Hedgehog B&B – Part Three

Following on from Part One and Part Two, here is the eagerly awaited Part Three! The three hedgehogs had gained weight and the weather had finally settled. It was time to release the hogs. First of all I prepared three igloos, in addition to the one that was already out, so that they would have ready made beds. I placed them in sheltered parts of the garden.

I then gave them a final weigh-in and their final portraits as captives. Daisy-Boy.

Hans.

Hérisson

As night fell, I undid the front panel and raised it to hedgehog height before re-securing it and moving the stones away from one corner. It took a little while for their escape route to be noticed, typically they missed the big gap in the corner and squeezed over some remaining stones. Daisy-Boy was the first to notice and pushed most of his body out. Hans came up behind him and with an unkind punt to the butt Daisy-B was free!Photo of Daisy and Hans

Daisy-B ran straight to a wood pile at the back of the garden. Shortly afterwards there were crunching sounds. It seems he had found some tasty beetles.Photo of Daisy free

Then Daisy-B reappeared on the path as if to say a final goodbye. Photo of Daisy on path

He shook his spines and then ran off again to the lilac bush.Photo of Daisy Running off

Hans was the next one out. He spent a little while wondering why Daisy-B had mysteriously disappeared before it dawned on him.  He squeezed under the panel and then cautiously sniffed around before disappearing under the ivy covered walls, still within the confines of the old greenhouse.

Frankly I got bored waiting for Hérisson and went in for my tea. When I returned a little later she was missing from the pen, but there was that familiar huffing noise. I found her and Hans in the ivy between the pen and the wall.Photo of Herisson and Hans

Later on I found Hans wandering on the path before he disappeared into the wood pile that Daisy-B had located straight away.Photo of Hans

In the undergrowth under the lilac bush was Hérisson.Photo of Herisson

In the wee small hours Hérisson returned to the pen and went to bed in the house, less cosy but now more roomy without the boys. Hans and Daisy-Boy were sleeping in new beds that day. I have put a short film on You Tube here of the three hedgehogs finding their way out of the pen and Hérisson returning to it.Photo of Herisson

Hérisson continued to return to the pen and sleep in the house every morning for over a week. She seems to have found a new place to stay now though.

Hans was spotted having a huffing contest with the big hog in the shrubbery. I also spotted him trotting along the path on another night.Photo of hedgehog and Hans

I did not see Daisy-B for about a week, but then we bumped into each other near the feeding station. The wildlife camera caught Hans and the big hog from the shrubbery going into the pen for food most nights. I had to keep extending the tunnel into the pen to deter cats from breaking in to steal their food. Although by the time the mouse had found a way in, Hans had scoffed most of the food. I have posted a video here of some of their comings and goings.

So here we are, three autumn juveniles who probably would not have survived hibernation are now roaming around wild and free. Hedgehogs face many hazards trying to find enough food and water throughout our fenced off gardens; netting, ponds, strimmers to name just a few. If you want to find out how you can help hedgehogs take a look at the Hedgehog Street website. And please do support your local rescue. I know how time consuming and expensive it has been for me to just provide bed and board for three healthy hedgehogs. Rescues are self-funded and rely on generous donations while they care for sick and injured hedgehogs.Photo of hedgehog

I am very grateful for the advice and support I have had from kind and knowledgable people on Twitter. If you use the hashtag #pricklypals you will find a truly lovely group of people. I would particularly like to thank the following, who all have links to websites or Amazon wishlists so you can find out more and buy a hedgehog in need a little something:

Monique @FunnybunnyQ Amazon Wishlist

Emma @EmmDonald representing Poppy’s Creche

Jaqui @4theloveofhogs Amazon Wishlist

@OgglesHoggyQuiz  Amazon Wishlist

 

Hedgehog B&B – Part Two

In Part One I explained the background to my having three hedgehogs in a pen in my back garden. Here I shall tell you about the time they spent here. Photo of hedgehogs in pen

First we need proper introductions. When they arrived back to me they had been marked with nail varnish which was difficult to see especially from a distance. I was given instructions by my Twitter friend Monique on how to apply tags, she in turn got this information from Toni Bunnell who does a lot of research into hedgehogs. I cut some different colours of electrical sleeving to 1cm lengths, dabbed a spot of superglue inside the top edge of each and slipped them over a spine, taking care not to get any glue on the hedgehog’s skin. Amazingly I managed not to glue myself to a hedgehog.Photo of hedgehog id kit

