Moles – forty years ago in my nature notebooks

Forty years ago I was interested in molehills. They are tantalising glimpses of a hidden mystery. What animal might live underground and burrow? What kind of a life is that? It’s hard not to think about the lives of animals without imagining ourselves living their lives whilst still having human consciousness. Imagine being a bird and soaring high above. Imagine being a big cat hunting. Imagine being a Mole. Hmmm, maybe not; I don’t fancy burrowing in suffocating tunnels and eating 20 worms a day.

In my childhood nature notebooks I drew the patterns of molehills and tried to join the dots.

Moles - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I knew that large molehills show the position of a nest, that a line of small molehills marks the way a deep tunnel goes and that a continuous line of earth marks a very shallow tunnel.

Mole - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A life underground means Moles have similar adaptations to their blood as diving mammals like whales and dolphins do. This allows them to go for long periods without being able to breathe enough oxygen. It’s at times like this I’m glad I’m human.

Here’s a molehill in Devon. There are no moles in Orkney despite them being powerful swimmers with their big shovel-like hands.

Moles - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

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