Snowdrops, dead rabbits, and ballistic moles mean spring is sprung

The first sign of spring comes in many guises. It may be a single snowdrop ahead of the rest; it may be a pair of buzzards staking a territorial claim by wheeling overhead; it may be merely the tinge of green which at last steals over pallid grass meadows still in shock from frost.

In our establishment, it comes in the form of the first dead rabbit deposited in the dining room. Jasper the hunting cat had waited all winter for this moment: the magic day on which the first batch of flopsy bunnies had grown large enough to venture into the open.

After weeks of kills no bigger than a mouse, there he was, giving yowls of triumph as he dragged his trophy home. His fluffy sister Rosie, observing protocol to the letter, kept out of the way until he had devoured the head, and then moved in to finish the rest. By the end of the operation there was nothing left except the skin - neatly peeled off - and those unmentionable organs which the cats always eschew. But we knew beyond doubt that spring was on its way.

It always amazes me how rabbits revive at this time of year. For months there are none to be seen, then the abrupt appearance of young proves that a few old survivors have been about all the time. I suspect that in winter, when there is little cover, adults spend daylight hours underground and emerge to feed only at night.

The other creatures once again suddenly active are moles. When iron frost bound the land for weeks on end, there was no sign of them. Now all at once they have gone ballistic, throwing up mounds of outrageous proportions. Mole-fanciers claim that such activity is positively beneficial: the runs, they say, help to drain the ground, and you can collect up the fine earth that the diggers have excavated, for use on the garden.

This may be true on a small scale but, when tunnelling gets out of hand, it is enough to make any landowner see red. Not only do hundreds of molehills disfigure a field, they also become a menace later in the year when grass- cutting machinery is used to make hay and silage.

At close quarters, a single pair of moles can be even more vexatious. Our neighbour does not yet know that the day after he went on holiday his front lawn erupted in a dozen finely shaped black mounds. I swear that the culprits - sensitive to vibration - felt peace settle in as soon as he departed, and went to work in the happy knowledge that they were unlikely to be disturbed.

Another recent subterranean event - I suspect - has been the birth of a litter of fox cubs in the wood above us. Ever since my wife began leaving scraps and bones in the paddock, the winter nights have been riven by the screams of foxes competing for the hand-out: a torch shone out of the window any evening will pick up pairs of glowing red eyes, whizzing backwards and forwards along the hill.

In spite of the close proximity of so many carnivores, our free-range chickens came through the winter almost unscathed, mainly because we shut them up securely at night. Yet during the past week we have had two daylight raids - both near misses - which make me think that a vixen is hunting at all hours to feed cubs. If only one could train foxes to eat moles! They do occasionally catch one, but the gentlemen in black velvet must be somehow rebarbative, for their bodies, once crunched, are cast aside intact.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones