The perils of Piano and Puzzle: part 3
[Maow – give us our own blog!]
Warning: this post contains scenes of graphic violence and torture of small furry animals. Just another day in a country cat’s life then…
Piano and Puzzle have been getting out and about since their last update. They’ve explored the property to its full; they range next door (which is a not quite completed house with attendant building site), they’ve been in the back field and met the sheep, they’ve been across the burn (and been brought back, and gone across the burn and been brought back, and gone across…), and Piano has made two potentially perilous trips across the road (and been brought back and kept in for a day as a result). Their main joy, however, is the hunt.
[Maow – no hunting with hounds here!]
The main prey is shrews – we get the common shrew Sorex arenaeus. Shrews are, mercifully, one of the most common mammals in the UK (you just don’t see them very often as being insectivores, they don’t interact with the human way of life), reaching densities of over 20/hectare in grassland, and produce three – four litters a year. I say mercifully, because Piano, and especially Puzzle, seem to catch them at more or less will, and if the population was a static 20/hectare they would have cleared them out by now. Given that they keep catching them with ease the population density can’t have dropped much, or at least not to a level where they are getting hard to find. So either there’s an awful lot of them about; they are migrating in to fill the vacated territories (shrews are highly territorial and don’t get on with each other), or they are already breeding although the ones the boys have allowed me to inspect have all been adults. Puzzle will usually catch something within ten minutes of going out and seems keener on hunting than exploring, whereas Piano tends to range further, exploring.
The other prey is the field vole Microtus agrestis, probably the most common British mammal. They don’t catch so many of these (about 3:1 shrews to voles), despite the copious evidence of their presence – the grassy areas at the front and back of the house have more holes in them than the average sieve. They should be breeding by now as well, so maybe the catch ratio will shift, especially if they hunt the shrews out.*
The boys are somewhat wary of the sheep. Piano has, on a couple of occasions, started out up the field to be met by a ewe giving him the evil eye. On one occasion this suddenly turned into a line of about five ewes on the crest of the hill: he turned round and slunk back through the fence. He steers clear of them now and only goes over if they are at the top of the field.
[Maow – who are ewe calling chicken!]
* I started this post a little while ago, well before the previous one. Since then Piano has started turning up exclusively with voles and Puzzle’s shrews seem to have dried up. It could be the recent wet weather though.
Currently listening to: Psycho Killer– Talking Heads