First Half of May 2021

After a frosty but dry April, it was May that brought us sunshine and showers. I think it rained pretty much every day during the first half of May. white billowing clouds

The rain was good for the garden though. The Ceanothus flowered and attracted some bees.bee on blue flowerThe apple blossom fully blossomed.white and pink apple blossomThe wet weather didn’t dampen the ardour of these courting hedgehogs.two hedgehogs in undergrowthThe laburnum tree flowered spectacularly.yellow tree blossomSticking with the yellow theme, the greater celandine sprang up.yellow flowerThe geraniums are still enticing the bees.bee on pink flowerThe cotoneaster flowers seem to be a bigger draw for a variety of bees …  bee on red flowers… and bumblebees, mainly tree bumblebees.bee on red flowersbee on red flowersbee on red flowersOnce again I took part in #NoMowMay to allow wildflowers, often derided as “lawn weeds” to grow providing an all you can eat buffet for bees and other pollinators. Who used to make daisy chains?white and yellow daisy flowersWho used to see if their friend liked butter by reflecting a butter cup under their chin to see if it glowed yellow?yellow buttercup flowersNot sure what you do with germander speedwell other than sit back and enjoy the carpet of blue they create.lots of blue flowers on lawnThe plantain is growing well unhindered by the mower’s blades. The leaves make a soothing balm, there is a recipe here if you want to try it. They were also used in a childrens’ game called “Soldiers” either as a form of conkers or by winding the stem around under the head and pulling it tightly to form a catapult.tall grassy plant

 

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

Redesigned Hedgehog Feeder

A while ago I made a simple hedgehog feeding station out of a plastic storage box. This meant that the local hedgehogs could dine in the warm and dry. It also kept the neighbourhood cats from eating the food before the hedgehogs could. All except for one very slinky tortie.Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

I experimented with a number of obstacles to thwart this cat.

I decided to make a new hedgehog feeding box with a different design. I used another plastic storage box and the plastic tube that blank DVDs are stored in.Photo of platic box and tube

I cut the end off the DVD tube to make a tunnel and cut a hole in the side of the box (my first design had the hole cut in the end). I then wedged the tunnel into the hole so that half of it protruded into the box to give a narrow turning angle once in the box, and the other half protruded outside of the box.Photo of hedgehog feeding station

I placed two planters either side of the entrance to the feeding box and put a water dish right in front of the entrance. Hedgehogs can get into the box either by walking right through the water dish, or by going behind the planter and making a sharp right turn into the tunnel with another sharp right turn once inside the box.

So far the feeding box has been used by several different hedgehogs of varying sizes. Leftovers are cleaned up by a robin and a pair of blackbirds in the morning. To date no cat has been recorded inside the box, indeed they no longer even try.Photo of hedgehog drinking

Hedgehogs now need to pile on the weight so that they can successfully hibernate so if you aren’t already feeding hedgehogs in your gardens now is a great time to start. I feed my visitors with Sainsbury cat biscuits, other brands are available. You can feed them wet or dry cat or dog food, or you can buy specialist hedgehog food such as Brambles. Never feed hedgehogs mealworms, peanuts, sultanas, sunflowers, bread or milk. Photo of cat food

Fresh water should always be available and don’t forget that hedgehogs need to be able to get into your garden. A CD sized gap in your fence or gate is all that is needed. Talk to your neighbours and try to get as many gardens as possible linked up.Photo of three hedgehogs by feeding station

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

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.

#CharityChristmas5 No. 3

I thought number three should be devoted to those selfless people who protect and care for our native wildlife. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a penchant for hedgehogs. These endearing little critters have been voted, yet again, the UK’s favourite mammal; yet their numbers are crashing alarmingly.Photo of hedgehog in Santa hat

Thankfully there seems to be an increasing awareness of the problems facing hedgehogs and a willingness by the public to help them out. The flip side of this is that the hedgehog rescues are being inundated with poorly, injured or underweight hedgehogs. These good people are often self-funded and devote so much of their time. The stand out hedgehog rescue for me personally is Oggles. Vicky who dedicates her life to caring for these precious balls of spikiness suffers from a lot of health problems, but always puts her hogs first. She is fortunate to have a lovely lady who runs Facebook and Twitter (@OgglesHoggyQuiz) accounts on her behalf to raise much needed funds. Vicky’s dream is to have a dedicated “hogspital” to care for her charges and to be able to teach others her skills. Please do take a look at the website and help in any way that you feel able.Photo of hedgehog in dish

