Ratty!

Today I spotted a water vole as it plopped into the ditch by a field, it swam through a tunnel under a field entrance and stood on a small ledge at the other side, watching to see what I would do next.  After taking a photo I moved and it swam further away, disappearing behind some undergrowth near a hole higher up the bank.  This is the first time I’ve spotted a water vole at this ditch, although I’ve often suspected they would be around somewhere.

Water Vole

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First Hedgehog Sighting

A couple of weeks ago I moved the trap camera to a new location in the garden in the hope of picking up a hedgehog on a route they have frequently walked in previous years, at first there was nothing, I thought perhaps it was too early, but then upon checking the new captures the other morning I spotted it – a very fast little hog making it’s way up the rockery steps towards a pond and some leafy undergrowth.  I checked the next capture, it was even better!  The little hog is seen trotting all the way past the camera against the pale looking grass.

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The frogs are back in town

At the weekend we paid a visit to Dalby Forest, along one of the walks were some boggy ponds that have appeared since we had quite a lot of rain recently; these ponds were full of croaking frogs!  This was the middle of the day.

Tonight while out for an evening walk I spotted another toad sitting on the road, I helped it along to the other side (the direction in which it was pointing) although I suspect it might just go back onto the road, maybe they get confused by the cool tarmac in the moonlight?

Back at the garden pond this evening I spotted several frogs and the first two newts of the season for me, most likely smooth newts.  Things will soon hot up in there, may soon see the hedgehogs out from their winter slumber too.

Looking forward to a good spring and summer of wildlife watching.

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A welcome warm breeze

The past couple of weeks have seen some very mild and most welcome temperatures this February, a change from the freezing fog that seemed to plague much of December and January (it’s still foggy some mornings, it just isn’t freezing right now).  Temperatures have been around 11-12 degrees, possibly higher in the sunshine.

The other day while out for an evening stroll I saw an adult toad sitting in the road, I tried to encourage it to be on the grass verge instead but it was having none of it and promptly hopped back onto the road, can’t help them all I suppose.  Tonight I spotted two frogs in the pond joined at the hip, they clearly think it’s warm enough for that sort of thing, let’s hope it doesn’t turn too cold again otherwise there could be some disappointed frogs around.

Also spotted a small owl silently flapping over the house and into the garden tonight, illuminated from below by the street and house lights.

The camera trap is set up and active, we shall see if it captures anything interesting!

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A Quiet Winter

So far this year there has been some pretty miserable weather, including freezing fog, a flurry of snow which stuck around for a couple of days until the last of it melted away with milder weather, and then some more fog and rain for good measure.  Looking forward to spring!

A moorhen has been spotted hanging around the pond, and this weekend a fox too.  A rare treat the other day was spotting a goldcrest in a bush on the garden wall, a rare tiny visitor to our garden.  Also spotted was a group of long-tailed tits on the bird feeders, more regular visitors than the goldcrest no doubt but still nice to see along side the usual blue, coal and great tits.

No hedgehog sightings since the last one apparently hibernated in late November / early December.

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Winter already?

Looks like it could be a relatively short autumn this year, with the extended warm period lasting until the end of October things have gone cold quite quickly now that November has arrived. A few frosty nights has seen the adult hedgehogs disappear from the garden, hopefully they are tucked up somewhere already for the winter.

A couple of late juveniles are still visiting the feeding station, Jeremy and Stripe (named because of the pale stripe on their back as captured on the trap camera in IR).  Jeremy is the juvenile that I weighed at 510g recently, I’m confident they should be able to hibernate, Stripe could be 450g or so from the look of him.

The trap camera batteries ran out a few days ago so I’ve rushed an Amazon order to buy some more.  This set has lasted well – bought in July and the camera has been in use most nights since then, capturing about 20 60 second video clips per night for the past eight weeks or so.  I want to keep the camera out watching the juveniles until they stop coming, hopefully I will be able to catch them to weigh before they disappear (if they disappear).

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Autumn is in the air

The leaves are turning and cooler days are here, although a warm few days still appear now and then there’s a definite trend towards winter temperatures and conditions.

Hedgehogs continue to visit the feeding station, they seem to go for mealworms and semi-moist hedgehog food the most but sadly the semi-moist has now run out, only dry hedgehog food and mealworms are left and I don’t want to be buying more now as they should be hibernating very soon.  A late juvenile has been spotted on the camera visiting the feeding station, I managed to weigh him one night and he came in at 510g, I think he should be OK to hibernate this winter with a few weeks to go.

The feeding station was modified with a fruit box and a mini-maze inside – the hogs needed to go in, turn left, through a hole at one end of a central partition, then right, then into the feeding station.  I think most of the hogs figured it out quite quickly but didn’t seem to enjoy the experience, they wouldn’t visit as often and looked for an alternative way in.  I added this to prevent a cat from gaining access to the cat food I was putting inside, however this has now run out so I’m only putting proper hedgehog food out, and camera footage has shown that the cat doesn’t like the taste!  I have now removed the maze and observed hogs coming back and eating more of the hog food.

