February 2021 Week Two

Most of the UK enjoyed (depending on your point of view) heavy snowfall in the second week of February. Here in Hereford it was just very cold. There were a few dark corners where some snow accumulated, not enough for a decent socially distanced snowball fight though.snow around dead leavesIt was a battle to keep the birds’ water unfrozen and a few trips during the night were needed to keep the smaller ground dishes free from ice for any passing mammals. There is always a pathetic sense of achievement when a perfect disc of ice is removed from the bowl.disc of ice held to the skyThe birds seem to enjoy having a warm bath in the morning. This lone pigeon preferred some privacy and waited for the rest of the flock to leave before seeing to their ablutions.pigeon on birdbathAfter spotting the great spotted woodpecker drumming high up in a tree obscured by branches last week, I was lucky enough to catch him on the fatball feeder.black white and red woodpecker on fatball feederThe snowdrops remain tight lipped, apart from a single double, or is it even triple, flowered one.

More signs that spring is on the way include the cherry plum blossom starting to bud.red buds on treeAnd the flowering currant in bud also.green leaves in bud

 

 

 

February 2021 Week One

February 1st was the festival of Imbolc, marking halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and there are signs that spring is on the way. The quince is starting to blossom.red quince blossoms

The first primrose has flowered.pale yellow primrose flower with raindrops

We are still in winter though and the birds need a hearty breakfast, like this blue tit enjoying the fat balls.blue tit on fatball feeder

Our favourite winter bird the robin is also bobbing around, in fact there are two of them getting cosy together.robin sitting on a branch

During some sunshine the Mahonia attracted several bees.Yellow blossom with a bee

Another sunny day saw the crocuses opening up.Purple crocus flower

As the first week of February ends much of the UK is under an Amber warning for snow. Here in Hereford we just have a few small flakes blowing in the wind.Snowy cloudy sky

Big Garden Bird Watch 2021

The last weekend of January was the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.  Once you’ve submitted your results you get a fancy pie chart of your top ten birds.pie chart of top ten birdsOur garden is well visited by feral pigeons, or rock doves to give them a fancier name. They only visit briefly in the morning to breakfast on the bird table.flock of pigeons on bird table

We seem to have a glut of blue tits, the shrubs are alive with their chitterings.Photo of blue tit

The ever dependable blackbirds put in a strong appearance.Photo of male blackbird

A few years ago we had no jackdaws, but they have now beaten the magpies for corvid supremacy.two jackdaws sitting in tree

The jackdaws have not driven away our squirrel bothering magpies though.Photo of magpie

Bringing up the rear we have the wood pigeons. I do find their coos very soothing.Photo of woodpigeon

The surprisingly feisty collared doves.photo of collared dove

The great tits seem to be waning.Photo of great tit

The long tailed tits have yet to gather in large numbers.long tailed tit with yellow blossoms

We have a lovely pair of robins.Photo of two robins

Off the chart as they are in single figures we have a male black cap. There are a couple of females around also, but I didn’t see them over the weekend.Photo of black cap

The greater spotted woodpecker has been busy pecking at the trees.woodpecker on feeder

A poor showing for the little brown jobbies, only one wren, dunnock and sparrow spotted.photo of dunnock

 

January 2021 Week 4 (and a bit)

So we have made it to the end of the first month of 2021. The snowdrops are still in bud, folded up ready to droop elegantly when the time is right.snowdrop budsWe have had more rain than snow and the crocuses look as though they might overtake the snowdrops.crocus buds with water dropletsAlthough we did have a brief flurry of snow to prettify the garden.snowy garden

There was barely any left by the next day, but enough to see that the pigeons had left their mark.bird print in snowThe holly leaved hellbore is now flowering, beating both the snowdrops and the crocuses.