Daisy, who turned out to be a boy and so is named Daisy-Boy in full, had funky blue.Photo of Daisy-Boy hedgehog

Underweight female Hérisson got the snazzy green.Photo of Herisson hedgehog

While sweet placid big boy Hans was a figure of understatement in brown.Photo of Hans hedgehog

After this I only handled them once a day to weigh them so that they wouldn’t get too used to human contact. I used a wildlife camera (from Aldi) to film and photo them to see what they got up to, being nocturnal animals the footage is in infrared. So here they were, caged but for their own good. Photo of hedgehog in pen

Their first night was very exciting, one of the large free roaming hedgehogs came to visit them. There was a lot of snorting through the bars and the adrenalin caused by the visit started a brief fight inside the pen! You can watch a video I posted on You Tube of it here.Photo of hedgehog

I don’t know what the visitor told them but Daisy decided the grass had more beetles on the other side of the fence. He clambered up and pushed open the lid and scrambled down the ivy. Sadly for Daisy I was checking on them regularly and caught him. Back to prison for the little guy. You can watch his escape here, keep an eye on the right hand side.

While they no doubt had a lot more room and stimulation than when in rescue, there is not much for three hogs about town to do in a small pen. Mostly they ate, drank, scratched, clambered about, slept, ate some more.

Hans ran about the most, Hérisson spent most of her time grumpily huffing at the others and Daisy had the odd habit of falling asleep in the middle of the pen, oblivious to the other two. You can watch a video of their nightly antics here. Although they were far from fond of me I found that I could hold them without gloves as they kept their prickles flat, even when balling up. They are very gentle animals, although they have been known to prickle people and even bite.

There was one other thing that they got up to. Or rather that Hérisson and Hans got up to. Shocking behaviour considering that they are most likely brother and sister, but there was smooching and more going on. Apparently hedgehogs do not reach sexual maturity until their second year, so this was just practice. Hans was very persistent, but Hérisson was often more interested in eating and his advances were really just a nuisance. If you are over 18 you can watch the video here.

Photo of Herisson

Hérisson

After nearly a month of “pre-release” their weights had been increasing, Hérisson was now well over the desired weight, in fact she had overtaken Daisy-Boy. We had also had about a week where the night time temperatures were over 5 degrees Celsius. Time for release? Find out in Part Three.Graph of hedgehog weights

May Flowers

Now that we are at the beginning of May I thought I would just quickly post some photos of what has been flowering recently. Starting with the lilac.Photo of lilac

The lilac contrasts nicely with the yellow laburnum blossoms.

The Spanish/hybrid bluebells have been posing with broom, tulips and primroses.

More tulips.

Purple bee lavender.Photo of purple bee lavender

Candytuft (iberis).Photo of candytuft

The bladder campion is starting to flower.Photo of bladder campion

The cuckoo pint looks interesting.

Greater celandine.

Forget-me-nots and strawberries are flowering all along the path around my alpine trough ….

…which is also doing well.

And the dog violets are still gracing the lawn.Photo of dog violet

 

Hedgehog B&B – Part One

Some of my more stoic readers may remember I wrote a post about autumn juvenile hedgehogs back in October. The three of them spent the winter being cared for by a wildlife rescue, where they were wormed and generally cosseted. They came back to me on 10th April 2017.Photo of hedgehogs

As one of them was still under 600g it was considered too underweight for immediate release, so I agreed to keep it in a pen and weigh every day to make sure that it could gain weight. I put all three in the pen initially, so they could get used to the noises and smells of the garden again. Unfortunately the UK was then hit with an icy blast which meant finding natural food may have proved difficult for them. So they ended up staying longer than I had originally intended.Photo of little hedgehog

I had bought a sturdy hedgehog house for these hogs to stay in pre-release. I was lucky to get it while it was on special offer, the details are here. Normally hedgehogs are solitary, but these three were siblings who had been kept together all winter. The pen I made was not really ideal for long term use (rabbit runs are recommended). I had some panels which were used many years ago as a pen for Eddie the cat when he was confined after surgery. The gaps were too wide for hedgehogs, so I covered each panel with metal wire to make the gaps no more than 2cm. The panels were wired together, overlapping so there were no spaces to squeeze through.

