Readers weigh in on mysterious garden circles

Last week, we asked Daily News readers to put on their detective hats and help us hunt down an answer for Brocklehurst resident Vee Nolan, who was curious about mysterious circular indents in her vegetable garden.

Readers responded with some interesting answers.

LINDLEY ROFF: "The other night, when I was watering my garden, I saw this little sparrow. It sat down under a bush and basically had a dust bath. It moved around and around in circles and got nice and dusty and then went home. Those indentations in the photo look to be very much same result."

DIANE MONSON: "You didn't say how big the circles are, but if they are anywhere from four to six inches in diameter, sparrows are creating them. I have lots in my garden. The sparrows take a 'dust bath' and do exactly what they would do in a birdbath in shallow water.They flap their wings in the dirt in order to get the dust into their feathers to chase out any mites or other critters that may be lurking there. The flapping and moving around causes the circles."

PAT LANE: "When I lived in Brock, my neighbour had a dry dusty spot in her vegetable garden. I saw some sparrows having a dust bath there, just like chickens do, and they left perfect little circles."

LOUISE: "The 'mysterious crop circles' in the Reader's Reporter section of the paper are indents left by sparrows having dust baths.

RICK HOWIE: The depressions in the ground in your reader's garden photo are most assuredly the home of a voracious predator that would make the subject of a good horror movie. Underground at the bottom of the depression lives the larvae of a flying insect known as a lacewing. They are in the family Neuroptera and the larvae are called antlions. In America they are often called doodlebugs. They lie in wait for an unfortunate victim such as an ant that tumbles into the depression and can't climb out, eventually ending up at the bottom. With a giant set of pincers, the antlion blasts forth and grabs the hapless victim, pierces its body and sucks out the juicy liquids - great drama that rivals Tremors for a movie potential. These depressions are common around Kamloops in sandy soils. Find one and drop an ant into it or gently touch the bottom of the pit with a twig and watch what happens."

MARK HOPKINS: "Although it's a little hard to say from the detail in the photo, the answer to your question about the "mysterious crop circles" appears to be antlions. . . . They are quite common around Kamloops and usually found in fine textured sandy soils (often under some sort of cover to minimize damage from rain). The larvae is perhaps one of the most fearsomely ugly bugs around, and survives by building and then burying himself at the bottom of the conical depression and waiting for a passing ant or other victim to stumble in. Here's a link to the wikipedia article on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antlion."

THELMA SHARP: "Crop circles started showing up here in Monte Creek in my gravel-floored carport in May - sometimes while a vehicle is parked there. Whatever is making them is relatively short. Maybe chipmunks? There are lots of them this year and I found one dead very close to the circles one morning; not a mark on it that I could determine."

JUDY MACKENZIE: "These are made by little birds (in our garden it is house sparrows) having a dust bath to get rid of fleas, etc. We see them in the dry dirt,fluffing their wings around and having a great time! When they are done they leave small dents in the dirt, which we originally thought must have been cats as well. My husband keeps a dry area especially for them."

MARION: "The mysterious crop circles look like dust-bath sites for birds. We have seen birds take a bath in the garden and leave circles like this."

ED DICKINSON: "I have similar circles in my garden as well and they are caused by chukars (partridges) and small birds having a dirt bath and to keep cool by digging off the top layer. It also helps them to clean off mites."

BOB DUNCAN: "I suspect the circles were made by small birds dusting themselves. The bird finds a dry patch of ground, lays on it and pulls the dirt up around its body with its feet. Dust flies out and settles in a circle around the bird, leaving behind a circular hollow in the ground. Once a bird finds a suitable 'dust bowl' the chirps quickly spread and several birds will gather to dust together."

And, finally, this answer comes from Stephen Trower, who couldn't resist playing off the "mysterious crop circles" angle:

"I can't offer a definitive explanation for the mysterious circles in a Brocklehurst vegetable garden. But it's important to eliminate possibilities. Remember those multiple booster rockets during Cape Canaveral space launches? Could something similar, though on a smaller scale, account for the soil indentations shown in your photograph? A space vehicle from outer space, perhaps? But everything I've read indicates extraterrestrials are highly intelligent beings. So why would they choose to land in Brocklehurst? Besides, they hate spinach.No, we must look elsewhere for an explanation."

Thank you to everyone who submitted an answer. Looks as though the sparrows may have the edge in this debate.

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