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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Who's laughing now


  1. That 'image' brings both thoughts and memories to mind:
    first, of course, is a sort of Animal Farm type metaphor
    then, remembering as a 1st year school boy on a house walk asking about the dead rooks strung up on a fence - to act as a deterrent to other rooks not to . . . was the farmer's son's earnest and deeply held belief . . . I can't remember what they were not supposed to do - eat crops i suppose - but expressing my doubts that rooks would either recognise the lesson or heed it was greeted with ' what do you know about rooks - of course they will' - which deepened my burgeoning scepticism - about country lore and other magic that time but sowed a seed of disbelief in conventional wisdoms that has festered ever since :
    and now, on a farm gate in a neighbouring village, a long row of straggly mole corpses , shrivelled by sun, wind and time, either time honoured trophies of fearless mole hunting or , more likely, given the area, a lesson to other moles not to burrow and make molehills . . . or fell kings - maybe the 'owner' is an Orange man . . .
    which again bears (silent) witness to the power of wishful thinking and - of that old old country lore.
    Good one - let's have another before Xmas and see what you can bury in the imagery.

  2. gimmer - I can understand to a certain extent remedial action being taken when moles wreck your prize lawn (or bowling green) but what harm they cause elsewhere I'm not sure. My image depicted a shooter, but it was really meant to cover the whole spectrum of killing animals for "pleasure." I don't think there is a generic image of a mole-catcher that would have been well recognised. I met a guy on a quad bike a year or so ago near Semerwater who told me he was a retired farmer, but now employed by his local colleagues to kill moles. Somehow I failed to quiz him further about the purpose of his activity.

  3. I tend to agree with Gimmer. If the dead animals were recognised as dead by others of their breed, and the latter were capable of reaction, it would surely be one of relief. "There," the mole/rook would say to itself, "There are X buggers I don't have to compete with for food." Animal reactions (if they exist) would surely be only the familiar fundamentals: self-protection, searching for food (which is an extension of self-protection), and the urge to reproduce their species.

    There is one further sub-division of self-protection I notice here in rural Herefordshire, especially among crows/rooks. On narrow lanes, picking at some tasty badger carcase, they will delay their departure - in the face of an oncoming car - to the last half-second. Often getting in one last peck. Giving the impression that they can calculate the speed of an advancing menace and thus equate cars with other threats to life.

  4. If you were William III you wouldn't need to speculate about the damage they can cause - or, if a Jacobite, fail to praise their perspicacity in building their little hills in the royal (imposter's) path !
    I heard the other day that rooks (and other corvidiae) were supposed to be the most intelligent of birds so maybe they already had inbuilt rangefinder computers long before Krupp, Vickers or Armstrong - let alone Turing - were born : nothing new under the sun , it seems: dissection of the bedraggled corpses to find out would not be my idea of a cosy night at home.

  5. RR and gimmer - I have nor done an exhaustive Internet search to find out what harm moles do in environments other than cherished lawns. What I did find was mostly endless sites giving "the best ways" to "kill" or , "get rid of" these little beasts - a all a far ry from Wind in the Willows.

    I did find the following:


    What Damage Can Moles Cause?

    February 3, 2015
    I think its important to give people the facts before they decide if they need to give me a I thought I would write a few words on the damage the little pests can cause.
    Molehills on lawns have to be removed and collapsed tunnels need filling in to maintain a level lawn surface which is why gardeners consider moles to be pests.
    Moles tunnelling can disturb the roots of seedlings and other small plants in flower beds and vegetable plots which can affect growth by dislodging the plants and drying out the roots. Moles scape away soil from the roots removing the plants source of nourishment.
    Moles digging can cause considerable damage to newly seeded lawns.
    Mole tunnels can cause problems with the irrigation of your land.
    Subsidence can be caused by the burrowing.
    Earthworms, eaten by moles, are very important for soil aeration, health and fertility of the land.
    The tunnels made by moles provide an easy access to your plants and crops for other rodents. Voles and mice are known to travel in mole tunnels and eat away at the roots and tubers of plants.
    Tunnelling exposes stones and debris that can damage lawn mowers and agricultural machinery.
    Very uneven ground caused by raised ridges and molehills can cause livestock to fall and become injured.
    Soil contamination of silage and haylage by molehill earth can result in deadly listereosis in farm animals.
    It is believed that widespread field infestation can reduce product yield by up to 30%.
    Moles can destroy sprinkler systems by uprooting sprinkler heads and warping underground water lines.
    Apart from the above problems, mole tunnelling can spoil the appearance of your land making your property less attractive, grass will turn brown and low and weak spots are created. Labyrinth tunnels soon become homes and runways for mice as well as voles and pets may try to dig out a mole all resulting in further damage to the land.
    Molehills can also easily be colonized by weed growth further ruining the grass quality.


    Many of those items relate to lawns. I can understand some justification if specific damage is being caused to underground piping systems, but I don't think the rest justify the apparent indiscriminate killing that persists ithroughout the countryside.

    Here also is another sad example about the Queen's appointed mole catcher:

  6. Whilst reading this, I wondered whether you know 'I Saw a Jolly Hunter' by Charles Causley?
    The spirit of that poem seems relevant here.

  7. Mark - I have replied by email.