the other day when I came across some amazing lines in the exposed grass and moss.
|This is one of my piles with the nearest part removed... |
you can just make out the dark shadow of two runs in the foreground.
|Which once all the grass is removed reveals a network...|
|... and this is a closer view of the network in the foreground...|
|...and, by the blade of grass in the middle of the previous picture was the entrance to the underground world.|
These are the runways of voles [campagnols] who seem to occupy around 90% of our land. They have taken advantage of where I raked the grass into rows ready for collection, to move under cover between areas of forage.
They have also eaten undercover... there are places where they've made cosy, moss-lined nests.
|This is a "day bed"... a place where the vole can lay up and eat fresh gatherings whilst under cover.|
Another indicator that tells me these are voles, are the latrines. Mice eat and 'go' on the run, as it were! Voles are tidier.
|A latrine.... The bright green droppings are the freshest.|
Which particular vole, I cannot be certain.... but both Short-tailed Field Vole [Microtus agrestis] Campagnol agreste and Bank Vole [Clethryonomus glareoulus] Campagnol roussâtre are present in this particular area... as is the "Mining Vole" Common Pine Vole [Microtus subterraneus] Campagnol souterrain. Unfortunately our best collector of evidence always starts at the head end!!
I also found this wonderful nest when I was cutting back bramble on the fence line between us and our neighbours.
It is the nest of a Harvest Mouse [Micromys minutus] Rat des moissons.
- It is a loose woven ball of grass.
- There are no signs of an exit/entrance hole.
- It is also exceptionally clean.
Its position, quite high up in the brambles, isn't really an indicator as this would have been a very good site for many birds.
No hole? Yes, no hole. The harvest mouse pushes its way in and out, the hole closing behind it. This leaves the young in a secure, invisible package.
All animals leave signs of where they've been, but they are not always so clear as these. Amelia on A French Garden blogged about damage to hazelnuts... voles again probably... or possibly dormice.
Click on the last photo of hers to enlarge it... you will see a small hole in the nearest... just behind that beautifully shaped opening. This seems to indicate that the initial thief was probably a woodpecker or a jay [see the pictures below] and the nut was left in the crook of the branch and then eaten by a rodent. The more I look at this picture, the more "dormouse" shouts at me... the nibbling just looks too 'polished' for a vole! [The French Garden site opens into a new tab or window... you will be able to compare the picture with those below by clicking between the two.]
Most of the hazelnuts below have been damaged by a woodpecker or Jay, some have had further "rodent" enlargement.
1] Probable Jay or Woodpecker
2] Again bird damage... Jay? But with a bit of nibbling.
3] Rodent... very untidy... Rat or Squirrel
4] Rodent... neater... probably Field Mouse [voles are even tidier!]
Squirrels split nuts from the top... they also chew all round a pine/spruce cone... as opposed to nibbling... and leave it very untidy. But splits in the scales like these...
|You can see clearly where the sharp tip of the upper mandible has pierced the scale.|
... are the work of a crossbill. The photo above is from this post about crossbills.
Winter tracks and signs are often easier to spot... we wrote about some here.