Hedgehog feeding station with cat baffle

Hedgehog feeding station with cat baffle

The garden also seems to have attracted some not-so-wildlife in the form of three hens from a few doors down the street, something about this garden attracted them over all the others they have to choose from.

Hens

Hens

There is a cold snap on the way for next week, perhaps this will see the hedgehogs preparing their winter hibernation holes if they haven’t already started.  No signs yet that anyone is preparing the hedgehog home we built in the garden, perhaps it needs better insulation in the form of a dog-leg entrance (project for next weekend perhaps?)

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Feeding station needs a few adjustments

The hedgehog feeding station was great for the first few nights, then I noticed the cat food bowl being licked clean each night, a sudden change from just a few nibbles each night at the pile of cat food I put out.  I set my trail camera to video to see just exactly what was going on, sure enough a greedy small cat was squeezing into the box and eating all of the cat food!  I have since seen this cat a few times on the trail camera and it has quite a belly, a small greedy cat.  I’m not going to be feeding a cat each night as well as the hogs so the cat food is withdrawn for now.

In an attempt to combat the greedy cat (I’ll call it Greedo) I built a small tunnel out of bricks, hoping that it would be too narrow or low for Greedo to get through, but no… I could see the hogs squeezing through and sure enough there goes the cat too.  Other cats have come by and are clearly too big to get more than their head in (especially the neighbour’s old male cat).

I am currently putting out mealworms, Spike’s Dinner moist hedgehog food, and water.  I think from the footage it looks like Greedo doesn’t like either, thankfully.

Something more is required if I am to put out cat food so I have acquired some wooden fruit crates with which I intend to build a short maze of sorts, I’m sure the little hogs will be able to get around the 180 degree corners, I just hope the cat won’t.

UPDATE: I built the mini-maze / cat baffle today, it is just an up-turned wooden fruit crate with a partition down the middle so that the hogs have to go in, left down a passage, through a hole in the partition, then down another passage before they reach the entrance to the feeding station (the plastic tub).  Tonight’s cam footage could be interesting.

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Hedgehog feeding station

I thought I’d better try to do this properly, going on the advice from Sleepy Hollow Hedgehog Rescue I acquired a plastic tub, cut a hole in one side and placed it upside-down over the food and water trays, this is to deter cats and other animals from stealing the hedgehog food that I put out for them just before it turns dark each evening.  I noticed that during the day a lot of flies were taking an interest in the food, especially the meaty cat food in jelly, so I cover over the food dishes with a couple of spare dishes (I bought two more stainless steel bowls at the same time as the plastic tub).

Items used:

  • Plastic under-bed storage box (lid removed)
  • Three shallow stainless steel pet feeding bowls
  • Three bricks to weigh down the box in case of wind or large animals trying to flip it over

I used a fret saw to cut out the hedgehog-shaped hole, it is perfect for the adult hogs to fit through.  If the remaining food isn’t covered over during the day then it should be removed (I’d just toss it into the grass nearby, something will eat it).  Regularly clean out the bowls too just as you would for a pet.

The hedgehog food I am using is Spike’s Dinner Semi-Moist and also meaty cat food in jelly (not fish-based), on the advice of Sleepy Hollow Hedgehog Rescue.  They certainly love the semi-moist and have been nibbling away at the meaty cat food too some nights.  A bowl of clean water is also important for hydration as they might not always be able to get to a garden pond (I haven’t managed to capture them on camera going to ours yet) or other water source.  Some hedgehogs might like some foods more than others, if they are not taking what’s being put out after a few days then perhaps try a different brand; hedgehogs could be picky just like humans, and why not?  They are each individuals with a personality just like all other animals.

Here is footage from the first night of the new improved feeding shelter.  Plenty of action all the way through from about 8pm until 5am.  Why the Only Fools and Horses theme tune, you may ask?  Because the hedgehogs were named Del boy, Rodney, and Albert when they were taken in by Sleepy Hollow Hedgehog Rescue, and it turned out to be quite apt as they are three little scamps!

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They’re back!

A few days late posting this update…

The three juvenile hedgehogs have returned from their holiday at Sleepy Hollow Hedgehog Rescue, bigger and ready to take on the world – starting with their first hibernation this winter.  A huge thank you to Claire at Sleepy Hollow for taking care of them (along with all the other unfortunate hedgehogs that are brought in, some far worse off that these three but no less deserving of a helping hand).

I’m still getting to grips with my new Bushnell trail camera, the settings are different to my previous Acorn.  It’s a joy to see them come for some chow each night regardless.

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