This is Olly. He was found on the roadside a few years ago now when I was driving the girls to the bus stop and Ross to catch his train to college. On my way back, I saw a tawny owl had been hit by traffic and was dead at the side of the road. It had only just died, so I picked up the sad but fabulous creature and brought him home. Straight away I phoned an acquaintance of ours who is a taxidermist and following his instructions, Olly was promptly wrapped in bin bags and put in the freezer on Fast Freeze, then a couple of days later he was sent via Royal Next Day Delivery (well insulated!) up to Yorkshire: that made for an interesting conversation with the Post Office clerk I can tell you! Several weeks later Olly came back to us.
As we have all realised, winter has waned and we are riding full pelt toward summer. If we should need a little convincing of this, then get up really early, go someplace that nature takes up more space than humankind, stand very still and just listen. Our Trail Cams often catch the dawn chorus and even though they are all really lovely to listen to, every now and then one stands out of the crowd. This following clip is one of those. To me it is the most beautiful sound in the world. This clip even has the owl calls at dawn! And there are so many birds singing at the same time, too.
But the day time doesn’t always have everything, so here is a special sound nearly only ever heard at night. These calls are by tawny owls: two adults and their young, talking away to each other. They were recorded during a video clip of a hedgehog at one of our feeding stations.
These owl may be easy to hear when walking in the woods at night and easy to record their calls on the Trail Cams but rarely do I actually see them in the woods. A few days ago, my neighbour and friend showed me where our local barn owl roosts in the day. All I could see of him/her was the tail feathers, as they were that well hidden amongst the leaves and branches of a hawthorn tree but it was a special thrill all the same.
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
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…
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.
- You will injure or kill the sow and her hoglets.
- The mother will abandon her hoglets.
- 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.
Good news! After talking with someone from the Red Squirrel Trust who knows all about squirrels, it seems that Delilah has had her kittens already. Apparently, once the teats show, that is a sign that she has given birth. I knew her tummy had got a little smaller but she still has a fat-ish tummy and that, I’ve just learnt, is fat stores to help her produce milk for her kittens. So, going through all my photos I have of Delilah from when she last had a very fat tummy to when it was less fat and when she started to show her teats, I have worked out that she gave birth to her kittens sometime between 25th March and 27th March. Seeing that the 26th was a Mother’s Day, I think it only fitting that I choose that day for the birthday of her babies.
(By the way, if you click on most of the photos in my blog from now on, they should open as a separate page, enlarged)
Now, all there is to do is to find out which drey or den she is using as a nest. I think I may have found the place. I was in the hide this morning before dawn (5:25am to be exact) and waited until 6:50 am when I was just about to give up and go in for a well-earned cuppa, when I heard rustling from behind the hide and her little chittering and there, right under the hide window not more than three feet from my face, was Delilah. Funny, I have seen literally hundreds of photos and videos of her and stood in the woods and watched her running around but to see her so close never ceases to amaze me. They really are such small and delicate creatures and their coats are so silky soft. She stayed around the hide picking up nuts that I had been scattering around for her and Nibbles, for about twenty minutes, then when she bounced off to bury one, I took the chance to leave the hide and go and sit on a log bench in the woods to watch her. After a few more buried nuts, Delilah scampered off to the linden drey. She was there for a minute or two before coming back out. I am assuming that’s where she has her nest. Her kittens will stay in the drey for about five to six weeks before they come out and follow their Mum around. My good friend and neighbour most likely has a drey or two in her place, which is full of trees and wild places and is a haven for wildlife and both Nibbles and Delilah visit both our places on a daily basis, so we are pretty certain that if Delilah’s drey isn’t here then it must be at her place. It’s just a case of being patient and watching.
This linden tree has been used by many squirrels over the past twenty years. I have seen countless squirrels rushing inside over the years. The entrances to all the dreys have been on the driveway side but they have made their dreys around the field side, which is surprisingly high up off the ground, as the field you see on the left is about five feet below the ground level of the drive.
This shows the field side of the drey
This shows the entrance to the linden drey
One last photo of Delilah…
At last there is colour coming into the garden. I know we’ve had daffs and spring bulbs to brighten up the greyness but they always seem a bit wishy-washy in the weak winter light. Hurry up summer! I can’t wait for the garden to be full of colour so bright it hurts my eyes. If anyone is wondering why there is fishing line crisscrossing our pond in the next photo, it is trip wire to deter the herons. Based on the premise that they are waders and not divers, I thought of trying it out. It is hardly noticeable and to date seems to have done the trick. I am up and out in the woods at dawn usually and that is when the herons prefer to visit our pond but I haven’t seen them in ages. Hopefully, they have tried one or two times to stand at the water’s edge and been unable to move closer because of the fishing line, so flown off. It isn’t strung too closely so as to tangle them and do them any harm.
In my last post I told you that I had moved the hedgehog house behind one of the sheds and had trained one of the Trail Cams on it to see if the hedgehogs showed any interest in it. Well, there was interest in it all right. First a squirrel had a look…
…and then a mouse had a look and ate the mealie worms I had left out for any interested hedgehogs!