Other hedgehog rescues have found their own ways of raising funds to pay for the very expensive care these hedgehogs need. As well as food, the hogs often need medicines and veterinary treatment and we all know how those bills can mount up. Having looked after two hedgehogs for one night and then a third hog for two nights I have an inkling of how much work they take just to keep them clean and tidy. However, these hedgehog carers have to find the time to raise their funds; Little Silver Hedgehog makes lovely jewellery, Leicester Hedgehogs makes figurines and Wildlife Orphans puts together charming videos outlining the stories of the hedgehogs she helps as well as providing a wealth of information. Photo of hedgehog

As well as the rescues there are dedicated folk who give of their time and money to foster or care for hedgehogs, taking some of the strain from the rescues who can then concentrate on the sickest animals. Twitter users can use the hashtag #pricklypals to find a group of lovely people always willing to offer support and advice as well as sharing stories and pictures of their charges. Daisy the 8 year old daughter of hedgehog carer @EmmDonald not only provides a top notch maid service for their resident hogs, but she has also raised a stunning £130 for her local rescue, Poppies Creche. Daisy designed this fabulous logo and created keyrings and other merchandise to sell.Photo of Daisy's Help the Hedgehogs Poster

Equally importantly Daisy is raising awareness of the plight of hedgehogs and what can be done to help them and has even appeared on BBC Newsround. She is a real hedgehog champion. It is behoven upon us to protect our environment and wildlife for future generations, we have a duty to be responsible custodians.

Photo of Daisy holding hedgehog

Daisy and B&B resident, Frankie – image courtesy @EmmDonald

It is well worth finding the details of your local wildlife rescues and having their contact details to hand, you never know when and where you might encounter some wildlife in need of assistance. You can also find information on how to donate, their Amazon wishlists or any other way that you might help with time or skills.Photo of rescued hedgehogs

Another member of our beleagured wildlife is the much persecuted badger. The Badger Trust provides a wealth of information and assists smaller local groups. It is well worth taking a look at their website as a starting point if you wish to help badgers. There are also bTB vaccination programmes going on to counter the unscientific badger cull.

Photo of painting of badgers by Thorburn

The Badger by Archibald Thorburn 1918

Perhaps the biggest pressure our native wildlife faces is habitat loss. By supporting conservation charities such as the Woodland Trust you are helping a wide range of animals from birds to bees. For a more hands on approach you can probably find a local conservation group that you could volunteer your time with. This will have the added bonus of fresh air, exercise, good company and gaining new skills and knowledge. An example would be Mike’s volunteering days at Wilden Marsh. Photo of Credenhill Wood

I am sure that you will be able to find some way to help nature this Christmas and beyond.

Hedgehog Houses

Further to my post about making a hedgehog feeding station, this one is about providing a cosy shelter for your resident hog to sleep off all the food you have just filled it with. Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

Hedgehogs generally make very simple nests, but require something more substantial for their winter hibernation. They will often cosy up under garden decking or wood piles. I bought some hedgehog igloos from Aldi for £8, much cheaper than the usual price.Photo of hedgehog house

They consist of a metal frame with twiggy stuff woven around it. This is not the most sturdy or weatherproof design. However, my more knowledgeable friends on Twitter gave me some advice for improving them.

A waterproof mat is placed underneath to provide some insulation from the cold damp ground. The igloo can be secured into place by tent pegs, or by covering with waterproof material such as tarp and placing soil or stones on top. Conveniently I had some conifers that needed trimming. These offcuts provide further weight, insulation and weather proofing. I am fortunate to have quite a few spots in the garden underneath shrubs that are out of the wind and protected from rain. I put some dry leaves inside and more dry leaves around the igloo, as I understand that they prefer to make their own beds!Photo of hedgehog house

As yet they remain uninhabited. All of the resident hogs seem to have found their winter beds already and the three autumn juveniles that I handed over to my local wildlife rescue hadn’t gained enough weight to be released before winter. I am hoping that in the spring a female hedgehog might consider raising a family in one of them.