The pen was placed in the ruins of our old greenhouse, so there was some protection afforded by the three short walls and the back of the house. I placed stones around the outside to deter tunnelling out. Although the base is concrete there is a layer of earth which might have been enough for them to dig through. I placed conifer branches over the top and end of one half to give protection from wind, rain and sun. The lid was initially just fastened with velcro. They even had their own log to clamber over.

I had been warned that hedgehogs could climb. Indeed, that first night one of them climbed to the top and managed to push open the lid; the velcro wasn’t strong enough. Using more garden wire and some bulldog clips the lid was clamped down tighter. Houdini hedgehog was thwarted.

The B&B was open to guests. Meet Hans.Photo of Hans

Daisy.Photo of Daisy

And underweight Hérisson.Photo of Herisson

As well as fresh water, changed about 3 times each night, they were given dry and wet poultry flavoured cat food, mealworms and a few sultanas and peanuts.

I shall let you know how they got on in Part Two.

Blossoming Apples

There is a great deal of blossom on the apple tree this year. However, we are expecting some very cold nights with the possiblity of frost which could damage the nascent fruits. It is also bad news for the bees and other insects; along with the creatures that feed on them.

Delicate blossom
Sits prettily on the tree.
The bee makes it fruit.Photo of bumbebee on apple blossom

Spring Things

So, spring seemed to burst into life before being hit by an icy blast again. Here are some of the things that came out in the sunshine. I will start with the dark purple tulips that I planted.Photo of purple tulip

Red tulips.Photo of tulips

Mini tulip.Photo of mini tulip

The comma butterfly posed nicely for me, while an orange tip butterfly thwarted my every effort.

The holly blue came out rather overexposed, but I was just grateful that I got a shot of it.Photo of holly blue butterfly

There were hoverflies, I think this is a Marmalade Hoverfly.

I thought that this was a sort of hoverfly, but it seems it is a sawfly.Photo of sawfly

I think this is a type of solitary bee.

Pretty sure this is an Ashy Mining Bee.Photo of ashy mining beeBee enjoying the last of the flowering currant.

I was rather pleased with this shot of a buff tailed bumblebee in flight. Sometimes I get lucky.buff tailed bumblebeeSome ladybirds were getting friendly with each other. Unfortunately, as they are non-native harlequins, they aren’t friendly to anything else.

Weeds? I don’t seen any weeds, just pretty flowers that feed our pollinators.

And finally, here is the lilac bush taken by flash at night. It gives off the most lovely scent day and night.Photo of lilac bush at night

Being a Fly

Photo of bee-fly on aubretiaWho would want to be a fly?
If you could fly you’d be a bee.
Cried the bee-fly, “Not so! And why?
Just leave us bee-flies be.
We have fat fluffy bodies and one set of wings,
And a very long tongue for sticking in things.”Photo of bee-fly on aubretia

I have blogged about bee-flies before, here. However, to sum up; these are Dark-edged Bee-Flies Bombylius major. If you see some you can record your sightings here.

I had a discussion with a Twitter friend about how they seem to be particularly fond of blue flowers, so of course one decided to be the exception that proves the rule.Photo of bee-fly on lesser celandine

Sometimes they just want to sunbathe on a leaf.

 

Pareidolia

Pareidolia, the phenomenon in which the human mind sees a familiar object (usually a face) in a random pattern. I recently took this photo of a birch polypore on a standing dead birch tree and felt that it resembled an elderly muppet with its false teeth removed. An American friend was reminded of a bitten into jelly and peanut butter sandwich.Photo of birch polypore

I think we can all agree that this fallen tree resembles an elephant lurking amongst the trees.Photo of tree resembling elephant

Bumblebees and Flowers

The start of spring has been a pretty dull and wet affair, but it just takes an occasional bit of sunshine to make the flowers bloom and the bees buzz. Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

This red-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, was sashaying her shimmering red bum in the sunshine.Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

They are very distinctive and easy to recognise bees. The workers have the same colouring as the queen, black with a red bottom,but are smaller, whereas the males have additional yellow faces and a yellow stripe on their thorax.Photo of red-tailed bumblebeeYou can see how fuzzy she is when she poses nicely for a rim-lit photo.Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

I think the other bumblebee is a queen buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris. Confusingly the males and workers have white bottoms.