It was interesting to see the black cap featured on BBC Winterwatch drinking nectar from the mahonia flowers. There is a male black cap that does the same thing in our garden. However, as soon as he sees me with the camera he hides in the nearby cherry tree.small bird in treeThe moon was being its usual dramatic self with some dawn clouds.moon clouds at dawnThere appeared to be a wood pigeon meeting on the neighbour’s chimney, it looked important.3 wood pigeons on chimneyAgainst drab leaden skies a blue tit gets photobombed.bird flying past bird in treeJanuary ends with a fiery display at dawn, a promise of bad weather to come.fiery sunrise

January 2021 Week Three

Week three of the new year has been a pretty soggy affair. There was some flooding in Herefordshire, but not as severe as elsewhere, a dusting of snow and some frost and even some glimpses of sunshine. The squirrels are very pleased to have their own supply of nuts.squirrel on nut feeder

It must be pretty draughty for the birds and squirrels with the lack of leaves on the trees. The nekkid trees do look lissome in the blue light of dawn.Leafless trees in blue light

There are still a few winter berries to be found adding a splash of colour to the garden. Laurel berries are toxic to humans, but the birds don’t seem keen to eat them either.red berries against green laurel leaves

More popular, especially with the blackbirds, are the ivy berries.black ivy berries

Some unpruned rose hips.red rose hip

Some hips are bigger than others.orange rose hips

The lilac tree is starting to bud.Lilac tree bud

Open Live Writer Test

I hadn’t blogged for a while and when I revisited WordPress I found they had changed the blog editor for these stupid block things. It seems to me to be harder to add photos to a blog, maybe I’m being thick.

frosty-rose-hips-dec-16Anyhoo I have downloaded Open Live Writer https://openlivewriter.com/ a free open source program described as Word for your blog.

frosty-trees-10This is a test to see how easy it is to use to write and publish a WordPress blog post. It does seem quite easy to write a simple post and add photos to it. If you are reading this and it looks okay then clearly publishing it is no problem either.frosty-field-5

January 2021 Week Two

The second week of January was a grey and damp affair. However, the long tailed tits have returned. Can you spot one in the tree?

long tailed tit in bare trees

Speaking of tails, Henry our neighbour’s tailess cat, took the higher ground in a face off with another cat. The situation did not progress into anything more exciting.

Black cat sitting on shed roof

We did have a pretty sunrise one morning. Sadly, as with the sunsets, the best of the view is blocked by houses.

sunrise through trees

The grey squirrels are getting frisky. There were five of them chasing each other up and down the trees. This one paused to have a wash.

squirrel in tree washing

The snowdrops are through the ground and will be flowering soon.

snowdrop shoots

After the rain the drop dripping off the birch catkin is a golden yellow, like syrup.

yellow drip on catkin

For a brief moment on day 14 the leaden skies brightened and some blue sky was glimpsed.

white clouds and blue sky

January 2021 Week 1

We seem destined to live in interesting times for another year, so the challenge is to try to find something interesting in the mundane. Here in the UK we start 2021 in another lockdown in an attempt to control the Covid-19 pandemic and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed. I count myself extremely fortunate to have a garden. 2021 began in icy fashion and this is the view through the ice removed from the bird bath.

looking through ice

The rest of the week consisted of a few frosts, some snow that didn’t stick, fog, beautiful moonlit nights and a variety of birds grateful for the fresh water and topped up feeders. On some devices you may need to scroll across to see all 6 photos.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021.

Coronavirus Garden Safari

As the UK ends the second week of lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the coranavirus, Covid-19, I count myself fortunate to have a garden. Spring has sprung and the increased warmth from the sun has induced flowers to open and insects to wake. Beautiful butterflies such as this peacock can be found sunning themselves.

Fluffy bee-flies with their improbably long proboscises are buzzing around.

The fabulously named hairy footed flower bees are flower bothering.

Bees are getting busy.

The birds too are busy building their nests, take care when trimming hedges. This pair of jackdaws have no need to keep to the 2m social distancing rules.

