A fair prickle of hedgehogs

This wee spikey tike above is the last autumn orphan that I was lucky enough to rescue just before Christmas and take to the local hedgehog rescue centre. Due to his size and weight, it is most likely that he is from the same litter as the other three, which I took to the rescue centre in December. I will be getting a call in early spring when they are ready to be released back into the wild, into our little patch of woods where I found them all and I can hardly wait.

The injured hedgehog that I had seen just before Christmas on the Trail Cams, and nicknamed Slash, turned out to be a regular visitor to our feeding station, who we had marked last July and called Jaffa. I managed to catch her and checking her over saw that her injury was quite bad and looked like it could have been made with a hay-fork or something similar, as it was a large, round and deep puncture wound just above her rear left leg.

Jaffa injury

Luckily though, it didn’t seem to have damaged any vital organs or the leg itself.  We are right next door to stables and hedgehogs love to hibernate in the warm heaps of straw and hay.  A trip to the vet sorted her out with antibiotics, then I kept her indoors for two weeks until the wound had healed. Jaffa is back out in our woods now but she won’t go into hibernation, as I see her every night on the cameras, out and about right the way through the night.  I leave food and water out for her and if the weather isn’t too bad, I walk out with a torch and go look for her. Sometimes I find her snuggled in a pile of leaves or eating at the feeding station.  I can tell it is her by the two patches of orange nail varnish painted on the tips of her quills on her back.

Jaffa on the mend

It got me to thinking of how many hedgehogs have passed through our little woods in the last twelve months. I keep track of the ones that I weigh and mark before letting them go back on their merry way.  Before they went into hibernation this winter, I would see some hedgehogs regularly on the Trail Cams, night after night at the feeding station and then others would pop by every few nights or so.  There were others that I will only see once a month. There were a couple that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time and probably never will again. I have found four dead hedgehogs on the road outside our place in the last six months alone. A sad but common demise for our prickly friend. My friend and neighbour, has a lot of hedgehogs visiting her garden, too, but surprisingly not one of them has a coloured mark on its quills, meaning that between us, we must have a fair few hedgehogs.

So, here is the roll-call of hedgehogs that visited our garden and small woods last year.  There were sixteen in total and that is just the ones I managed to catch and weigh!

  1. ERIC   Male    Marked limed green    Last known weight  1003g
  2. SUNNY   Female  Marked yellow   Last known weight – never weighed
  3. JESSIE   Sex unknown  Marked dark pink  Last known weight – never weighed
  4. STELLAN    Male    Marked   Turquoise   Last known weight 727g
  5. JAFFA    Female    Marked orange   Last known weight 1082g
  6. SPARKLES    Female    Marked glittery silver   Last known weight 790g
  7. PRICKLES    Male    Marked baby pink   Last known weight 934g
  8. THISTLES    Sex unknown    Marked purple    Last known weight 978g
  9. APPLE Male Marked navy blue Last known weight  In rescue centre for winter 357g
  10. TYGER    Sex unknown   Marked teal    Last known weight 1025g
  11. TYKE  Sex unknown Last known weight 284g  In rescue centre for winter
  12. DODGER  Sex unknown  Last known weight 348g In rescue centre for winter
  13. BUSTER   Male   Marked sage green    Last known weight 548g
  14. POPPET  Sex unknown  Last known weight 308g  In rescue centre for winter
  15. CLINT  Sex unknown  Marked turquoise and silver glitter  Last known weight 440g
  16. LOTTIE    Sex unknown   Marked orange and turquoise   Last known weight 988g

I take photos of all the hedgehogs and below is a slideshow of all the ones that I weighed and marked in 2017.  All except one.  For some reason, I never took a photo of Thistles and he (or she) is one of the hogs that I haven’t seen in quite a while :/  I wonder how many hedgehogs will visit our garden and woods in 2018.

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Foxes, Hogs and Reds

It has been ages since my last post, so I thought I had better get one in before the new year arrives! Remember to click the title of this post above so you can view the post from my blog site proper 😀

The foxes are still regular visitors to the hedgehog feeding station, along with the mice, cats, oh… and the hedgehogs of course.  There are two foxes, one vixen and one dog, that come almost every night but never together.  They used to be very wary of the soft red glow that the Trail Cam emits but I think they have got used to it now, that and the fact that some nights I think they mustn’t have caught much to fill their bellies and just before dawn, on their way back to their den, they stop by and finish up what is left in the bowls.

