Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Nesting site, but whose?

I am a total wimp. About some things, at least.

On the bank beside a trail in Reifel Bird Sanctuary, I saw this hole in the dirt:

Intriguing. What's down there?

Getting closer.

The hole was tidily rounded as far in as I could see, and big enough for my arm, even with a sweater on. (Maybe 4 inches in diameter.) It angled down under the trail, then bent to the right and disappeared. I considered sticking a hand in, to see what was there, then thought of teeth and angry mother ... somethings. Not bears, but just as protective.

A stick wouldn't do; it wouldn't bend, nor tell me what it found. I stuck the camera in the hole and set the flash.

That wasn't much help, was it? Only the bit of wall and floor on the straight section were lighted, and the shadowed part went pitch black.

Inspecting the photo at home for clues, prints or hairs maybe, I noticed two spider legs; a big guy, hiding just around the corner on the right. He's not the owner of the hole, of course; he's 'way too small. But I'm glad, now, that I didn't poke around with my hand. He would have moved, I would have jumped and screamed (Foolishly, because what would he do to me? Nothing.) and totally embarrassed myself.

But I'm still wondering. What makes holes like that in fairly public places, with no ground cover? Muskrat? Weasel? Burrowing owl? (According to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC, they have been seen in the Delta.)

What do you think?


  1. That's one mystery I would have left uninvestigated. :)

  2. According to Stokes Animal Tracking and Behavior, Woodchucks are the main digger of holes like yours.

    Then again, I'm on the east coast, I think you have marmots out by you that do similar things.

    Skunks and Opossums use the woodchuck holes, but usually plug them with leaves in cold weather.

    Racoons and Rabbits often use them, too.

    There would definitely have been an exit hole at the other end of the tunnel, so if you'd stuck your arm in, you'd likely not have been bitten (but I sure wouldn't have done it).

  3. Well I sure wouldn't have stuck my hand/arm in that hole!

  4. I'll tell you what, if you will fly me up there I will stick my arm in there and find out! :)

  5. So... I take it you don't have rattlesnakes out there? Two questions: 1) who dug the hole, 2) who lives there now. There's lots of burrow swapping/sharing that goes on in the grasslands of California. =) How fun that you tried with your camera, though. =)

  6. You find some amazing things! - Margy

  7. Thanks, all!

    Sara, I looked up woodchucks. Their holes are about 8' or more across; this one was about half that. We have marmots, but in the dry interior, not here.

    Yes, there probably was an exit hole somewhere. Or this was the exit hole, and the entrance is somewhere more hidden, Laurie says.

    Time to Live; Wish I could! Get your rabies shots first, though!

    Biobabbler. No, no rattlesnakes. In snake country, I'd never even think of putting a hand down a hole, of any size.

    You're right about the two questions. I wonder if they would know in the Reifel office? I'll ask.


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