The blackbirds are stocking up on supplemental food such as the cat biscuits left over from the hedgehogs’ supper.

Fresh water is important for all of our garden wildlife such as birds and squirrels. A shallow dish on the ground for hedgehogs.

For the night owls there are owls.photo of tawny owl in tree

Also hedgehogs. Why not make a hedgehog feeder, create a gap in your fence and hope for some prickly visitors.hedgehog on lawn

Maybe even a bat or two.2 bats

Try to look out for flowers and wildlife in your garden or on your daily walk. Use the lockdown as an opportunity to learn new skills, stay in touch with loved ones, reconnect with old friends. Photo of buddleia over underpass

For more information on Covid-19 visit the NHS website. Stay home, keep 2m apart when out, wash your hands; these measures will hopefully protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and protect vulnerable people from a killer disease. If you are one of those strange people who doesn’t care about the old and the sick dying don’t forget this kills young healthy people too, including valuable NHS workers. Let’s hope our new found admiration for “low skilled” low paid workers such as carers, shop workers and delivery drivers lasts. Take care of yourselves and others. With kindness and cooperation we will get through this.path through sand dunes

Credenhill Park Wood Reopened

Credenhill Park Wood was closed to the public in September 2018 to carry out woodland management work. This involved thinning out conifer trees to allow more light in for deciduous trees and woodland plants. The wood is now open again and starting to look autumnal. I was just passing and haven’t explored its new look properly yet.Hill covered in autumnal trees

Previously conifers had been cleared to form a “grazing area” at the top of the iron age hill fort, exposing the mounds of the ramparts.photo of undulating grassland surrounded by trees

Kingfisher with Minnow Sculpture

Regular readers will be familiar with my photographs of the Bulmers Woodpecker sculpture captured in a variety of different weather situations.

Fifty years since creating this iconic Herefordshire artwork sculptor Walenty Pytel has graced our landscape with a new piece; Kingfisher with Minnow.Photo of kingfisher sculpture

It was commissioned by the Cider Museum and stands between the museum and Sainsburys’ fuel station.Photo of kingfisher sculpture

Walenty Pytel was born in Poland in 1941 and moved to the UK at the age of five. He studied graphic design at Hereford College of Arts and has become a renowned artist specialising in metal sculptures inspired by nature. You can see more of his work here.Photo of kingfisher sculpture

Bulmers commissioned The Woodpecker to celebrate their eponymous brand of cider, presumably the Kingfisher is a nod to the cider apple orchards that grow alongside the River Wye where kingfishers reside.Photo of kingfisher sculptureI have to say that it is easier to spot and photograph than the real thing.Photo of kingfisher sculptureI think the graceful silhouette of his 50 year old woodpecker are hard to beat. Which do you prefer?Photo of Plaque for kingfisher sculpture

Big Butterfly Count 2019

There is still time to participate in one of the largest citizen science projects, the Big Butterfly Count 2019. You can log your butterfly sightings until 11th August, full details on the website.

Most of the usual suspects were present in the garden. There were at least four large white butterflies. New to my list was a gatekeeper, but I didn’t manage to get a photograph.photo of white butterfly on ivy

Holly blues.Photo of holly blue butterfly

Red admirals.Photo of red admiral butterfly

A peacock.Photo of peacock butterfly

Commas.Photo of comma butterfly

Speckled wood.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

As well as nectar rich flowers for the butterflies it is also important to have the larval foodplants. You can find lots of good advice here.

Breinton Springs

I visited Breinton Springs in 2015 and blogged about it in Wye Walk – Part Three. I returned in May 2018 and have only just now decided to write about it. In 2012 the spring had been buried under a landslip following heavy rain. After my visit in 2015, but unrelated to it, the National Trust decided to rescue it.

Photo of Breinton Spring.

Breinton Spring obscured by a landslip 2015

They removed fallen and damaged trees, excavated soil which was then used to form a causeway and shore up the banks. Stones were gathered up and used to create a step near to the spring. The causeway was also formed from brash and cordwood log to allow for drainage and improve access. They also cleared away a lot of human rubbish. In my opinion the area is now much improved.

