Thursday, 1 March 2012

Tunnels of love

I've noticed a strange phenomenon in the sheep fields surrounding the village over the past few weeks. They seem to be suffering from a sort of pastoral acne - and it's getting worse. Dark brown pustules are appearing over them, running in lines in all directions across the newly-greening turf.

They're molehills of course, but this year they seem to be appearing at an unprecedented rate. Apparently its the mating season, and the males are on the rampage, hunting for females by smell, frantically digging their tunnels of love. I'd love to see one - alive. I've found the odd one crushed at the side of the road, and felt its uber-velvetty fur. (The hairs of its coat - so I found out on the internet from a piece by Chris Packham in the Sun, of all places - go in both directions. This is because the mole needs it to lie smoothly when it goes backwards as well as forwards, and that's why it feels so amazing.) But as they spend almost all their lives in the underworld I'm unlikely to get my wish. The males will find the females, mate, reproduce, and carry on digging with those massive, fearsome claws of theirs, without me even getting a glimpse.

But then I suppose it's like that with a lot of wildlife. I've seen otter footprints in the sand on the banks of the river - but only once caught sight of his dark, slick shape disappearing into the water. I've spotted many pine marten spraints, purple with bilberries in the nearby forests, but never seen a ruddy, yellow-bibbed rogue making his mark. And every day I hear bird song, but many times find the bird that makes it elusive. Yet often those signs are enough. Enough to let you know there's life out there. Enough the make my day anyway.

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