As you can see the flowering currant is still flowering.

The daffodils finally bloomed.

Despite the rain they kept their heads held high.Photo of daffodils in rain

The primroses are still going strong.Photo of primrose

The dog violets have been joined by white dog violets.

The grape hyacinths, Muscari, are multiplying.Photo of muscari

The aubrieta is making its presence known.Photo of aubrieta

The broom (which I had mistaken for a type of gorse!) is developing fuzzy flower buds.Photo of broom buds

The lilac continues its unstoppable progress.Photo of lilac

The lesser celandine is littering the lawn.Photo of lesser celandine

The periwinkle is winking out from under the shadows.Photo of periwinkle

The apple is starting to think about blossoming, framed by forsythia.Photo of apple buds

Herb Robert is in the pink.Photo of herb robert

Whatever this is is producing pretty white flowers.Photo of white blossoms

My neighbour’s plant that grows over the top of the fence is also providing me with a free supply of white flowers.Photo of white flowers

I nearly forgot the forget-me-nots.Photo of forget-me-nots

And finally, the tulips that I planted in the autumn have actually grown and are threatening to flower!Photo of tulip

Update: A friend on Twitter has identified my white flowering shrubby thing to be an Amelanchier.

 

Love is in the Air

Spring has definitely arrived. As I went to feed the birds around 5am a few mornings ago, I stumbled upon quite a scene. There were two hedgehogs courting in the middle of the path. I froze hoping not to disturb them; this is important business as numbers have declined so much. After a while it was clear they weren’t bothered by me, so I went back into the house to fetch a camera.Photo of hedgehogs mating

I took some video footage which you can view here. It is very ropey I’m afraid due to the lack of light. I didn’t want to get too close to them or shine too bright a light on them.

There was an awful of huffing and snorting as the male bodged his way in circles around a seemingly unimpressed female. They moved off the path and onto the lawn where the female, no doubt worn down by his persistence, allowed him to mount her. If she is agreeable to the process, the female will flatten her spines so as not to cause the male any injuries.Photo of hedgehogs mating

I then noticed that there was a third hedgehog curled up on the lawn. I’m guessing that there was perhaps a fight over the female and this was the loser lying low pretending nothing was happening.Photo of three hedgehogs

If this was a successful enterprise then the female will hopefully give birth to hoglets in around 4 – 6 weeks.

They both seemed very hungry afterwards and went for a snack. Photo of hedgehogs and cat

It seems there was also a cat watching proceedings.Photo of hedgehog in feeding box

The curled up hedgehog also wandered off eventually. Perhaps he’ll have better luck next time.Photo of hedgehog

Marching Towards Spring

Only one more week until astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s see what is blooming; the cherry plum blossom is still clinging to the trees.

The cream primroses have been joined by purple ones.

The lilac buds progress.Photo of lilac buds

The dwarf narcissi in pots are flowering.

However, the big daffodils in the garden are still thinking about it.Photo of daffodil buds

The yellow crocus has outlived its purple cousins. It has also avoided being eaten by sparrows, I have been informed that they have a penchant for yellow petals.Photo of yellow crocus

The forsythia gets ever more yellow.

The quince is going strong.Photo of bee house with quince and flower pots

Newcomers include grape hyacinths.Photo of grape hyacinth

Dog violets.

The flowering currant.

Red dead-nettle.Photo of red dead-nettle

For those of you who remember the pinnacle of my gardening prowess, the alpine trough, here it is.

Spring is Blossoming

The cherry plum tree has started to blossom. It is not yet in its full glory, but with bad weather forecast I thought I ought to capture it while I can.

The snowdrops, quince, primrose and lilac buds are still going, though the crocuses are past their best now. There were some huge bumblebee queens buzzing about the mahonia, sadly they had made themselves scarce by the time I had fetched my camera.

Blooming Flowers

Vernalization – Whereby a prolonged period of cold (winter) induces plants to produce flowers in the spring. It’s all kicking off folks. It starts with the snowdrops.

