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.

It’s me again!

So, it’s been a busy few days but I haven’t been able to write anything on my blog, partly because I’ve been so busy and partly because the internet has been down again with BT and yet again, it was due to engineers being ‘ham-fisted’ with the fibre optic cables when they were working in the boxes. Their engineer’s words, not mine.

Anyway, we are up and running again.

Eric is absolutely fabulous!  He topped the scales yesterday at 1120g!  He had to be turned sideways on the scales in order for me to read the weight as he had grown so much!

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With it being so mild these past few nights, Eric has had the run of a hog-proofed yard outside the back door.  It was the dog yard but it has been disinfected and as I said, hog-proofed, with chicken wire, planks of wood and large stones.  It is about ten feet wide by thirty feet long.  There is a little tunnel in one of the stone walls of the dog yard where hedgehogs have come and gone in the past to get to one of the feeding stations from the rest of our garden, so as soon as he was let out for a run on the first night, he was straight to the tunnel and I think he was making a run for freedom but the tunnel had been barricaded with wood and heavy stones.  His bowls of food and water are placed all around the yard for him to search out but as the walls are mainly dry stone walls, he has had loads of fun standing on tip toe on his back feet and scratching in the soil between the stones, to root out the odd grub and worm. After about half and hour to an hour, he would come back inside to sleep in his large rabbit hutch in the boot room.  He was originally in the guest room, but since he needs ‘hardening off’ before going outside for good, we put his hutch in the boot room, which has no heating but is still inside the house. Anyway, his new hog house came today and I thought I would just set it up in the corner of his new hog yard ready for in a few nights time when the nights are even milder and he could sleep outside all night.  I filled it with some of the strips of fleece that he has been having in his hutch and went back inside to get his water and food.  When I came back outside I couldn’t find him. I had left him with his head and body half way inside a crack in the stone walling, snuffling out grubs but in just the space of sixty seconds he had found his new hog house, gone in and hunkered down, inside all the fleece!  When I couldn’t find him anywhere in the hog yard I lifted the inspection lid and there he was, happy as Larry. So, I guess Eric is camping out in his new hog house from now on until his big release hopefully in April.

Hog house

The Trailcams in the woods have caught on camera other hedghogs this past week, that have come out of hibernation because of the mild days and nights. Two last night: one small one was on the terrace at the feeding station there and the other, a medium sized hog,  was snuffling out grubs in the grass in the woods. The first two photos below are from last night and the third is from a few nights ago…

Hedgehog 15.3.2017Hedgehog terrace 15.3.2017Hedgehog 9 3 2017

I’ve been keeping a nature journal few years now and keep notes of when I see the first hogs, frog spawn, swallows and the like.  Having the Trailcams has made this record keeping so much better. We have a very large log pile that has sat undisturbed for a few years now and we reckon that is where most of the hogs hibernate, with other possible sites being under the summerhouse, under the winehouse and under Steve’s timber stack. You can just see my hide hiding behind the log pile. At the bottom of this post is a link to a video of a hedghog just out of hibernation. Don’t miss it!

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Here is a link to a video of one of the hedgehogs not long out of hibernation.

Hedgehog just out of of hibernation 15th March 2017

One fox, one hedgehog in hiding and one out and about, and a little lemon Peugot.

Caught our first fox of the year on camera. Only a photo but hopefully we will catch it on video next time.

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The same night the Trailcams took a couple of photos and videos of hedgehogs in the woods. I have moved one of the cameras to hopefully get more ground shots now that we are having more visitors to the woods and I’ve also placed another camera at the start of our woods and I’m hoping between the three cameras all at ground level, I can track the wildlife’s journey through our place. Click below to view the video…

Hedgehog out early in the year

Moving on to our lodger, Eric.

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As you know, every day Eric gets weighed and most nights he gets to have the run of our kitchen and to search for his food.  We barricade the cellar door which comes up into the kitchen, as he loves the smell of damp earth that he can detect through the gap in the door and he tries his best to scratch his way through the door and into the cellar. So, with that part of the kitchen secure I didn’t think to worry about anywhere else he may get into.  Silly me!  He managed to crawl through a small space and into the cupboard that houses the central heating boiler.  We have turned off the heating so he doesn’t burn himself on the copper pipes at the back of the boiler but he has decided to play hard to get and has been hiding at the back of the boiler for the better part of three hours.  Every now and then I hear him having a scratch or cleaning himself and I can hear him scurrying back and forth.  There is plenty of room behind the boiler and for him to get out. He just doesn’t want to.  I have placed a tray of freshly dug up wet soil from the garden laced with live mealie worms (yummy!) not far from the boiler cupboard and sooner or later he will get hungry and have to come out. We just have to be there when he does.  I hope it doesn’t go very cold tonight, only we can’t turn the heating back on until he is safely away from the pipes. If you look closely at the right hand side of the following photo you can just make him out all snuggled down.

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Before Eric decided to go into hiding, we had a very successful day helping Olivia to buy her very first car: a lovely lemon Peugot 107.  We pick it up from the garage tomorrow.  I will post a photo of her with it when we get back home.

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