Many of you will have seen evidence of this wee chap without ever catching sight of him. He is, of course, that busiest of all miners – the mole.
Moles live in total darkness in their underground tunnels, and have little need for sight. This has resulted in tiny pinprick eyes which are hard to see, being so small and hidden in velvet fur to keep dirt out.
Neither are the ears visible, having no external parts which would be a hindrance when tunnelling. His nose, of course, is as highly-tuned as any mammal, and used to identify prey and warn of enemies.
The strong snout is used in bulldozer fashion to move soil, an activity he seems to be almost constantly engaged in. When it comes to building and maintaining his burrow system, those strong shovel-like hands are his main tools.
Notice the stiff whiskers and bristles all over his face. These highly-sensitive hairs are in constant contact with the tunnel walls and can detect the slightest vibrations or draughts. This way, he is instantly aware of any movement in the tunnel, such as a juicy worm or a predatory weasel.
His whiskers test the airflow to tell of any breach in his burrows or approaching flood water. Even his velvety upright coat is designed for tunnelling life. The pile of his velvet lies neither backwards or forwards,enabling him to reverse with ease. Quite simply, the mole is yet another example of perfect evolution to suit a specific niche.
Mind you, I can think of quite a few farmer, gardener and greenkeeper customers of mine who do not share my admiration for the wee fellow!
More Country Corner in this week’s paper