Well quite a lot really and you are probably missing most of it.
42 days after the winter equinox, light is the major factor that is pushing almost all forms of life towards growth and breeding. Lengthening days makes temperature a contributory factor but it is normally fickle and not to be relied on. With temperatures in excess of 10ºC above the norm during the day and night and only a few overnight frosts this January, things are getting out of hand for the time of year. Surely it is too early?
Some animals live in an environment where air temperature is not so critical, such as fish like trout have been spawning in rivers all winter with the water temperature between 8ºC and 5ºC. Whereas other animals live most of their lives were neither light nor air temperature have a direct effect, moles for instance.
“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home”.
Well Kenneth Graham in Wind in the Willows was right that moles live a predominantly solitary life, but Mole’s little home is actually a discrete network of tunnels. Their position and direction can be seen most easily at this time of year demarcated by the mole hills pockmarking the turf of a field or lawn.
Extraordinarily these tunnel networks become very prominent in the first quarter of the year, so what is going on? The grass is short anyway, but it is not spring cleaning, but major civil engineering.
Well to start with the tunnel network is designed as a trap for any mini beasts burrowing through the soil to fall into, which the resident mole patrols at regular intervals. Earth worms are the favourite fodder closely followed by beetle larvae, moth pupa, and leatherjackets.
Also, with February about to arrive and being their breeding season the excellence and effectiveness of these civil engineering projects are an important factor in moles pairing up, encouraging the ladies to come a calling.
The mole is probably our only mammal which has changed the course of British history, and during the breeding season to boot. On 21st February 1702, the protestant King William of Orange fell from his horse Sorrel who had stumbled over a mole hill and put it hoof into the burrow. King William sustained a complicated broken shoulder and died of pneumonia two weeks later on 8th March.
Many a Catholic Jacobite still toast "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat".
Mole is just one of Kenneth Graham’s iconic characters who are sadly in decline. The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world with 1 in 14 species heading to extinction.
Please help us secure a Wilder Future