Photo of breinton springs

Breinton Springs restored 2018

It was a frosty morning in May when I visited, the meadow was full of diamante cobwebs. photo of cobweb with frost

Mist rose gently from the river.mist above river

The cattle were already well into their breakfast as the sun broke up the haze.

Ever get the feeling you are being watched?cow looking through hedge

The hamlet of Breinton is a short distance from the city of Hereford adjacent to the River Wye. The nearby orchard and St Michael’s church are on the site of an abandoned medieval village. The spring itself is surrounded by stonework indicating it’s importance at some time.photo of church silhouette

Near to the church are the remains of a moated mound which consisted of walls and a stone gateway dating from Norman times. It is thought that the Cathedral’s Chancellor was based there around 1150 AD before moving into the city in the 13th century. At this point it seems to have been used as a stock enclosure. A church was first built here around 1200 AD but was rebuilt between 1866 and 1870.orchard fenced

The area around Breinton is very rich agricultural land. Irrigation channels were dug across the meadows from the river and it was a popular drovers’ route for bringing livestock to Hereford. The river could be forded nearby and there were ponds for watering animals. The area is still rich with nurseries and orchards associated with Wyevale and Bulmers. Woodpeckers flourish in the orchards giving rise to the brand of Bulmers cider.orchard with sun rising

Buried in the churchyard is Dr Henry Graves Bull (1818 – 1885) founder of the British Mycological Society and the Woolhope Field Naturalist’s Club (WFNC). The area around Breinton is considered to be diverse in habitat and wildlife consisting of woodland, grassland, riverbank, orchards, hedgerows and different types of farmland. It was a favourite stamping ground for botanists from the  WFNC who discovered rare flowering plants, fungi and mosses here, presumably they actually trod carefully rather than stamping. photo of flowers and grasses

In 2012 over 200 different flowering plants were identified including rarities such as Shepherd’s Needle and Corn Buttercup.

Illustration of flower

Shepherds Needle – Scandix pecten-veneris Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé ”Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz” 1885, Permission granted under GFDL by Kurt Stueber

The hedgerows themselves consist of a diverse variety of shrubs and trees and create vital habitat and corridors for wildlife. Breinton provides a home for foxes, badgers, otters, squirrels, moles, hedgehogs, bats and birds such as kingfishers, skylarks, woodpeckers, yellowhammers and buzzards. The ponds host a variety of amphibians such as great crested newts and there is a rich diversity of insects including moths and butterflies.hawthorn tree on riverbank

A bat survey in 2013 identified six different bat species; soprano pipistrelle, common pipistrelle, myotis, long-eared and serotine bats.

This bucolic idyll also inspired Herefordian artist Brian Hatton (1887 – 1916). Ironically he suffered from hay fever as a child and was often packed off to Swansea for his health. He was killed during WWI in Egypt. His paintings captured the pastoral scenes around Breinton; sun soaked harvests and wildflower meadows the backdrops for his rural workers, gypsies and horses. You can learn more about his life and see more of his paintings here.

painting of corn stooks in the sunshine

Corn Stooks – Brian Hatton 1908

What springs from Breinton is a small pocket of history, evoking bygone days when the countryside was full of life rather than the chemically treated sterile monoculture we have become accustomed to.

