Whether we live in a town or a city, or in the middle of the countryside, there will always be wildlife of some description making the most of the habitats available. These are the plants and animals that we are most familiar with and yet we often take them for granted.

Red deer hind Baronsdown - Paul Tillsley

For example, I see red deer every day on the League’s Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary and so I tend to forget that I am very lucky to be living alongside the UK’s largest land mammal. In contrast, when I found a rare barbastrelle bat roosting in a building here on the sanctuary recently, I couldn’t help getting excited. It was never going to win many prizes for looks, but its rarity somehow gave it status in my mind.

It is a strange quirk of human behaviour that we generally pay more attention to something that is unusual than we do to something, or someone, that we are more familiar with. If this pandemic has taught us anything, maybe it is to better appreciate what we have close by because this is the support network that we rely on.

On a similar subject, there has been a mole excavating my lawn since New Year. It started digging around the edge and now it has made a network of interconnecting tunnels that zigzag across the whole lawn. Watching my mole’s progress has become part of my daily lockdown routine.

Mole on the League

One day, I saw a robin hop down onto the lawn and fly back into a bush with a worm in its beak. When it flew down to the lawn again, I noticed a small pile of soil growing where it landed. My mole was burrowing beneath the surface and as worms fled to escape, they were being snaffled up by the robin. Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

I am used to seeing molehills in the fields on Baronsdown, but not the moles that make them, so I took the opportunity to have a closer look at my mole. What a fabulous little creature he is! With his small, cylindrical, and muscular body, slick black fur, tiny eyes, ears hidden from view, extraordinary little pink nose, and huge front feet, he is perfectly adapted for a life digging underground for worms and insect larvae. Although, I am not sure what the point is of his little tail? I quickly popped my mole back in his hole and off he went, none the worse for his trip above ground, although maybe a bit confused about what had just happened.

As most of my knowledge about moles has come from books like ‘Wind in the willows’, I took to the internet to find out more. Naively perhaps, I was expected to find lots of information about the ecology of these mysterious little mammals. However, I was shocked to find that most of the advice was about how to kill moles if they dare to encroach into our domain and, to make matters worse, it would appear that mole killing is more of a cruel sport than a necessity. Even nature conservation bodies seem to dismiss moles as ‘common’, despite the drainage and pest control services that moles provide free of charge for us.

We depend on the natural environment far more than it depends on us. Nature gives us so much and asks little from us in return. It is time to champion the common, the familiar, and the every day. If we can do that, we are certain to be more content with our lives. So, let’s hear it for moles!