Ecology

Taking the lid of a habitat

 

oldbilluk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Thanks to oldbilluk for this fantastic Barn Owl (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Our recent wild-fire damaged the Barn Owl habitat — here is how it should look — tussocks of grass growing through a thatch of the previous years’ hay.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

After a dry week this loose weave of hay had dried out surprisingly and fire spread rapidly.

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Aftermath of the grass-fire

From the other side of our valley you can see (in the bottom/left) where the flying ember ignited the hay on the opposite side of the track — then it spread in minutes across the fifty yards or so of rough grassland, up the hill (to the top/right of the picture).

Where the weave is trodden in the animal runs, trampled by badgers, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, hares, domestic cats and dogs and the occasional stray sheep, the drying and, in consequence the burning is less. Now you can clearly see evidence of the frenetic activity (mainly nocturnal) that shapes this landscape.

But look more carefully.

The fire has taken the lid off the vole habitat

The fire has exposed the labyrinth of  passageways, burrows, tunnels and store rooms beneath and within the sward — vole sized ones and tiny shrew sizes scamper-ways, occasionally enlarged by pursuing weasels or torn open by buzzards.

I have found caches of lightly roasted hazel nuts, larger ones presumably hidden by squirrels but fortunately no bodies — it seems the fire moved quickly and superficially and, I guess (well, I hope), the residents fled to their basements!

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This little chap (vole deceased!) was not so lucky — photographed by Tom Brandt (CC BY 2.0)

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