 

Tawny Owl

At the end of last summer we became aware that there was a female tawny owl  Strix aluco, in the vicinity. We often heard her distinctive “keewik” call in the early hours of the morning. It is more of a shriek whereas the male tawny owls make the more familiar hooting noise.photo of owl in winter trees

I thought it odd that a woodland owl should be hanging around suburbia, although we do have some mature trees in our garden the rest of the neighbourhood seem to enjoy taking chainsaws to theirs.  There is also a new housing estate being built behind us. We do live near to the Bulmers’ cider factory so perhaps that provided a plentiful supply of rodents.photo of tawny owl in tree

To my surprise one winter morning while taking flash photos of the bare tree branches (I was trying to get a spookily atmospheric photo) I noticed a large shape swoop into the tree, I looked up to see the tawny owl sitting on a branch staring back down at me. Without thinking I took a flash photo and then thought that would scare her away, but it didn’t. I suppose being a suburban owl she is used to lights.photo of tawny owl in tree

Since then I saw her most winter mornings, usually between 6.30 and 7am sitting in our birch trees. I would say a few words to her, take a couple of photos and then leave her to it. She usually peered down at me, swaying her head from side to side. Having ascertained that I was a harmless idiot she then went back to looking around, apparently listening to the bird song of the diurnal birds as they wake.photo of tawny owl in tree

Then in spring there was the distant hooting of a male tawny and we have not seen or heard our female since. We assume that she was lured away by this feathery Lothario and hopefully is raising some fluffy owlets. Perhaps she will return to us afterwards.photo of tawny owl in tree

The tawny owl diet consists mainly of rodents such a voles, but also small birds, bats and even earthworms. Their digestive tract is kept healthy by consuming the bones which they then bring up again in owl pellets. photo of tawny owl in tree

The “Tu-whit; Tu-who” call they are famous for is actually the duet between male and female owls calling.  Shakespeare is responsible for this misinformation from “Love’s Labour’s Lost”:

WINTER.
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

You can learn more and listen to their calls on the BTO website. The site even has a design to make a nest box for tawny owls.

 

 

Summer Solstice

June 21st 2019 is the longest day and the first day of summer, known as the Summer Solstice.Photo of sunrise

Here in the northern hemisphere the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun. This is the day that the northern hemisphere experiences the longest amount of daylight. It is also known as midsummer and later, in the Christian world, St John’s Day, as it is believed to be when John the Baptist was born.

photo of bumblebee on blue blossomMidsommar is a particularly important event in Scandinavia and the Baltic. In pagan times, bonfires were lit to drive out evil spirits and the healing properties of plants such as St John’s Wort and Calendula were thought to be enhanced. Will-O’-The-Wisps are supposed to appear on this night, hovering over hidden treasure, sadly the phenomenon is probably just marsh gas.

In the UK Neo-Druids are allowed access to Stonehenge. It is thought that Stonehenge may have been built, approximately 3000 years BC, to make the best use of the sunrise at the summer solstice and that the stones could have been used as some sort of calendar. In Cornwall many old midsummer festivals have been revived in the Golowan festival, including lighting bonfires and parading hobby horses.photo of cuckoo pint

The National Geographic website has some photos celebrating the summer solstice here.

“Glad midsommar och SKÅL”.

I shall leave the last word on the subject to William Shakespeare, from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:

Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you?
fairy Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moone’s sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,yellow flower photo

 

Cuckoo Spit and Xylella

Cuckoos famously herald the start of spring when you first hear one call. Sadly these days the start of spring tends to be heralded by the sound of a neighbour’s lawn mower revving up of a Sunday morning. The cuckoo is in decline. I suspect it is related to the decline of the birds that they parasitise. They are very particular about which other bird nests they lay their eggs in. Not all bird species are fooled by them. Professor Richard Dawkins explains all about it in one of his books – they are all well worth a read. Cuckoos also leap out of clocks to tell you the time. What they don’t do is spit.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

So what causes these frothy blobs on plants? It is the nymph stage of the froghopper, a cute little bug with an impressive ability to jump. When the nymph hatches out of the egg it bites into the plant stem to feed on the sap; as it excretes the digested sap it pumps air into it with its modified anus (the IBS sufferer of the bug world) to create a blob of froth that envelopes the larva keeping it moist and protected from predators.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

