Posts by descendantofcaleb

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.

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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.

 

Wild things

We’ve had a busy time with the wild life lately, what with hedgehogs, red squirrels, a fox and even a bat:  The Old Rectory becoming a makeshift animal hospital for a few nights.

First though, a young fox has been visiting the hedgehog feeding station a couple of weeks now. It could be a cub of the nursing vixen who came through our little wood and ate with the hedgehogs back in May. This young fox was very skittish at first: scared of the red glow that the Trail Cam gives off when it is recording but hunger got the better of it. It tickles me that it paws at the hedgehog food to select the bits that it likes and leaves the rest. I am not sure which are its choice bits.

 


Last week, we saw an injured hedgehog on the Trail cam footage. The following night, we went out around midnight and with luck, the first hog we came across was the injured hedgehog.   We  checked to see if it was a male or female, as we didn’t want to be leaving some nest of hoglets without a mother somewhere. As it turned out, the injured hedgehog was a male and to our surprise, still had the remains of blue nail polish on the tips of a few quills at the very back-end of him. This was the hedgehog that I had marked way back in March! Then, I had named him Stella, thinking it to be female. Stella is now correctly named Stellan. Back in March, Stellan weighed 929g and now he weighs 727g, losing 202g since coming out of hibernation. I’m not an expert when it comes to hedgehogs, (even though at times it feels like I eat, sleep and breathe hedgehogs) so I don’t know if this amount of weight loss is a normal amount or not for this time of year, but 727g is still a good weight and, other than what looks like an injury caused most likely by a garden strimmer, Stellan looked to be healthy.  He had lost half of a toe and the skin from the back of his paw had been stripped off.

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The healing had already started with healthy pink skin covering most of the back of the paw but the injured toe stump was still raw. As it was very late at night (not an easy time to find a vet, especially not for the sake of a hedgehog) I set up the ‘hedgehog hospital’ house, aka a very large rabbit hutch, and gave Stellan some water and minced beef, mealie worms and fresh mango, and settled him down with lots of nice, clean bedding. I would watch the wound for the following day and if it showed signs of infection, or if he looked under the weather, then I would take him to the vet. Twenty four hours later, the back of his foot was much better and the toe stump had begun to heal cleanly. Stellan had a hearty appetite and seemed very content. We kept him for three days in all and on the third night his stump had new skin covering it completely, he was no longer limping and neither wound was infected, so Stellan was a very lucky hedgehog.


On to our red squirrels…

It all started with one red squirrel back in October 2015 and his name was Nibbles…

Nibbles gorgeous photo 5.4.2017

Nibbles

Then Delilah showed up…

Pretty Delilah Beech feeder 4.7.2017 8.02am

Delilah

Then Delilah had three kittens, all boys…

 

Now, we have another mature female (I’ve called her Madame X for the time being) on the feeders.

..and a new kitten has turned up…

… who may or may not belong to Madame X.  Then just the other day, my friend and I realised that we most likely have another mature male around! Keeping track of Delilah, Nibbles and their three kittens was time-consuming and mind-boggling enough but with another three squirrels on the scene, our heads are spinning! 😀 Still, it leaves no time to get bored.  So when I found a bat on the back doorstep the other night, it came as a relief that it was a creature that wasn’t covered in quills or russet-coloured fur!


Meet Dracula…

Dracula

Brandt’s or Whiskered bat

As Dracula was right in the middle of the doorstep, he was in danger of being squashed by our loveable but very heavy 39kg German Shepherd, called Ava, so Dracula was put in a shoe box and the next day we called the local bat people who came around and identified Dracula as either a Brandt’s or a Whiskered bat, before taking him away to give him food and proper care.  We tried to find where Dracula had come from, as he appeared to be a young bat and ideally it would have been best to put him back in his nest. The bat people asked if Izzy and I would sit on bat watch that night.  We sat from about an hour before dark until just after dark, watching the house roof above the spot where Dracula had been found, to see if any other bats flew out which would indicate that there was a nest there.  Not a single bat flew out of the roof that night and in the morning, when I rang the bat people, they gave me the sad news that Dracula had died in the night. 😦


 

Don’t you just love June!

It’s worth waiting eleven months for the month of June 😀  Big, gorgeous blooms are bursting out everywhere and all this rain just makes them look more luscious against all the fresh green. That and the fact that I have my birthday in June 😀

Don’t forget, you can if you want to, click on any photo in my blog, and view it larger in a separate screen.


The hedgehogs are still visiting the feeding station, even on stormy nights! Three or four visit every night and it is usually males and yes, the bullies are still around but I have to admit being just a little pleased the other night to see one bully getting a taste of his own medicine at last! In the video you will first see the bully pushing around another hog who had been happily eating away and minding his own business for a few minutes, until Bully Boy turned up. Keep watching and you will see Karma in action when another aggressive hog turns up. They say that hedgehogs aren’t territorial.  From my experience, most of them certainly are when it comes to their feeding area. Not every male that feeds at this feeding station is aggressive but the majority are.  I’ve been watching hedgehogs at feeding stations continuously and without fail for almost a year now, keeping records as I go and the sows usually just get on with feeding then move on but the hogs are the ones that get aggressive, even when there is more than enough food for all and the food bowls are spaced far apart, further than in this video.  It makes you wonder though: the attacker mustn’t care or think too much about the pain that the quills inflict on his face (those quills hurt!)

