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Circle of Sand

Wednesday 29th August 2001, North Yorkshire

rabbit A SMALL CIRCLE of sandy soil by the path at the grassy foot of the slope below the millstone edge is dotted with raisin-sized Rabbit pellets. Rabbits use their droppings to mark their territory, so this is a sort of rabbit chat room, where they can always check out the incoming messages and leave one of their own. The news isn't all good for the local population - I've seen several of them with the bulging eyes of myxomatosis.

grasshopper A grasshopper lands on the circle. It's over an inch long, green, with two thin yellow lines along the edge of the back of its thorax. It's abdomen is banded and the last two or three segments are flexible. I assume that this is a female which is currently egg-laying as it seems to probe the sand with its 'tail-end' (its ovipositor?), like someone carefully testing whether paint is dry with the end of one finger, but it doesn't seem to lay any eggs as I watch. A second grasshopper, scarcely half the size of the first, hops forward to within an inch of the female. I assume that this is a young male, as it stridulates its back legs against its wing case in 4 or 5 short bursts. Unfortunately the sound it makes, if any, is beyond my hearing these days. The female doesn't seem impressed and she hops away.

Mole Hills

mole digging On a sandy section of the path just below the rocks I'm surprised to see the earth move before me. A few crumbs of darker earth are thrown up over the sand. Then the little convulsion of earth moves on in jerky fashion, turns at an angle, and goes on its way. I'm hoping to glimpse the elusive little excavator when a family walks towards me down the path.

'Shhh! - there's a mole at work here!' I whisper.

Whether it's the approaching footsteps or whether the mole has re-entered its regular tunnel I'm not sure, but the movement stops.

'There was something there, honestly!' I assure the family.

Around some of the rocks I notice fresh mole hills. When these are trampled, they become sandy circles, like the one I'd noticed at the foot of the slope. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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