Saturday, November 6, 2010

Invisible Critters in Action

Earlier today I tossed some bread outside for the birds and was surprised to see, about an hour later, that one piece in particular that had landed on the top of a railroad tie retaining wall had disappeared completely.  I had my suspicions - it wasn't the birds that made the bread disappear.

So, I decided to do a test.  Just before 12:30 p.m. I placed another slice of bread half-way on the top tie and half-way on the grass, fully exposed.  I watched it for a few moments but I saw no tell-tale movement of "tugs" of the bread from underneath.  I suspected that my close presence while placing the bread spooked the suspect bread thieves.  In this photo you can see the slice of bread resting half-way on the grass and half-way on the top of the railroad tie.  Should have got a close-up.

I went back to working indoors.  About 1:25 p.m. I checked again and saw the bread had been moved - quite a bit moved!  It was now fully off of the wall and on its way underneath the wall.  Even as I watched I could see tell-tale little "jerks" of the bread, signifying tiny critters underneath working on moving the bread.  Field mice!  There are several large 'holes" along the top edge of the retaining wall where I know they nest, and as long as they stay out of my house, it's live and let live.

I checked again at 1:35 p.m. and the bread had been pulled further into their lair beneath the top railroad tie.

At 1:43 p.m. the bread was now well on it's way to disappearing, and even as I watched further jerking movements of the bread attested to frantic action now that the mice sensed victory near at hand!

At 1:54 p.m. I noticed that the crust on the outer-most edge of the bread had been totally removed and even as I watched, there was a constant tugging of what remained of the visible crescent of bread , pulling it underneath the edge of the wood tie. 

The final check at 2:12 p.m., bread has disappeared.  Rustling of leaves and tiny movements signal mice still hard at work storing away what is left of the bread slice :)  Bon apetit! 

I was listening to the Wisconsin Badgers football game on the radio and the final minutes, where we capped a decisive victory over Purdue (yippee!) took my attention away from the mice.  Judging from their earlier progress, the mice probably already had the piece tucked away underneath the railroad tie by about 2:00 p.m. and were busy working on deconstruction and storage when I took this final photograph. 

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