But not a single hedgehog took the slightest bit of interest in the place. Still, early days…
The Trail Cam behind the log pile did catch one hedgehog on film but it was just in the corner of the shot and hard to tell whether it was just passing or had actually come from under the log pile itself. I can safely say though that there are lots and lots of mice scurrying under and over the log pile at night!
The hedgehogs are busy at night though, getting through a fair bit of food, especially mealie worms. There is one hedgehog that must have quite a flea problem as it is forever scratching!
We had two partridge in our little woods yesterday! At least they were until I walked through and scared them off into the neighbour’s field. Please come back!
Phoghorn Leghorn has been stalking me for seed lately. He’s like a Ninja: sneaking up silently and just appearing out of nowhere! Twice he has scared me out of my wits in the last two days. The first time was when I was knelt down weeding and had been weeding for ages. I turned to weed a patch to my right and only six inches from my face was his beak!!! I jumped out of my skin. It was like a scene from a slasher movie. I mean, look at that beak!
After that lovely warm sunshine of the other day, March ended with her usual weather of blustery showers. It doesn’t take much warm weather to have me dreaming of long summer days, well manicured lawns, a garden full of flowers, butterflies and bees, and large pitchers of ice-cold margaritas. Neither does it take much cold, wet weather to have me longing to sit by a roaring coal fire with a hot toddy in my hand, dreaming of long summer days….. No pleasing some folk 🙂
We had Oscar, our owl, carved in June 2014 and at the same time we had a Green Man carved at the base of the same tree. Although the Green Man was scorched just after carving, it has taken until this year for his weathered-look to ‘set in’ and to make him easily recognisable. I only noticed today how much better he looks after this last winter. A fairy house was also carved in the same tree but that’s not as noticeable, yet.
All’s well with the hedgehogs and the squirrels. I haven’t seen the vixen since the other night, or the partridge, which is a shame. The owls have been very vocal at night lately but other than the odd pair of eyes shining back at the camera on video, I don’t have them on film. Nibbles and Delilah are still running around the woods and have taken to pinching the peanuts from the woodpecker feeders! As if walnuts, hazelnuts and monkey nuts strewn around the woodland floor and in squirrel feeders weren’t enough! This is the best photo I have so far of Delilah and her growing belly. It was a screenshot taken from a video the other day. I have been focusing the cameras on capturing the hedgehogs and foxes at night, so I have taken them off the squirrel feeders and changed the programming to be more video rather than single shot but that tends to mean I miss those lovely shots of the squirrels during the day. Here is the screenshot of Delilah…
As the hedgehog house has been sitting empty on the hog yard by the house for a couple of weeks now, I have decided to move it behind the sheds on the edge of the woods and hopefully one of the hedgehogs will make it a home and you never know, maybe a sow will have her young there. I have rigged up a Trail cam to watch the house, so I can check any interest without having to lift the lid and disturb any occupants.
I’ve also rigged up another camera behind our large log pile. The other night the camera managed to catch a shot of one hedgehog coming out from under the front of the log pile. We were pretty sure that a few hedgehogs had made it their home but couldn’t say for sure. Hopefully, with another camera watching the back, we may see if more have been using it as their place of hibernation over the winter months.
I was up and about a little earlier than usual today and glad of it, too. I was out walking in the woods at 5:45am. It was perfectly calm out and the birdsong was beautifully clear and gorgeous to listen to. The dawn was absolutely spectacular. My camera skills are very primitive, even though my camera is far from it but I did manage quite a nice shot of this morning’s sparrow fart, with Oscar silhouetted in the foreground.
Thankfully Phoghorn Leghorn made an appearance yesterday, so panic over. He came strutting up close to me and screeching away for some seed. So I dropped my gardening tools and went inside to get some seed, so pleased to see him again. By the time I went back out, he was far away in the fields, half way down the valley, calling away. There’s me standing like an idiot with a bag of seed in my hands and no pheasant. I ask you!
And from a contrary bird to a more stationary kind of bird…
I absolutely love this heron that Steve’s Dad bought us for our pond. It is the ONLY heron that I love and will allow anywhere near our pond!
The cameras have been very busy at night taking videos of hedgehogs and their shenanigans. I see Eric from time to time, still identifiable by his hump of fatty shoulders but I have also seen four other hedgehogs. I know one is definitely a female, as the poor thing is being chased, pushed and rolled around most nights.
This is Eric, taken last night.
And last but not least, squirrels! Yes, both Delilah and Nibbles are still about and I am still trying for that perfect shot of Delilah. Not much has happened with them recently, other than I keep coming across buried hazelnuts when I am weeding the garden, or nut kernels left in peculiar places
I am so pleased with this video of a vixen caught on one of the Trailcams last night. She is obviously nursing her kits somewhere. Unfortunately, one of the other Trailcams wasn’t working last night, so when she trots off into our little woodland, it doesn’t pick up her trail when it would have done had it been working and I am so very cross about that. It also means that it hasn’t picked up anything from one of the hedgehog feeding stations either. The other cameras did pick up a hedgehog feeding, so they were out and about last night. I couldn’t tell the size of the hog from the particular camera that took it.
Click the word Vixen below to see the video…