Thursday, 7 June 2012

Dead moles tell no tales

It feels like a monsoon is on its way. The air is warm and humid here, but an insistent breeze is blowing in from the east, arching the newly-leaved trees like palms. Flashes of sun break through the quick-moving clouds, their heat reminding me it really is June, but turn my face to the cold wind and it's soon apparent that summer is still only notional in this neck of the woods.

Nevertheless a girl still needs to get some fresh air, so I went round by the river and up through the Big Field after lunch with a friend. We were near to the black-headed gull colony, where they were spiralling around above their nest-riddled pools. Though far enough away to avoid their tetchy divebombing, we were close enough to draw some verbal abuse as we walked past.

At the kissing gate my companion spotted a small, black lump of fur lying crumpled on the ground. A dead mole - the only kind most of us ever get to see. It was a sorry sight. It's usually velvety, black-coffee dark fur was plastered shiny and tight to its body. Its pink, scrabbly feet pointing soles up and splayed. It was clearly the victim of an attack. A bit of research revealed it was almost certainly a youngster. Adult moles rarely leave the safety of their tunnels, but juveniles are driven out of the nest and into the open by their mothers when they are just over a month old, where they are forced to stay until they can find an empty tunnel system of their own. It's a harsh, dangerous time - the time when buzzards, foxes, weasels and dogs are most likely to find an unexpected snack in their path.

But this one hadn't been eaten - just bitten. Hard by the look of it. My searches had also found that humans find mole meat almost inedible - and a dead mole starts to smell very unpleasant swiftly after death. There was no way of telling what had caught this little gentleman in black velvet - but whatever it was obviously had a discerning palate.

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