Most of the hedgehogs have gone into hibernation now, apart from two that the Trail Cam still picks up every night. One is Lottie, who weighs in at a healthy 988g. Here she is just after I had brought her in for weighing…

Lottie

And the other is Slash, who is an even larger sow but I haven’t managed to catch her yet, so I haven’t had the chance to weigh her.  She is so-called, as she has two large scars, one across her back and the other across her backside, which look worryingly like they could be the scars caused by a garden strimmer.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to take three very young hedgehogs to our local hedgehog rescue centre, to be cared for over the winter. They were very underweight and would not have survived if they had gone into hibernation.  The lady who runs the centre will call me in spring so that I can bring them back and release them where I found them in our small woodland.  It is most likely that they are all from the same litter. I had seen a fourth small hoglet on the Trail Cams, about the size of a large apple, but even after going out night after night, four or five times a night, I still haven’t been able to find that one and it most likely has gone into hibernation now and so won’t survive the winter with it being so tiny. I would have gladly cared for them myself but we go over to Ireland every couple of months so that put paid to that idea.

Here are the three autumn orphans, which is what they call hoglets born late in the year…


It has gone very quiet on the red squirrel side of things.  At one point this past summer we were feeling overrun with red squirrels but now there are only two males around. As you know from a recent post, Delilah, our beautiful, formidable female is no longer with us. The woods are very quiet without her around, even though until recently all three of her older boys and her youngest kitten were still hanging around.  She was a very vocal squirrel and incredibly territorial.  Her boys have been busy making dreys though and we now have four in our trees with a possible fifth, although until I see a squirrel go into it I won’t know for certain. Until I have some nice recent photos of Delilah’s boys, I will leave you with a funny red squirrel photo taken last October 😀

Comical shot of squirrel on shrubby feeder 31.10.2017

 

Where, where, where, Delilah?

It’s been a few weeks now since Delilah, our resident red squirrel, has been seen on the Trail cams here or at our neighbour’s place and squirrel sightings in general have been dropping. Worryingly, this has coincided with the daily appearance of a sparrow hawk which was witnessed one day trying to grab a squirrel out of a tree but on that occasion the squirrel was too quick and managed to get away. We have one male squirrel regularly visiting our feeders that has had a huge swelling (I think an abscess) on the side of its face for quite a few days now but as the swelling has started to go down, a number of very deep puncture wounds can be seen in a circle around the side of its head which are suspiciously the shape and size like those that would be left by a sparrow hawk’s talons. Red squirrels are lightweight creatures: I know, as just a couple of weeks ago one was killed on the road just outside our place and we moved it off the road. I was worried this poor creature was Delilah but as she is easily identified by a slightly deformed rear right foot, I checked this one over and was relieved that although this squirrel was female, it definitely wasn’t Delilah. That said, Delilah is no longer around and as she was a daily visitor to the feeders here and at my neighbour’s place, the conclusion must be a sad one. 😞

Delilah 30.8.2017 Beech Feeder
Before the squirrel numbers started to drop, up to eight red squirrels were caught on the cameras daily and it was becoming impossible to tell one from another. Delilah had her second litter of kittens around 12th August and we eagerly waited to catch her kittens on camera when they left the drey a few weeks later. One young male kitten was caught on camera a few times but hasn’t been seen in a long while and another small kitten was seen just a couple of times but I couldn’t identify the sex and that kitten has also disappeared. Here are the kittens…

As soon as we realised a sparrow hawk had taken to hunting daily in our area, we took down two of the squirrel feeders which were on trees in very open positions and we’ve put them up on trees that have lots of twiggy branches and close to large evergreen shrubs, where the squirrels can take cover and where the sparrow hawk won’t have such an easy target.

We still regularly see on camera Delilah’s three boys who were born this spring but it won’t be the same without Delilah. She was quite a character. Whenever we walked or worked in the woods, the squirrels would scatter in all directions but not Delilah, who would hop up just a little further in the tree and wait until we moved on and then come back down to the feeder. I watched her once act like a squirrel possessed by demons, chasing a male squirrel away from her territory when she had a litter of kittens in a drey there. If we left anything lying around in the woods, within twenty-four hours, Delilah would have noticed and inspected it and I have photos and videos showing her jumping inside garden sacks, holding on to garden spades, going in to inspect hedgehog houses and the like. It was as if nothing happened in her woodland that she didn’t know about.

I check the Trail cams every day as usual and I can’t help it but I hope that the cameras have caught just a glimpse of our gorgeous Delilah.

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Rescued seal pups

On one of our recent trips to Ireland we stayed in County Wexford, on the east coast, not far from Gorey.  One day we visited Seal Rescue Ireland, a rescue centre for sick and injured Common and Grey seal pups found around the coast of the Republic of Ireland.  The centre is based in Courtown, east County Wexford and is run by a dedicated team and volunteers. Their aim is to treat and care for the seal pups until they are fit and well enough to be released back into the sea, where they were found.

Panoramix

Panoramix was rescued on the 5th July this year at Rosses Point, County Sligo, Eire, alone and very skinny.