Photo of shrubbery

The hedgehog house is behind here.

If you look up “hedgehog house” on the internet you will find a wide range available to buy. You can also make your own by following the instructions here, or another one here.

 

Help the Hedgehogs!

Eight year old Daisy designed these fabulous posters to raise awareness of the plight of hedgehogs. It is very heartening to see young people caring about the future of our native wildlife. Daisy is a great hedgehog advocate, she has even appeared on the BBC’s “Newsround”.Photo of Daisy's Help the Hedgehogs Poster

Hedgehog numbers have declined dramatically in the UK and it is thought that they are continuing to fall at a rate of 5% per year. It is believed that increased urbanisation and the way that we are living is contributing to this. To find out what small changes you could make to help hedgehogs, take a look at the Hedgehog Street website. Also in the UK we have Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night coming very soon; hedgehogs see our bonfires as a cosy place to hibernate in. So please check for hedgehogs and other critters such as toads and frogs before lighting. There is more information on how to have a wildlife friendly bonfire here.

Third Little Hedgehog

Following my post about autumn juveniles, I found a third hedgehog whose weight was too low to risk hibernation.Photo of little hedgehog

As the rescue couldn’t take him straight away he was here for two nights. I let him stretch his legs in a secure area, placing mealworms around for him to find. He seemed quite relaxed and exploratory for a wild animal. Being an urban hedgehog he is probably used to lights and noise. Photo of hedgehog being nosy

Once all three are fattened up they will be released and can go back to their wild ways. His bigger cousin is still chasing woodlice, but I am seeing a lot fewer hedgehogs in the garden. I assume they have started hibernating, so please check your wood piles before lighting bonfires.Photo of hedgehog chasing woodlouse

Hedgehogs – Autumn Juveniles

During the autumn months hedgehogs are busy fattening up ready to hibernate through the winter, when their food supplies are scarce.Photo of hedgehog

Hibernation seems to be triggered by a period of continuous cold weather. The hedgehog will find a cosy place to curl up, such as under a wood pile (this is why it is imperative to check before lighting bonfires). They will make a nest of dry leaves to keep them insulated. During hibernation their body temperature drops to that of their surroundings, bodily functions and breathing slow right down so that they are in a state of torpor. They often wake up during the winter and come out looking for water and snacks, so it is important to keep providing supplies. They will use their fat reserves to increase their metabolic rate to wake up.Photo of hedgehog

To successfully hibernate and wake up again it is thought that hedgehogs need to weigh at least 650g. This is problematic for late litters, known as autumn juveniles. They just haven’t had the time to gain the weight. If there is a mild winter and people are providing a food source they may be okay. However, a cold snap could trigger hibernation and they may never wake from it. If you spot a small hedgehog, or if you see any sized hedgehog out during the day, you need to contact your local rescue. If possible grab a pair of gloves and a box and capture it. Your local hedgehog rescue will care for these little hedgehogs and get them up to weight. If the weather is mild enough they may be re-released, but they might have to be cared for through the winter.Photo of three big hoglets

Regular readers will be familiar with the hoglet triplets that have been delighting me throughout the summer.Photo of hedgehog being caught

I am pleased to say that these three are all weighing over 800g, more than enough fat to see them through!Photo of hedgehog being weighed

Having ascertained the hog is of the correct plumpness, they may be released to continue with their business.Photo of hedgehog

However, at the end of the summer two younger and smaller hoglets appeared.Photo of hedgehog

Having captured them and weighed them, it was clear that they were at risk.

They were placed in a plastic box lined with newspaper with a cosy fleece to snuggle in. Water and cat food with mealworms was provided for them.

As they are probably siblings they did not seem to mind each other’s company. They trashed their new home in minutes! The water bowl was jumped about in, food smeared everywhere, more poop than a small creature should produce was generated. The smaller one also worked out that by standing on top of the other (feet must be immune to prickles) it could push its nose through the bars of the lid and slide it over. A brick was hastily put on top of the lid. It was time to hand them over to the specialists. Sasha Norris runs the local wildlife rescue centre and she sent one of her dedicated expert hedgehog carers, Jacqui to come and fetch them. Jacqui has done a wonderful job looking after them, they have both gained around 200g in a week. I will keep you updated with their progress.

