Monday, April 6, 2009

The Newcomb Vole Preserve

Sunday morning we rose to a white world...plenty of snow overnight. By noon, however, it had melted off, so I gathered my planting supplies and headed out to get last eight trees/shrubs in the ground. By 4:30 I was done...and tired! Eight $500 holes are a lot of work, especially when the soil is soaked from all the rain!

The thing that stands out the most in the yard this spring is the VOLE activity. I think every vole in Newcomb took up residence in my yard this winter! I had left all the trimmings from my apple trees and from the cut down honeysuckles neatly stacked in various locations. The voles nailed them all - no bark left on any branch that was tender and tasty. Maybe this spared my other plants, like the lilac, which they nailed last year. The yard is covered with vole tunnels, and a lot of the mulch in the flower beds has been relocated (voles being #1 suspect).

What is a vole? A vole is not a mole (although many folks think they are the same). A vole is a small mammal with a short tail, small ears, and smallish eyes. It is about the same size as a mouse...maybe a bit larger. I knew one person who said "if a mouse is a hamburger, a vole is a quarter-pounder." Or, as I always put it, a quarter-pounder with fleas. Hee hee.

Anyway, the critter many people refer to as the "meadow mouse" is actually a meadow vole! They are very common, and can often be seen scampering across the road. These are the ones who leave the open-topped tunnels all over your yard when the snow melts. They also leave bundles of grass in fields - these are often referred to as nests.

Additionallyk, we have the red-backed vole, which is usually/most often found in the woods. These are lovely small mammals with an orangish-red strip (quite wide) down the back.

A mole is almost entirely fossorial (lives its life underground). It has no external ear flaps, wee-itty-bitty-almost-invisible eyes, and very large, spatulate front feet that are used for digging. These guys leave the humped up mounds of dirt in your yard. Up here we have mostly commonly hairy-tailed moles. I'll have to look it up when I get to work, but I think we also have star-nosed moles in the Adirondacks, but I'm not 100% sure (I haven't seen one in ages).

"They" are calling for more snow by tomorrow: 1-5". is only early April. And even if we get the entire 5", it won't last. That's the great thing about spring: the weather may be lousy, but it won't last.

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