Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Blackbirds everywhere

Every time I go or look outside I see loads of blackbirds. They seem to be enjoying eating the brightly-coloured berries that are so prevalent at this time of year. To my mind they are a more festive bird than the robin, simply because there are so many of them. And of course, they are mentioned in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas"; they are the "four calling birds".

I've not seen any hedgehog activity recently, not that I expect to at this time of year. However Gigibird who lives on the south coast of England told me a few days ago that her two hog visitors are still active! I wonder if they don't intend hibernating so long as she keeps supplying food for them.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Hedgehogs in the news again

Fat albino hedgehog put on weight-loss regime

An albino hedgehog being cared for at St Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital in Buckinghamshire is being put on a diet because he is dangerously overweight.

Snowball, as he has been nicknamed by staff, needs to lose two pounds to get down to a healthy weight.

He is now being put through a rigorous exercise regime, as Claire Price reports.

See video at:

And more disturbingly:

African pygmy hedgehogs become latest handbag accessory

African pygmy hedgehogs have become the latest must-have handbag accessory, prompting condemnation from animal welfare campaigners.

By Murray Wardrop
Published: 7:30AM GMT 11 Dec 2009

The tiny creatures are said to be stealing the hearts of rich women, including footballers' wives and girlfriends, ousting designer dogs like Chihuahuas from their handbags.

At five inches long, owners have told breeders they prefer the hedgehogs to take in their bags because they are easier to maintain than dogs.

Their popularity has been cemented by the variety of colours buyers can choose between – from albino to apricot and chocolate to salt and pepper.

However, animal welfare experts are outraged that the hedgehogs, which sell for around £250, are being marketed as fashion accessories.

Leanne Plumtree, of the RSPCA, said: "Pygmy hedgehogs are undoubtedly very cute but animals aren't accessories and promoting them as such is irresponsible.

"These are exotic animals whose needs are very difficult to meet in a household situation and where that's the case, the RSPCA does not believe they should be kept."

Janet Thornton from North West Animal Welfare rescue centre, in Warrington, Cheshire, added: "These hedgehogs are not fashion accessories

"These are disgusting deplorable people who swap and change their pets like their outfits."

Cheshire Waterlife wildlife centre, which stocks the hedgehogs, has witnessed a sharp increase in demand for the animals as pets in the run up to Christmas.

It said customers had travelled hundreds of miles in search of the creatures.

Steve Birchell, owner of the centre, said: "Our business is based on respect for animals and we ensure that anybody who buys a pet from us knows and understands the importance of proper care for their pet.

"We've been astounded at the popularity of these cute little creatures. I bought a number of the hedgehogs from a breeder who I met a few months ago little realising how popular they were set to become.

"Apparently they are all the range among the WAGS because they are cute, they love being handled and they will sit quite happily in a handbag. What's more they are also inexpensive to keep, feeding on cat-food."

"We've seen customers travel the length and breadth of the country to get here and buy one."

The centre advises prospective buyers to keep the pigmys in their own enclosure – away from other pets.

Diana Mather, a self-styled etiquette and style guru, said: "These lovely little animals should make a perfect present for the trend setter who has everything.

"They're ideal for designer mums to give to their children.

"The African pygmy hedgehog is a delightful little creature which is increasingly seen gracing designer kitchens and peeping out from the handbags of our fashionistas."

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hibernating: Do Not Disturb!

Well, it's December now and I've not seen any hedgehogs in the garden since the night of the 17th November, and have seen no sign of them having visited so I think it's safe to assume that they are all hibernating now. I'd just like to take this opportunity to share with you my very favourite hedgehog photos from 2009:

This past year has been a tough one for me. In March I lost my beloved feline campanion, a beautiful 16-year old black Burmese cat called Spock (see below), and I've never really stopped mourning him and miss him every day. I also lost my job, and although I have enough savings to keep myself afloat for a little while, it has been stressful.

The hedgehogs have helped me. They have given me a focus and a purpose. I feel I've learnt a lot about them through my observations and my videos, and they have further developed my respect for our nature and wildlife which so many people take for granted and do not appreciate.

I feel honoured to have helped them too; to provide a source of food and water and to watch out for the little ones late in the year who may not survive hibernation.

I'm so looking forward to next spring and the return of my spiky friends. In the meantime I will be maintaining a supply of food in the feeding station at the side of the patio near the fence, just in case a hedgehog awakes from hibernation in the winter and needs a bite to eat.

I'm dedicating today's post to my late kitty, Spock, who would have been 17 years old today.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hedgehogs in Amateur Photographer magazine

There's an interesting article in the current issue of Amateur Photographer magazine (cover date 21 November 2009) in which wildlife photographer Paul Hobson talks about how he spent two years creating a series of images documenting the life of a hedgehog.

