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.

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.

IMG_6479

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 😀

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…

Latest update

So, the pregnant hedgehog that spent a night or two in the hog house decided to move on after a couple of nights and hasn’t been back since but I am still hopeful that another hedgehog will move in and the mice that live in the log pile right behind it and run all over the hog house at night, won’t move in!

There has been a lot of goings on in the woods at night. The three pregnant sows are still around, as are Big Daddy and our autumn orphan, Eric and there is another smaller hedgehog about every night at the feeding station, who I think is another male. They don’t visit the feeding station that often, which I suppose is only to be expected now that there are more worms and beetles about. Here is a great little video, showing just what they all get up to when we are fast asleep in our beds at night. The video shows a female hedgehog happily eating, when she is rudely interrupted by a male but keep an eye open for other hedgehogs in the background. The female is pregnant: you can see her pregnant belly clearly when she is being pushed around by the male.

Moving on to the squirrels…..I am still busy trying to find Delilah’s drey or den (that is Delilah at the top of this post). I have moved two of the Trail Cams around again today and have them focused on holes in two trees. I will leave them there for twenty-four hours and if nothing shows then they will be moved somewhere else. The leaves are opening up on the trees now and in a matter of a week or two it will be almost impossible to see where she has her kittens snuggled away but be sure that as soon as I find the drey I will let you all know!

Nibbles pic

Nibbles

The Hog House is occupied!

I daren’t move anything around in the woods, or place anything new there! This is Delilah checking out the hog house not long after I had moved it from behind the shed to behind the log pile.  She never misses a thing, when it comes to something new on her territory!

Two nights ago a pregnant female hedgehog went into the hog house behind the log pile, stuffed the entrance behind her full of leaves and hasn’t come out since.  I have identified at least five different hedgehogs around our place over the past several weeks and three of the sows are now pregnant.  Last night the cameras only captured two male hedgehogs eating at the feeding stations, so I am inclined to think that all the sows have gone to their nests to have their hoglets.  Never, ever, does a night goes by when they don’t visit at least one of the feeding stations. I’m going to be optimistic and hope that the females are nesting and haven’t ended up dead on a road somewhere or stuck in someone’s household drain. This is one of the videos I have showing the sow going into the hog house.  Unfortunately, this camera will only take 30 seconds of nighttime video, so the film of her stuffing the entrance full of leaves is not shown.

 

The camera last night did catch footage of our autumn orphan Eric!  He is still around and still looking a little chubby. I leave chopped mango and banana at the feeding station nearest the house for him, as he is the only hog that eats them.  I mean, not many wild hedgehogs around Wales come across tropical fruit and they were Eric’s favourite treats when he was over-wintering with us.


Delilah and Nibbles are still with us keeping healthy.  We see Delilah around the linden drey a lot, so we are still pretty sure that’s where she has her kittens. She is a little chatterbox and I can always tell she is around even before I can see her.  She is forever chattering away with Nibbles but even talks to herself a lot. A lot like me then 😀  Here is a lovely little video of her and Nibbles playing and chattering away together. It is Delilah that you hear off camera at the start, chattering away to herself and it’s her that you see closest to the camera at the beginning, too. Keep an eye on the squirrel feeder at the back on the right: it is Nibbles you goes onto that.

 

Hedgehogs, hedgehogs, hedgehogs…

During these past few weeks, the night-times have been very busy for the hedgehogs at The Old Rectory: they have been out and about every night, even on the chilly ones. There have been passionate liaisons in the wee small hours of the night, quiet camaraderie at chow time and aggressive, ugly scenes of territorial wars. I have identified at least five individual hedgehogs again this year that live in and around our two acres and it is fascinating to watch their nightly goings-on. (One of them is Eric).

I especially enjoy watching the happy hogs that meet at chow time…

But I get really upset watching the underdog, or should I say underhedgehog, when I watch the turf war.  At this time of year, the boars are particularly territorial and it is often the case that one hedgehog is happily eating when in comes a boar who firmly believes that this is his turf and no other male is allowed anywhere near.  There are two such boars at the Old Rectory this year.  One is Big Daddy, so named because he is a huge hog and has been with us for a couple of years now.  The other is a smaller boar but still as aggressive when it comes to pushing other hogs off his territory.  What I have yet catch on film is a showdown between him and Big Daddy: neither of them have ever backed down. This is one of them in action…

 

But then, after all that aggro a little video like this comes along and I feel really happy again. Here is a pregnant sow and thankfully no hog is bothering her.  She looks very much like Stella but it is hard to tell.

 

This is the breeding time of year for hedgehogs and there are nests being made all over Britain ready for the little hoglets.  This is where this next message is really

IMPORTANT!!!!!!

If you are thinking of tidying up your garden by getting rid of that old shed, clearing away all those rotten logs that you stuck in a corner of the garden ages ago and forgot about…

DON’T!!!!!

You can’t touch them sorry: not now anyway.  Now is when all the pregnant sows have made their nests and have most likely had their hoglets,  If you disturb the nests one of three things will happen.

  1. You will injure or kill the sow and her hoglets.
  2. The mother will abandon her hoglets.
  3. The mother will eat her hoglets.  (There is very sound reasoning behind her last behaviour.)

And please, please, please be extra careful when you get strimmer out.  Often hedgehogs hunker down in the places we gardeners love to strim. One of the best websites you can visit for any information about hedgehogs is Little Silver Hedgehogs.  Click the link on the left hand side of my blog.