Grrr! Carrot, coriander seedlings munched!

Hi, folks,
Gardening in San Jose, California -- USDA Zone 9b, Sunset Zone 16.
I started carrot and coriander seedlings about three weeks ago, for the winter. My coriander seedlings were about 2 cm high, and had put out their first true leaves. The carrot seedlings were a bit smaller, but coming along nicely.
Some time yesterday -- I am not sure whether it was during the day, or at night -- something came along and munched every last carrot and coriander seedling to the ground. My nearby lentils, green onions, and mature carrots (I'm growing some more carrots, for seed) were untouched.
I have occasional problems with snails, but I haven't seen any for several weeks. I also do not see any slime trails in the vicinity of my vegetable garden. I have never seen evidence of any burrowing animals in my yard. The nearby park has ground squirrels and gophers, but they would have to tunnel under several roads to get here.
Who are my likely suspects, and how do I discourage them?
Thanks for your advice!
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wrote:
:Hi, folks, : :Gardening in San Jose, California -- USDA Zone 9b, Sunset Zone 16. : :I started carrot and coriander seedlings about three weeks ago, for the :winter. My coriander seedlings were about 2 cm high, and had put out :their first true leaves. The carrot seedlings were a bit smaller, but :coming along nicely. : :Some time yesterday -- I am not sure whether it was during the day, or :at night -- something came along and munched every last carrot and :coriander seedling to the ground. My nearby lentils, green onions, and :mature carrots (I'm growing some more carrots, for seed) were :untouched. : :I have occasional problems with snails, but I haven't seen any for :several weeks. I also do not see any slime trails in the vicinity of :my vegetable garden. I have never seen evidence of any burrowing :animals in my yard. The nearby park has ground squirrels and gophers, :but they would have to tunnel under several roads to get here. : :Who are my likely suspects, and how do I discourage them? : :Thanks for your advice!
I don't know, but wouldn't rule out birds. I believe they've victimized me on occasion. You might try putting little cages or supporting some chicken wire over your seedlings. It's worked for me.
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I vote for birds as well. They eat seedlings for the moisture, not really for food. I have had success putting out a pan of water one month before planting seedlings. It takes them time to adapt to the new source of water. With the water in the garden, they are there often, and eat quite a bit of cabbage worms, so you want them there, just not thirsty. I also experimented with taking the water away. They disappeared, and the cabbages started getting ragged.
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simy1 wrote:

Also in the San Jose area.... it's probably earwigs, particularly since they ate the seedlings and not the other plants. Try planting your seeds in pots then transplanting once they are bigger. I reuse the 6 pack containers, and transfer to larger pots if I'm still nervous about survival.
Good luck, Susan B.
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wrote:

a lot of plants in a short time. I use Sluggo because it's safe for pets. My coriander/cilantro plants have had no problems but my pumpkin seedlings are history. Good luck! CareWren
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John, another suspect you could add to your list are pill bugs, aka roly-polies, wood louse. I have had trouble with them eating seedling. The problem is that I have read that they are monogamous and raise their young! These damn bugs are more virtuous than many people I know.
Try growing your plants in pots until they have some real wood in them.
Good luck with the moral dilemma.
Bill
Coloribus gustibus non disputatun

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Thanks for your replies, everyone!
I agree with Dan Musicant and simy1 that birds are the most likely culprits. The green parts of the seedlings were cleanly sheared off, as you might expect if a bird had bitten them with its beak. The soil was completely undisturbed. I don't see either snails or earwigs anywhere nearby. I have a few pill bugs hiding under some plants about forty feet away from the vegetable garden, but I can't imagine them going so far to forage.
I have made a point to encourage the presence of birds in my yard with certain plants, but I forgot about providing water. My wife and I are planning a small backyard fountain. Once that goes in, I hope that we'll have no further trouble. The winter rains have started, so the birds should have the moisture they need for several months.
Thankfully, the benign California winter climate means that I can try to sprout seedlings again. I'll try starting seedlings in containers, as suggested by sueb and Bill Rose. Row covers as suggested by Dan would probably also work, but I already have blister packs at hand. It seems a bit strange, starting annual plants with deep taproots in containers, but I have a reference which says it should work (_California_Vegetable_Patch_ by Karen and Duane Newcomb).
Happy gardening to all of you.
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