Please support your local wildlife rescue. These wonderful people devote so much time and energy to helping our little wild friends and rely upon charitable donations.

End of September

My apologies for neglecting the blogging world lately. I have still been taking photographs, I’ve just not been able to devote the time to transferring them to computer and writing about them. I hope to catch up with you all soon. I shall quickly sum up the end of September.

The procumbent yellow-sorrel or creeping wood-sorrel, Oxalis corniculata, is flowering still. The leaves turn a brownish purple colour and are apparently edible and rich in Vitamin C; more details here.Photo of yellow sorrel

The Herb Robert is also going strong.Photo of Herb Robert

Cyclamen flowers are still popping up, joined by a variety of fungi.

The warm sunny weather at the end of September provided a bounty of shiny flies.Photo of fly on leaf

The red admiral butterflies are also topping up their tans.Photo of red admiral butterfly

While the rain showers during the night brought the frogs out. They are fattening up ready to hibernate.Photo of frog

The hedgehogs are also trying to gain weight for the lean winter months.Photo of hedgehog

This little one thinks he can hear something behind him.Photo of hedgehog

Hmmm, he’s sure there is something there rustling in the shadows.Photo of hedgehog

Yep! The mealworm feast is going to have to be shared, drat.Photo of hedgehogs

 

Hoglet Update

I am very pleased to report that the three hoglets are still around and getting rounder. There is also a fourth smaller hoglet that I hope will be able to gain enough weight to hibernate when winter comes. They need to weigh around 600g, so if you have young hedgehogs in your garden you can give them a helping hand by feeding them. There is some excellent advice here.Photo of young hedgehog

Supper Time

We think of our gardens as places where we relax, or work in order to relax in pleasing surroundings. However, to the wildlife that share our gardens, they are just open air restaurants. The hoglets have their supper first, one of them is always late.Photo of hoglets

Then the adults have their share. It looks to me as though some shares are bigger than others. It is important to wash it all down with a drink.Photo of hedgehogs

Meanwhile on the other side of the garden, the sparrowhawk orders a pigeon to go.Photo of sparrowhawk

Blackberry and Apple

You all remember my funny shaped apple tree don’t you?Photo of apple tree in blossom

Well next to it I have a small bramble patch. This produces the most delicious blackberries which can be eaten off the bramble or combined with apples in a variety of tasty dishes. A better cook than me has some recipes on this site here.Photo of blackberries

Oh, but what is this? A blackberry thief! Doesn’t this blackbird look mighty proud of his daylight robbery?Photo of blackbird with blackberry

I can’t be too cross though, he fed it to his youngster. If you have thirty seconds to spare you can watch my YouTube video of him feeding this blackberry and later some wild bird seed to his spotty fledgling here. Photo of young blackbird

Male blackbirds seem to be very attentive fathers.  I think this young one will do well.Photo of male blackbird and young

Some other youngsters were out foraging under the apple tree this evening. Here are two of the three young hedgehogs that are currently snuffling around the garden.Photo of young hedgehogs

A dish of water and some food tempted some other garden visitors too.

You might also like: Blackbirds and Father’s Day, and Bramble Buzzers.

 

Hedgehogs Galore

The hedgehogs in the garden have been keeping me busy just lately. I noticed that one of the big hogs that I had nicknamed “Dumptruck” had a large cluster of ticks behind his ear. Photo of hedgehog with ticks

After some consultation with hedgehog rescues on Twitter and some Googling I learned that chemical treatments such as Frontline are poisonous to hedgehogs, so they would need to be manually removed. It is common for hedgehogs to have fleas and ticks, but a heavy infestation could cause anaemia or be a sign of underlying ill health. As dusk fell I waited by the feeding station, Dumptruck eventually turned up and was caught with ease (handled with gardening gloves due to the prickles). He spent a frustrating night in a box lined with paper, with a towel to hide under, plus food and water. The next day I took him to my local vets, The Laurels. I have been frequenting this surgery for many decades with dogs, cats, guinea pigs and lots of rats. Lately they have become accustomed to me turning up with cardboard boxes containing wildlife!Photo of hedghog being held

