Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wot I Did On My Holidayz V: The sign of the upturned rock

You see strange things in strange places. Here, in a thicket so thick I doubt anybody had been there for years I noticed a large rock had been turned over. If tracking is about seeing small things to make a bigger picture this was something worth noting. The rock was an irregular shaped piece of limestone approximately 30 centimetres in lengths and weighting approximately 3Kg. It had been turned over and now lay with its red stained underside uppermost, the hard baked place where it had laid for however long still bare and visibly cracked. How long had the rock laid like this? Who knows, not long enough for the “top” to become stained or the “bottom” to have its red colour washed and bleached away by the alternate heavy rains and hot sunny days of a Balearic summer.
As to what had turned the rock over – that sets in train a whole new set of questions. The forest was riddled with rabbits, who seemed to lie up under the scrub rather than attempt burrows in the thin hard soil, but who has ever seen a wild rabbit turn over a rock heavier than itself when all they are interested in is green things to eat? The culprit most likely was some insectivorous mammal out foraging for food – and on Menorca that points to either the hedgehog or the marten. One of the local guide books I bought during my stay on the island listed the “porcupine” as a local species, although I fear this may be a poor translation of the English word hedgehog, a north-Africa subspecies of which (Atelerix algirus, or the Algerian Hedgehog) is found on the island. Whether hedgehog or marten something with a taste for looking under large rocks for grubs and bugs had turned this rock over and although I got down on my hands and knees looking for mammal hairs or spines amongst the rock-hard stony ground nothing could be found.

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