We spent an hour and a half at the rescue centre and I can honestly say, for me, it was the most interesting, worthwhile and inspiring 90 minutes I’ve spent, in a long, long time. I was worried that walking around looking at injured and orphaned seal pups would leave me feeling sad and depressed but actually the opposite was true.  This was partly due to the fantastic guide we had but also that the rescue centre isn’t ‘dressed up’ for the visitor (a pet hate of mine, I have to admit) nor is it a place of doom and gloom but it’s ‘business as usual’ and you feel the place is proactive as well as reactive.  It was a usual day at the centre when we visited; cleaning out the pens, feeding, cleaning the pools and so on.  Oh, and it absolutely bucketed it down with rain but our guide was full of enthusiasm and interesting facts and no question was too much trouble for him to answer. We saw Common and Grey seal pups of different ages, brought in from all over the coast of Eire and as Storm Ophelia had not long before wreaked havoc on this beautiful island, there were quite a few new additions to the rescue centre.  The rescue centre doesn’t charge an admission fee and there is a small gift shop, where the profit goes to the rescue centre. You can even adopt a seal pup! It really is a gem of a place to visit and one that is run by remarkable people doing an admirable job rescuing, caring for and (hopefully) releasing back into the sea, seal pups that would, without a doubt, have perished on the seashore without their expert help.

Here is a link to their website. It’s full of interesting information and photos of the seal pups in their care, which is quite a lot, after Storm Ophelia and Storm Brian.

http://www.sealrescueireland.org/

Their Facebook page is…

They’re on Instagram at…

or follow them on Twitter at…

A scurry of squirrels

I am such an infrequent blogger lately and it has been ages since my last post but that does mean that I have some special news to tell.  Please click the title of this post or the flower avatar to view this post properly, as just reading this as an email is boring :/

Delilah our resident red squirrel has had another litter of kittens!! At the end of July she had started looking a lot heavier than usual and was getting less and less acrobatic leaping through the branches of the trees, until it was quite obvious that she was pregnant again.  Then one day she was a lot slimmer. I wasn’t expecting to find the drey, so was amazed to look up one day in our little woodland and see a dark knot of twigs in the fork of two large branches of an oak tree and realise I had found it.

P1050333

Then I was lucky enough to watch her run into the drey one evening and catch her on a Trail Cam coming out of the drey the following morning. It will be a few weeks yet before the kittens start to come out of the drey. Delilah couldn’t have built her drey in a better place for me to catch it all on camera though, as she has chosen a tree right in front of my hide!  Thank you Delilah 😀

New drey August 2017

Delilah’s other three kittens are doing really well. The boys are growing big now and almost the size of their mother.  One keeps to himself and stays close to home and we have called him Billy, whilst the other two go nearly everywhere together. Here is a lovely little video of the two of them. I love the little sounds they make when they ‘talk’ to each other.

The usual suspects

After taking care of Eric, our autumn orphan last winter,  I decided this year I would keep a close watch on the hedgehogs that come and go through our little woodland and garden.  I knew we had a few regular hedgehogs visiting but never did I realise how many until I started monitoring them.  Keeping an eye on them I can make sure that none suffer from injuries without help; I can keep track of their weight in the run up to winter and hibernation time; and I was curious as to exactly how many hedgehogs visited our little corner of this beautiful island.

I had read, on the internet, that an easy way to keep track of them, and one that was the least stressful to the hedgehog (which is the most important criteria after all), is to paint a tiny amount of coloured nail varnish on the tips of their quills.  It doesn’t last that long, although the turquoise shade that I painted on Stellan lasted from March until I gave it a new coat. That’s a good advert for Rimmel nail varnish right there folks! So from early this summer, I have set out around midnight every few nights, with a kit bag, a cat carrier and a torch, and sometimes Steve or one of my daughters, and we go hedgehog hunting.  I know their favourite haunts, even if they aren’t at the feeding stations.

Three hedgehogs 22.7.2017

On this occasion these three hedgehogs were happy to eat together

I work really quickly and quietly, and although hedgehogs can run at a fair old pace if they want to, they tend to stay very still when approached.  I gently roll them onto their backs and they curl up tightly into a ball.  If they don’t, then I know that there is something wrong and they could be injured, as was the case with Stellan a few weeks back.  Then they get put into the cat carrier and brought indoors so I can have a look at them. A hedgehog that cannot curl up tightly is vulnerable to predators. If they curl up tightly, then I mark them with a few strokes of brightly coloured nail varnish on the quills on their rear end and pop them onto the weighing scales (already in the kit bag 😀 ) and take a photo making sure that I get the coloured quills and the weight in the same shot. Then they are put back in the same place as they were found and we move on. Usually, from start to finish, it takes less than two minutes.

