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

Sparrowhawk’s Breakfast

I am starting this post with a pretty picture, in the hope that this picture will be the one displayed in the WordPress Reader and my tweet. Once you get past this picture the text and images will take on a more grisly nature.Photo of bee in evening primrose

Back in March I found a pool of blood near the bird table and then noticed the feathers fluttering about on the lawn.  Photo of pigeon blood

Closer inspection revealed the body of a pigeon. The aura of plucked feathers indicated that the bird had been killed by a sparrowhawk. Past experience told me that she would be back in the morning to finish her meal, so I positioned my wildlife camera to capture the event.Photo of feathers on lawn

The poor hen pigeon was in the process of forming an egg when death came mercilessly upon her from above.Photo of dead pigeon

The early bird gets an egg for breakfast. The first visitor was a magpie who snatched the egg from the pigeon’s body and flew off with it.Photo of magpie

Shortly afterwards the sparrowhawk arrived and proceeded to further pluck and eat her meal. When the pigeon had been reduced in weight she flew off with the remains of the carcass to eat somewhere safer.Photo of sparrowhawk

It is a female sparrowhawk that visits our garden. She is larger and browner than the male. Traditionally these birds are woodland hunters; highly manoeuvrable, their tactic is to hide in cover and ambush other birds with a brief chase.Photo of sparrowhawk

Habitat loss, persecution by game keepers and the use of a now banned pesticide saw their numbers crash. Being an apex predator they are susceptible to bioaccumulation, whereby the poisons ingested but not excreted in prey build up; firstly in insects, then the birds that feed on the insects and finally the raptors that feed on those birds. However, they are now recovering and have learnt that our gardens are a useful resource for them.Photo of sparrowhawk

It seems that the larger females are generally more likely to be found in urban gardens where they take down blackbirds and the larger doves and pigeons, while the smaller males are pursuing song birds in woodlands.Photo of sparrowhawk

There are some more facts, literature and historical fancies in my previous post Sparrowhawk here. If you wish to watch a video of the sparrowhawk eating her breakfast you can watch it on You Tube here. The end.Photo of sparrowhawk

Prickly Visitor

I encountered a prickly pal whilst patrolling the grounds. Photo of shy hedgehog

There are at least three regular hedgehog visitors (or maybe even residents). However, this one seemed smaller than the others, perhaps it is a visiting female. She was also more shy than the regulars, she started to “ball up”, making it look as though she was frowning. The regulars generally just scowl at me until I leave. Sadly hedgehogs are dramatically declining in the UK; here are some tips to help get your garden hedgehog friendly this spring at the Hedgehog Street Website.