There is a dangerous plant bacteria called Xylella fastidiosa which has been damaging trees and plants on mainland Europe. It has yet to reach the UK, but it is spread by xylem feeding insects such as froghoppers also known as spittlebugs and leafhoppers. The BRIGIT project is trying to learn about the distribution and behaviour of these insects and is asking the public to look out for them and record sightings, please see this website for more information.photo of cuckoo spit on plant

This spring the solidago, or golden rod, in the garden is dripping with this froghopper spittle.photo of golden rod flowers

Over at the British Pathe website you can watch an informative film all about the lifecycle of the froghopper. It was made in 1932 and lasts just over 8 minutes. Before Youtube was invented, kids used to pay to watch this sort of thing at the cinema. I would recommend watching it if you wish to see froghoppers being moithered at every stage of their development, and notice how the nicely spoken gentleman explains it all without once saying anus, bum, bottom, harris, poop-chute or – pardon my French – derriere. Link below:

British Pathe: Froghoppers

Shield Bugs

The recent warm weather in the UK has brought out a lot of insects in the garden. I spotted these green shield bugs getting friendly in the lilac flowers.2 green bugs mating in a purple flowerThe heady aroma of the lilac had clearly put them in the mood for romance.2 green bugs mating in a purple flowerphoto of green shield bug

These bugs are commonplace in British gardens, often basking on leaves in the sun. Being true bugs (see this post for further explanation here) they bite into the stalks of plants to drink the sap. However, they do not cause any significant damage. Their American cousins are known as stink bugs.

They hibernate through the winter as adults, then after mating, lay eggs underneath leaves. After hatching they go through a wingless nymph stage, before developing into the adult form. I found one nymph lurking in amongst my St John’s Wort.Photo of Green Shield Bug Nymph

It seems that these bugs are spreading north into Scotland due to the warming climate, this website here is tracking their movements, so if you see one you can submit your sighting to them.

They are not to be confused with Green Shield Stamps, an early shopping loyalty scheme which saw elderly ladies in the UK obsessively collecting stamps to fill their books in the 1970s, so that they could buy treats for their young charges in the Co-op. Jethro Tull allude to these stamps in their song, “Broadford Bazaar”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their music you can have a listen here. Enjoy the song and remember there is no need to spray pesticide on your Green Shield Bugs.photo of green shield bug

Squirrel Feeder

I recently had some rare good fortune and won a squirrel feeder through one of @SoarMillSeeds regular competitions on Twitter. This is what I won: Wildlife World Squirrel Feeder. It arrived the next day, but I waited until the seemingly never ending gales did actually end before putting it up. It has one hole at the top, but I replaced one of the hinge screws with a longer one so that I could fix it to a tree with two screws. The squirrels seem to like playing on this tree and it was away from the bird feeders.squirrel feeder on tree

The squirrels ignored it for nearly a week. Gradually they started to approach it. I had put some loose peanuts on the top of it which they ate, but then ignored the squirrel food (also provided as part of my win) inside it.Squirrel on squirrel feeder

I had propped open the lid by placing peanut halves along the sides and across the perspex, but the squirrels still seemed not to grasp the concept. I think I must have rather dull squirrels.Squirrel scratching on squirrel feeder

One of the squirrels decided to make a concerted effort to get to the food. Rather like a child hammering a shape into the wrong hole he went for brute force and started chewing and tearing strips of wood off the feeder. Finally it clicked and he worked out he had to lift the lid.Squirrel lifting lid of squirrel feeder

Initially the squirrels seemed rather nervous about popping their heads into the feeder. This is probably a sensible policy given the brutal squirrel traps available.Squirrel using squirrel feeder

Within a morning they had worked it out and are now confidently sitting on the platform, lifting the lid and rummaging about for their preferred food. One was even sunbathing on top of it.Squirrel sitting on squirrel feeder

I was very pleased to have won this feeder, I love to see the squirrels in the garden. However, I was not too happy that they used to empty the peanut feeder before the birds got a chance. I have purchased a “squirrel proof” peanut feeder for less than £5. bluetit on peanut feeder