Hello hellebore.Photo of Hellebore

The lawn has been covered with crocuses for a couple of weeks now.

However, they will only open up if there is sunshine. Photo of crocus

I blinked and nearly missed it.Photo of crocuses

There was even a yellow crocus this year.Photo of crocus

Primrose looking prim.Photo of primrose

Mahonia.Photo of mahonia

Forsythia having a serious think about flowering.Photo of forsythia

Quince, looking fancy.

Finally, the lilac is coming into bud.Photo of lilac buds

 

Winter Blooms

The weather in the UK this winter has been somewhat variable. I think this might be confusing the winter flowers. Last week the garden snowdrops looked like this:Photo of snowdrops 050217

This morning, not much change. It is as if they pulled back their sepal curtains a crack and said, “Nope. Not coming out.”Photo of snowdrops 110217

The crocuses looked as though they were going to carpet the lawn with purple again this year. However, they seem to have been battered back into the ground by the wind and rain apart from a few still heroically standing.Photo of crocus Feb 17

Oddly the crocuses growing in the cracks in the path seem to be faring better as they caught some snowflakes this morning.Photo of crocuses in path with snowflakeYou might also like: Early Spring Flowers – Vol1 and Snowdrops and Crocuses

Song Thrush

For the first time in many years our garden has been visited by a song thrush, Turdus philomelos. Between 1970 and 1995 it is estimated that the population decreased by 50%, perhaps even as much as 70% vanished from farmland. The loss of hedgerows for nesting and changes to land use decreasing the number of earthworms available for food are probable causes.Photo of song thrush

They used to be a common sight in gardens cracking open snail shells on our paths and delighting us with their beautiful song. You can listen to some audio of a song thrush here. Photo of song thrush

In Chaucer and Shakespeare’s time they were known as throstles, which I think is a much more pleasing name for them. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom sings;

“The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill;
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill.”Photo of song thrush

Thomas Hardy also name checks our spotty songbird in The Darkling Thrush. You can read the full poem here, but I shall quote a verse;

“At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.”

I can only hope that this iconic bird is making a comeback. If you have a couple of minutes to spare, I have put together a few clips from my wildlife camera of the thrush pottering about with some other feathered friends here. Oh yes, and now that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is over, guess who showed up? Yep, Woody the great spotted woodpecker.Photo of great spotted woodpecker

My Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2017

As I mentioned in my post #BigGardenBirdwatch 2017, the world’s biggest wildlife survey took place at the weekend in the UK. You can find out more at the RSPB website.Photo of blue tit

Although we were allowed three days to choose from, the weather Saturday through to Monday was pretty much non-stop rain. This seems to deter a lot of birds from visiting feeders. I was particularly annoyed that the great spotted woodpecker didn’t show up. Other notable absences included long tailed tits, coal tit, dunnock, wren, sparrowhawk, crows and jackdaw; I know they are lurking around somewhere in the garden! Also my chaffinch count was considerably down from a couple of weeks ago.Photo of great spotted woodpecker

However, I was highly delighted by the well timed arrival of an old favourite that I have not seen in the garden for many years; the song thrush. This is another British bird that has suffered greatly from habitat loss due to changes in farming. This shows how important our gardens are for birds. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of it, indeed most of my photos of wet birds on a dark day were terrible!

Illustration of Song Thrush

Song Thrush by en:John Gould, Birds of Great Britain, 1862-73 – Via Wikimedia Commons

The blackbirds put in a good show, as usual.Photo of blackbirds

There was a robin.Photo of robin

Indeed there were two robins.Photo of two robins

One of the woodpigeons bumbled along.Photo of woodpigeon

Yet again Mrs Fancypants-Squirrel tried to get in on the action, but she was fooling no one.Photo of wet squirrel

Later on that night, one of our hedgehogs woke from hibernation for a snack.Photo of hedgehog

Here are my results:

4 sparrows, 2 blue tits, 1 wood pigeon, 2 robins, 1 great tit, 9 blackbirds, 3 collared doves, 2 starlings, 3 chaffinches, 2 black caps, 9 feral/rock pigeons, 2 magpies and a song thrush. The RSPB provided a chart of my top 10.Chart of top 10 bird sightings

And compared it to the national average based on results so far. Chart of national bird watch results