For any of you who know the story of our Autumn orphan, Eric, I still catch sight of a hedgehog on the Trail Cams who I am pretty sure is Eric. You will have to excuse me if I can’t say for sure whether it is him or not.  After all, all hedgehogs do have a tendency to look alike but I reckon every now and then I see one on camera that I recognise something of and it pleases me to know that he is still out there, kicking up the traces.


From feuding hedgehogs to fledgling birds, goldfinches to be precise.  These two little darlings were like ‘sitting ducks’ on our sun terrace yesterday.

Two goldfinch fledglings 4.6.2017

Their mum and dad were in a bush nearby calling to them.  As we have lots of cats around us that regularly pass through our garden, I sat on the terrace keeping watch until the little darlings had hopped first onto plant pots and then into a shrubbery and hopefully out of sight of passing predators. How cute can one bird get?  Just look…

Fledgling 4.6.2017another two goldfinch fledglings 4.6.2017


 

And last but never, ever least…

SQUIRRELS ~ GWIWER GOCH

Just lately, I feel like I eat, sleep and breathe squirrels!  I dream about them and even have bad dreams of them being eaten by farm cats and storms bringing down the tree that their drey is in and the kittens being homeless and left orphaned and oh…. get a grip! Here is the latest….

Delilah, the Mum of this little family unit is still hale and hearty.  We had begun to worry about her, as she was being seen less and less on camera and at feeding stations but today she put paid to all that worry.  She has eaten virtually non stop all day. Through all this wind and rain, Delilah has sat battered by strong winds, her ear tufts blowing by the gales and her russet coat soaked with rain but still she carried on.  Eating and eating and eating. Go Delilah!

Mum Delilah 5.6.2017 (2)

Then there is Dad, aka Nibbles. Worringly, we haven’t seen anything of Nibbles since 17th May, six days before the kittens made an appearance on the Trailcams.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence either. I have a feeling Delilah makes sure he keeps away since their kittens have been weaned and are out and about in the daytime. He used to be such a handsome fellow, all muscular and healthy and always on the scene but the last film I have of him is quite pitiful. Delilah is up a tree on a feeder and won’t allow him up: he has to make do with whatever falls down to the ground beneath her. He looks scrawny and it is quite sad to watch.  It is obvious that this is Delilah’s territory and Nibbles is not welcome. I really hope wherever he is, he is alright.

This is Nibbles when he looked his best…

nibbles

Nibbles

And here is the last snapshot I have of Nibbles taken 17th May 2017…

Nibbles 17.5 Then there are the kittens.  There are three of them. There may have been more, we don’t know but when they showed up just over a week ago there were just the three. They are very healthy, energetic kittens dashing around all over the place. For a few days they stayed together and then they split up, two staying close to each other and one going alone.  A few days ago all three came together again and I managed to catch them on camera purely by chance. Then for a couple of days there was only one.

Three kittens 2.6.2017 (2)

When I was taken the recycling bins down the drive today I came literally face to face with the other two again, who were clinging to the side of a tree.  It is quite comical when that happens. I don’t know who is the most shocked: me or them? We all stay perfectly still, staring at each other, before either them or me turning away slowly. 😀

As I said in my last post, my friend and I have a mammoth task on our hands trying to identify the kittens: we look at the shape of the ear, the sex of the kitten and any other characteristics, trying to identify the three individual kittens. We have managed to indentify two of them and they are both males.  The third one is a little harder to catch on camera and therefore to indentify but we will endeavour.  It would be lovely if it was a female. Here are the two young male kittens…

Hopefully, in my next post I will be able to write about the third kitten 🙂

In the meantime, I will get back to my guitar practice. At least I have progressed and no longer make my dog’s ears bleed.  Sorry Ava. You’re my number one fan 😀

Delilah’s kittens are out and about!

The first of Delilah’s kittens was captured on one of the Trail Cams early on the morning of 22nd May but I didn’t check that camera’s SD card until almost midnight of that day, so when I did finally come across the grainy photo of a miniature version of Delilah, first I was in disbelief, thinking I was just over tired, then when I took a second look and realised that it really was a kitten on the squirrel feeder, it was so late at night there was no one to tell. I was bursting with excitement and no one to share it with. :\

  • Just a reminder that if you click on the photos they should open up larger for you. 🙂

Delilah has three kittens in all: two seem to play and stay together all through the day and the third goes off and does its own thing. They’re extremely lively and trying to take photos of them is a challenge.  At first it wasn’t too difficult, as there were plenty of berries on the English oaks that we have in our little woodland and we found out that the squirrels love eating them, so when they were busy nibbling away on them we had a chance to take some photographs. My friend and I have spent more time than maybe we should have in the past week, our necks crooked back at a painful angle, taking camera shot after camera shot of red squirrel kittens some fifty feet plus up in the tree canopy. Now all the berries have gone and the kittens have come closer to earth and have worked out how to use the squirrel feeders and they cling to the peanut feeders for the birds but they don’t seem to stay still for very long. If you stay very still they seem to get used to you being around and the closest they have come up to me is six feet! I was clicking away on the camera but I was so excited that they were so close to me whilst they were scampering all about me so fast, that all my shots turned out blurry but the experience was thrilling. I have always thought red squirrels to be fascinating and beautiful: multiply that by a hundred and that is the effect the kittens have on you when they are scampering and bounding all around you.

