Monday, 24 September 2012

There's something under my piles! Don't ask....

I was shifting some of my piles...
of grass....
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.
These are all indicators to me of what it was...
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.

From top...
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.


Susan said...

Terrific post - really informative!

Tim said...

Thanks Susan... but I wish more people would comment when they look at posts... even if it is just to acknowledge that you've posted. I can well understand why you've eased back.
The stats show plenty of visits already to this post, but you are the first to comment. The others can't all be robots and crawlers.
[from "Depressed by the gloomy weather" of Grand Pressigny]

I'm actually getting quite used to the new interface, tho'... forced to because I've got things to blog about... Pauline has been using it since its inception!!

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Great post and informative... We have voles in the garage I keep catching and putting out in the garden but they return... Any suggestions.

We have used the new interface since its inception as well but we use Chrome as our browser and have had no problems.

Tim said...

We use Firefox and no problems... but I'm old and don't like too much change. I like old cars 'cos I can name them at a glance; all forms of steam 'cos it is linked with engineering and beer... and steam engines [rail or road] are just wonderful; natural history 'cos evolution is usually slow... but I don't like all this name changing!!

Old architecture and prehistory are good too... like natural history, there's always something new, amazing or wonderful around the corner... but look at modern vehicles... to Citroen the marque DS is now just that... not the sleek shark that graced the 50s & 60s and still turns heads or gathers crowds... the new range of Euroblobbed "DS"s won't.

Now, voles in a garage... well, when I was doing a study on Bank Voles, I had one [fat] male who clicked that the traps were a food source. I moved the traps one mile away on the same estate... it took him less than five days to find the traps... he'd lost a few grams body weight in the interim... so I took him indoors to use as a "producer" of pellets of one type of vegetation at a time. [Which is another story altogether.]
But I stopped trapping in that area and worked on another many miles away.
So you will need to move them a long distance to be successful... find the way[s] in create a bouchon... other than mortar, the expanding foam is probably best, they won't like digging through it.

Jean said...

Beautiful photos and great detective work.
As for comments, guilty as charge your honour. I should know better as I have been through the "is anybody reading this stuff?" myself. I once posted 23 photos about an event and got three comments.
I have found that the weekend posts get fewer comments, probably because although people do check in they don't have time to read thoroughly or comment. Also, the blogs that get huge numbers of comments are often posting very personal stuff, not the kind of thing you and I do. People seem to love reading about other people's problems and offering their advice or opinion.

So do carry on, your blog is lovely and much appreciated.

Tim said...

Mercy mamms'lle! Glad you liked it...
currently the buzzards do too... the runs that is... they've taken to sitting in the walnut tree like a pair of vultures.

Wurdpraes has a like button that one can press if you liked a particular posting... that at least lets us know the visitors are real and not robotic crawlers.