Thursday, December 10, 2009

Field Mowing - Animals

Even though I’m a walking cloud of noise and confusion while mowing, I still have wildlife encounters. Mice are easy to see because they begin their escape by running on top of the fallen grass. One mouse charged up an ant hill and did an Evil Knievel leap into space. He probably could have cleared 10 mouse busses before coming to earth.

I’m not sure what this maneuver is all about. I may be under attack or it could be a plea for mercy. He soon jumped off and ran down a hole.

I found a lot of grass nests such as this. Most of these probably belong to voles. Mice have a tendency to build their nests where there is more substantial structure and usually incorporate bits of thistle down, hair or similar substance into the nest construction.

The nest is a basic grass ball with a hollow center large enough to enclose a vole. Voles often build many of these abodes around their territories.

Here’s one of the many voles I saw. Voles run beneath the fallen grass and are hard to follow. Catching a vole is akin to playing tag. First is the zigzag chase through the field. The tag is achieved when you place your open gloved hand over the vole and gently hold it in place for a couple of seconds. Leather gloves are important for those few occasions when the odd vole decides to show you just how easy it is to sink sharp rodent incisors through human skin. Voles abide by the International Rules of Tag and once tagged, will wait quietly for whatever comes next. I had to prod this guy to get him going again, but once he started moving he quickly found one of his vole runs and dashed away.

The ant hills are really easy to see once the grass is down. Before winter is over, I’ll come out and take some systematic shots to document location and abundance of the mounds. It’s really beneficial to have documentary photos when doing any type of land management activity. Digital photography has really made this type of documentation easy. When I began this work, all photo documentation was either slides or prints. Cost of film and developing prohibited taking 10 or 12 shots of the same subject in hopes of getting one right and the camera was too delicate to be carried with you everywhere you went. Now I have my camera in a belt holster with me whenever I leave the house.

I found the legs from the deer the coyotes ate. All the legs were in a small cluster about 40 feet from the main skeleton. Maybe this was a holiday feast and the legs were served at the kids table.

The deer didn’t seem at all bothered by my mowing activities. This photo was taken on the last day of deer gun season and it made me a little bit nervous to have a bunch of potential targets wandering around me while I was working.

Note: No mammals were harmed in the making of this blog. Leg bone photo was used with no objections from the deer’s immediate family or the deer community in general.


  1. haha! funny.....
    ...and cute. That first photo of the mouse is so sweet! I love the little critters. We see lots of voles around here, but I don't get to see the big-eyed mice. He looks like he came right out of a Beatrix Potter book!

  2. Echoing Kelly: how cute! I've never actually seen a vole before. I like your idea about the "kid's table" for the coyotes - ha!

  3. OMG what a lucky encounter! A mouse I mean. Not that mice are so rare but when I see mice in the forest I don't even breathe and I rarely can make a single photo of them. Yours on the other hand felt like communicating. That's so cute.

  4. So funny! Great captures. Is that a White-footed mouse, or a Deer mouse?
    And are you sure those mounds were built by ants and not aliens or ancient cultures?

  5. This is a White-footed Mouse. I chased him around a circle a couple of times and he decided to stand still and pose. When he started running again, he may have mistaken my leg for a tree.