We are pretty sure that their drey is in a nearby field but the kittens seem to spend a lot of time in and around the linden drey during the day. Delilah is still around but keeps to herself during the day visiting all the feeders as usual.  To say she is now chubby is putting it mildly!

Chubby Delilah 20.5.2017

We aren’t sure if the kittens are fully weaned yet. Maybe Delilah goes back the drey to stay with the kittens at night, as we don’t know where the drey is for sure.

Currently, our task is to try to identify the kittens.  I have managed to take close-ups of two kittens that show different ear shapes and both are male kittens. It is quite a challenge to get profile shots clear enough to show the shape of the ear and then, without the camera (or Trail Cam) losing sight of that particular kitten, being able to identify whether it is a male or female kitten! The little darlings move about so much!

More about the little scamps soon…

 

 

 

Lots to catch up on…

The vixen visited one of the hedgehog feeding stations again the other night and as you can see, she is still nursing. It is still only male hedgehogs that come to the feeding stations now and they won’t tolerate any other male to eat at the same time as them.  In case you are wondering how I know for sure they are male: I have the camera positioned so low that it really is very obvious when they walk into shot. Usually, one of the males is more alpha that the other and bullies the other one away from the food but on this occasion, both males were determined to own the feeding station…

Well, it looks like Delilah’s drey is not here after all, as we have watched her last thing in the evening leaving our little woodland and seen her first thing after dawn coming into our woodland, from another small wooded area. None of our Trail Cams have caught sight of her kittens yet, although I reckon they should be leaving the drey and coming out with their Mum for the first time in the next week to ten days, if my dates are correct. Nibbles is still around but not as much and usually not at the same time as Delilah. She caught him in one of the oak trees the other day and was like a squirrel possessed, chasing him from it: he was running for his life to get away from her. It had me thinking that maybe her drey was somewhere high up in the oak, as it is thickly covered in ivy and very hard to see if there is a drey or even a den in it but I have spent ages with the binoculars and can’t see anything and Delilah doesn’t go there last thing at night or come from there first thing in the morning. The shot below is of Nibbles leaving one of the feeders with a hazelnut in his mouth. He is moulting his winter coat and is looking a little tatty.

(By the way, in case you didn’t know, if you click on most of the photos in my blog they should open up separately and enlarged for better viewing)

For blog Nibbles on feeder 7.5.2017


Sad to write that Phoghorn Leghorn is no longer with us. I found him a couple of days ago when I was gardening in the woods. He had made a hollow for himself under a thick mound of Lamium and I found him snuggled down inside,  At first I thought he was just hunkered down, feeling poorly.  It was very sad to find that he had died: he had been my gardening companion for quite a long time.  He hadn’t been well for a while and had something wrong with his beak, which was making it almost impossible to eat, so it was only a matter of time I suppose.

Good photo of Phoghorn Leghorn

But we do have a new kid on the block here at Ye Olde Rectory.  Meet Sid…

SID Carion 1.5.2017

The cameras first caught sight of Sid with two other carrion crows in our little woodland a couple of weeks ago. The other two hung around for a few days, then left this one behind, so I am assuming that Mom and Pop brought Sid here and when the coast was clear, they flew off.  He was very lost for a day or two, just walking around the grassy glade, following any other black bird that came near, whether they were Black Birds or Jackdaws but he has slowly got used to being on his own and tucking into the hedgehog food that is left over in the morning!! I saw him trying to have a bath in a small water bowl left for the hedgehogs, which was very funny, as he could only fit one leg into it, so he now has a shallow tray as a bathing pool, which he is very possessive and won’t allow any other bird to come near. We lose one character and gain another 😀


We’ve all been super busy in the garden the past few weeks but especially the woodland garden.  We couldn’t have done it without Scott’s help, so a big THANK YOU! to Scott. 😀 At last, we have soil in the River Kwai and a bridge over it.  Two actually! They need securing and covering with chicken wire, so they aren’t lethally slippy in wet weather but at least the end is in sight!  We have started planting up the River Kwai with blue plants that will self-seed and spread and the aim is to be able to stand on the bridges and look up (or down) and hopefully, at most times of the year, there should be a ribbon of blue that looks almost like a river running down through the woods.  Well, that’s the hopeful idea anyway 😀 Here are a couple of photos of how it looks so far…