2012

Going underground

During the winter months, mole activity seems to become very obvious on the meadows. This is partly because mole hills are very visible when the grass is short, but also because in colder weather the insects, larvae and earthworms that moles feed on, retreat deeper into the ground, so forcing the moles to excavate to greater depths in pursuit of a meal. What goes down in excavation, must come up as molehills!
The life of the mole in the meadows is largely hidden from view. A busy underground network of tunnels means that moles rarely surface, so we seldom catch a glimpse of the animals themselves. However, the 'trademark' molehills and subtle ridges, depressions and hollows created by shallow excavations and tunnel collapse make moles' presence evident. Their workings also affect the way that water permeates into the soil, causing local variation in natural drainage. The bare ground of molehills often creates a valuable seedbed for fallen or buried seed , sometimes producing a tell-tale cluster of wildflower seedlings in spring.
Another and perhaps more unusual clue to the presence of moles is a heron standing watching the ground in a meadow some distance from any pond or watercourse where they might find a source of fish. When ground conditions are wet, moles have to work closer to the surface and the 'beady-eyed' heron can see their movement in shallow tunnels and is not adverse to the occasional mole snack!

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