When I next go on my hedgehog hunt and I see a hog, I shine a torch at their rear end and if I see a colour, then I know who it is, say ‘Hi’ and move on.  I passed Stellan in the woods last night when I was on my way to look for more hedgehogs to mark. It’s reassuring to know that he is still around.  I found another unmarked hedgehog: a large one, who weighed in at 934g and I have called Prickles.  He or she has baby pink tips to their quills 🙂

The tally so far of marked hedgehogs is 7.  And here are the usual suspects…

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Worryingly though, Sunny, Jessie, Eric and Jaffa haven’t been seen in a few weeks. Fingers crossed it is just because they haven’t been in the woods at the same time as I have at night. As much as I love hedgehogs, I am not staying up ALL night long to check on them! 😀

My neighbour and friend keeps watch for hedgehogs, too, but as yet all the hogs that visit her garden don’t have any coloured quills.  So between us, in our tiny little corner of Anglesey, we have a fair few hedgehogs! I wonder what the actual count is.

A clattering of jackdaws

It wasn’t so long ago that there used to be a rookery in our little wood. It was an old rookery that had been around for a long time and locals could remember seeing (and hearing!) it since they were children, making it at least as old as the 1940s but it was most likely much older. We have lived here twenty years and at its height there were 57 nests in the rookery. In late March/early April every year the noise of the nesting rooks was quite something but we really loved watching them, and just having them around brought a feeling of permanency.  Then one spring, only three nests remained.  The other nests had vanished from the treetops!  Then the following year, only one nest still remained at the top of a tall beech tree. This solitary rook’s nest stayed for two years then that too finally disappeared.  It was a mystery and a great sadness, as the rooks have never come back.  I hear or see a flock of rooks every now and then pass overhead and wonder if they are the descendants of the rooks that used to have a rookery here. It must be about ten years since the rooks left and since then I have read from people in the know that rooks often do this and that they actually take their nests stick by stick and move their rookery to a new site, usually not that far away.  Had I known this at the time I probably would have driven around looking to see where they had made their new home. I have also read that this may be where the term to ‘up sticks and move’ may have come from but even if this isn’t true, I’d like to think it was.

When the rooks left, the jackdaws moved in.  They nest in the holes of trees, and our trees have plenty of holes!  We didn’t mind the jackdaws at first. That was when there were just a few of them but now there are dozens of them and they make a lot more noise than the rooks but the most upsetting thing that they do is that they mob the squirrels when they are trying to feed.  You see jackdaws are clever birds like all members of the crow family and they have worked out that squirrel feeders are also jackdaw feeders. I’ve added extra wood to the feeders to make them harder to get at, but they have realised that the lids lift and with a little luck they can get at the nuts and seeds, especially if the feeder is full! They have a tendency to sit, two or three jackdaws at a time, and just commandeer that particular feeder for ages, so that no squirrel can get to it and if a squirrel should get there first, then they dive-bomb the squirrel until it runs away.

If there is any food left over in the morning from what I feed the hedgehogs, then the birds get to finish it off.  The blackbirds, thrushes and robins are always the first to get to it at dawn. Followed by the collared doves and the wood pigeons.  Jackdaws, I have learnt, are late-risers compared to a lot of other birds. This is a good thing, as they are a very greedy bunch indeed.  I have to admit though, that the jackdaws are fun to watch on video, especially when they are finishing off the hedgehog food.  I love to watch the young running from one adult to another, opened-mouthed and begging for food, and they all squabble constantly. It seems to me, that there are always two or three jackdaws ‘on watch’ on the periphery of this breakfast frenzy, that you wouldn’t necessarily notice unless you could watch them closely on video, and I wonder if that is actually their role. Maybe because there are young in the group.

Now, nature has a way of correcting the balance of things.  If you have been following my blog you will know that we have a lone resident carrion crow called Sid (so called because he’s a carrion/Carry On so Sid as in Sid James).  Here is Sid…

SID Carion 1.5.2017

Sid arrived with his parents back in April, stayed a few days then his parents flew off and left him behind.  After a short spell of being quite lost and following every other bird around, he settled down and is doing very well for himself and roosts at the top of a large oak tree every night.  But a few days ago, a pair of carrion crow arrived in the woods and every morning they meet up with Sid at the hedgehog feeding station.  I wonder if they are his parents, as they are larger than he is and he follows them around almost as if to cadge food from them and he is often scolded for it. Then they brought a younger one along.  So three carrion crow visit each morning and Sid is over the moon.

Carrion crows 19.2.2017 (2)

Anyway, the upshot of this is that the jackdaws keep well clear of the hedgehog food in the mornings, as they are scared of the carrion crows, and this also means that they keep well away from the squirrel feeder nearest to the hedgehog food, which is good for the squirrels. The carrion crows don’t tend to commandeer the hedgehog food as much and will allow other small birds to fly in and take a few titbits every now and then.  It is very interesting to watch the pecking order amongst birds.