I purchased a tick removal tool which they showed me how to use. There is something rather satisfying about prising these blood suckers from our prickly pals. They then very kindly offered to do the rest. They removed over 30 ticks from the poor fellow! There were some around his face they couldn’t get to due his balling up and it didn’t seem worth the risk of a general anaesthetic for the remaining few, they will drop off when engorged. He seemed to be in good condition otherwise.Photo of hedgehog being held

He was then brought home and released where I had picked him up. He scuttled under some ivy to sulk. I am pleased to report that I saw him the following night “hogging” the pile of food while another hedgehog was curled up in a ball next to him, presumably Dumptruck has not been playing nice, as usual. He has a habit of barging other hogs.Photo of hedgehog being released

Meanwhile, some of the smaller adults and the 3 hoglets have been pottering around quite happily.

Special thanks to the Twitter account of Oggles Hedgehog Rescue. I’ll take this opportunity to remind people that they are running a photographic competition to raise funds, full details here.

Hogfest!

I have been hog bothering again. To be fair I do give them mealworms and peanuts in exchange for their mugshots.Photo of hedgehog

One ungrateful hedgehog showed me a clean pair of heels.Photo of hedgehog

Another looked startled when I caught them heading towards the unripe apples that had fallen on the ground. They’ll have the gripes later.Photo of hedgehog

Another shared a refreshing drink. Top tip – to keep your water dish steady, stick your foot in it.

This one seems to regard the water bowl as a nose rest.Photo of hedgehog

And I am pleased to say that the baby hog seems to be doing well. Although that ivy seems a little dense for the wee thing.Photo of hedgehog

Young Hedgehog and a Photo Competition

As regular readers are aware, my “relaxed” gardening style seems to have provided a favourable habitat for the UK’s best loved, but declining wild mammal – the hedgehog.Photo of hedgehog

I am pleased to announce that the resident hogs seem to have produced and raised at least one hoglet successfully. I bumped into this wee critter in the early hours of the morning. After casting me a shy glance it went and had a drink. It is very important to put out shallow dishes of water day and night for our local birds and critters, especially during this hot weather.Photo of young hedgehog

I also thought you might be interested in a fun little photographic competition. It is to raise money for Oggles Hedgehog Rescue. The suggested minimum donation is £2 per photo on the theme of “Nature that makes you smile”, there are different age groups so do encourage any young up and coming nature fans/photographers. The full details are on this site here. Hedgehogs are notoriously hapless animals so they really need for us, especially gardeners, to “think hog” and be careful with netting, ponds and when using garden machinery. Small local rescues rely on donations and are always busy, so please help them if you can.Photo of two hedgehogs

Hedgehogs at Dawn

Dawn this morning was a rather bright pink affair. We usually perceive the sky as blue because when sunlight hits small molecules such as oxygen and nitrogen, the shortest wavelengths of light, the blues and purples get scattered. At sunrise and sunset the sun is at a different angle and the light takes a longer path through the atmosphere meaning that much of the blue wavelengths have been scattered before we see them, leaving us with the red wavelengths. Animals that can see different parts of the spectrum to us, such as ultraviolet, will see the sky very differently to us.Photo of sunrise

As for the saying “Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s (sailor’s) warning.”; in the UK, generally speaking, weather systems come in from the west. A red sunrise indicates that high pressure has already moved east to be followed by a low pressure wet and windy system moving in behind it. Sure enough we had a miserable sodden day. There is more information about light wavelengths here.Photo of sunrise

Stepping out first thing I spotted this hedgehog skulking and looking a bit guilty.Photo of hedgehog

Nearby on the lawn I found this fellow, curled into a ball and on its back! Being rather portly it struggled to right itself. I’m sorry to say I was too busy laughing at it to lend a hand.Photo of hedgehog balled up

It ran off humiliated into the bushes.Photo of hedgehog

The third protagonist was already off on their toes through the back gate. However, I recognised the fleeing hog and caught up with them again this evening. They seemed unrepentant.Photo of hedgehog

A couple of nights ago I had been disturbed by a tremendous kerfuffle outside, and found two hogs fighting while one curled up and pretended it wasn’t happening. One of the miscreants ran off before I could get my camera. I’m sure it is the same three that were causing trouble this morning. They certainly are a rowdy lot around here!Photo of hedgehogs