I have placed the bird feeder in yet another part of the garden and so far only the birds have been feeding from it. Of course this might be because the squirrels have yet to find it, so I cannot yet confirm that it will indeed thwart a determined squirrel.long tailed tit on peanut feeder

I have noticed that the squirrels don’t empty this feeder they seem to eat the food there and then and just occasionally run off with some of it. With the peanut feeder they would empty it within an hour, running off to cache the peanuts. It is almost as if they realise that there is no competition for this food and are happy to leave some for later. This means that I don’t have to top up the food for the squirrels or the birds so often.Squirrel eating on squirrel feeder

For now though we have happy squirrels, happy birds and a happy me.

I have uploaded three videos to You Tube. The first is of the squirrels learning to use the feeder, the second is of the squirrels using the feeder and the third is of the birds using the squirrel-proof peanut feeder. Each lasts around 7 or 8 minutes.

 

Hedgehogs Galore

The news about hedgehogs is rather depressing at the moment. Repeated studies suggest that our favourite wild native mammal is quietly disappearing from our lives. The latest study suggests that they are doing particularly badly in rural areas. It is lazy and ill informed to blame badgers as the survey shows that they too are absent in many of the same areas. Besides, badgers have predated hedgehogs and competed with them for food for thousands of years without putting a dent in the population. It is more likely that modern agricultural practices have produced a barren landscape for our wildlife.Photo of hedgehog

It now behoves those of us who have access to gardens and allotments to do what we can to help hedgehogs. We should avoid poisons such as slug pellets and pesticides; leave a wild patch including log piles and leaves; plant a variety of flowers that attract insects and make access easy so that hedgehogs can forage throughout linked gardens by creating CD sized gaps in fences.Photo of hedgehog in clover

Hedgehogs love to eat beetles and caterpillars so planting native hedges, shrubs and wildflowers will encourage the invertebrates that hedgehogs feed on. Supplemental feeding of hedgehogs is a great help to them, ensuring guaranteed meals and reducing the stress involved in seeking food. Hedgehogs can be fed with wet or dry cat or dog food, or specialist hedgehog food can be purchased. A simple hedgehog feeding station will keep cats and foxes from stealing the food.hedgehog by feeding station

There is no evidence that this additional food source prevents hedgehogs from engaging in their normal foraging behaviour.  Here is a series of photographs of a young hedgehog hunting for and finding food on my lawn en route to the feeding station.

I am glad to say that my local hedgehogs have managed to successfully raise at least three hoglets in my garden this year. In addition there have been at least five different adults visiting.hedgehogs

I even had a hedgehog wake up in the middle of the winter snow to visit the feeding station for a snack.hedgehog in snow

During the heatwave this summer I put out several dishes of water topped up throughout the day and night which was vital for all of our garden wildlife as well as hedgehogs.hedgehog drinking

It doesn’t take much to make your garden hedgehog friendly and to give them a helping hand so that future generations will not be robbed of the magical pleasure of watching hedgehogs snuffling about.hedgehog sniffing

Fitall Plug

This is a deviation from my usual nature based posts and is one for the historical electrics geeks out there. Going through Grandpa Ratz’ impressive collection of tools we found this handy gadget; a Loblite Fitall plug.Photo of Fitall plug

By moving the black plastic lever, brass pins would drop down in different configurations to fit into the varying types of sockets that were around during the 1960s. Apparently there were 5A, 13A and 15A sockets in those days. From reading discussions by people who used Fitall plugs it seems to be an electric shock waiting to happen.Photo of Fitall plug with pins dropped out

It also seems to not live up to its marketing hype either; I quote from the wonderful Museum of Plugs and Sockets: “The Fitall plug is useless for Wylex or Dorman & Smith sockets.” So much for fitting all! You can read many more details about this plug, with lots of photos of one taken apart here.Photo of Fitall plug base plate