I've left the above image scan of the magazine at low resolution, because obviously these are not my own images.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The little hedgehog goes to Tiggywinkles

Thanks again to E. from the Twosie The Hedgehog blog for helping me get this little fellow delivered safely to Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital yesterday.

The staff at Tiggywinkles told us that they are now quoting a safe hibernation weight of 500g for a hedgehog rather than the previously quoted 600g, possibly because of the milder weather recently. The little one we took in (who doesn't actually look so small in the photo, but he is all stretched out) weighed approximately 470g so he was a real borderline case. At that weight, i.e. over 400g, they said technically he's not a juvenile. However, they did say to bring him in when I telephoned and so that is what we did.

And yes, it turns out that he is indeed a boy.

I asked what would happen to him and was told that they would fatten him up and then when he reaches the required weight they would probably put him outside in the Tiggywinkles grounds, all the while keeping an eye on his progress. Then all going well, he will be released into the wild in the spring.

Thanks again to both S. and E. from Twosie the Hedgehog for all their help, advice and kindness, and for the above photo!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

More on Autumn Juvenile #3

The poor little hedgehog got itself into a bit of a pickle last night. First of all it managed to drag the corner of its blanket into the water bowl and the water soaked into the blanket and into the newspaper beneath. In these pictures we see the little hog tucked up inside a shoebox while I clean the pet carrier out and refresh the newspaper. Not having a second blanket to hand, I ended up getting a pair of scissors and cutting off the wet corner of blanket.

When I put the hedgehog back into the pet carrier I fashioned a sleeping area out of the shoebox, cutting away a portion so it could get in and out easily. I left part of the fold-down lid on it so as to enclose the bedding and make it more snug for the hog. The idea was that this arrangement would stop the bedding being accidentally dragged into the water.

However, the little hog continued to get into a pickle and I later found it on top of the shoebox, partially wedged in at the side. It was trying to sleep like that, poor thing. I took the hog out and cut away and removed the lid of the shoe box. A little later on, it still managed to get itself wedged behind the cardboard, not getting any benefit from the blanket, so I ended up removing the now totally carved-up shoebox altogether. It wasn't such a good idea, it seems.

In this next picture we see Elsa trying to get involved whilst I was cleaning out the pet carrier. "Really," I told her, "you are not helping!"

Despite all these trials and tribulations, the little hog seems to be alright this morning, and there are signs that it has been eating. I have phoned Tiggywinkles. The receptionist wasn't too sure what to say at first when I told her the hedgehog weighed 470g because she said it was a borderline weight. She had to go and consult someone but soon came back with a very definite, "Yes, you need to bring him in to us." So, it looks like that is what we are going to do.

Here is some video footage of the little one, captured earlier in the evening by the motion sensor camera shortly before I found him outside the back door:

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Here we go again... Autumn Juvenile #3

I saw earlier tonight that we had a hedgehog visitor in the feeding station, and I also saw him a little later at the water bowl. I just assumed it was the same hedgehog as on Monday night. At about 10pm, I looked out the back, and seeing that the coast was clear (or so I thought) I stepped outside to check the levels of food.

Then when I turned back to the house I saw this little fellow and my immediate reaction was that he or she was a small hedgehog and I'd better get it inside and weighed.

It turns out that s/he's about 470g so is nearly big enough to survive hibernation but not quite. It's certainly bigger than the two autumn juveniles that I found last month. I have the hedgehog safe in a pet carrier with bedding, food and water, and I shall phone Tiggywinkles in the morning, tell them how much s/he weighs and see if they think I should bring him/her in for overwintering.

Monday night's hedgehog returns to visit throughout the night and is captured on video

At a time of year when most hedgehogs in the UK are already hibernating, I was surprised to see this visitor to the garden. I have been continuing to put out food (mainly dried mealworms) just in case there were still a few hogs about, and it seems it was a good idea as this hedgehog appears to be quite hungry.

I photographed this hedgehog a little earlier in the night (see previous post), and was inspired to put the video camera out just in case it came back. Seems I was lucky!

This compilation of footage was captured on the motion-sensor infrared camera between 10:20pm on Monday 16 November 2009, through to approx 4:40 in the morning.

Note that the hedgehog keeps going just off-camera to the right of the shot in the foreground. There is a bowl here with just a little rainwater in it (and a leaf, it turns out). I'm not sure why it doesn't go to the other waterbowl between the feeding station and the plant pot at the top left of the picture - there's much more water in it.

Today I'm going to go buy some more mealworms as I'm down to the last pot, whilst this footage proves that I might need to get some more in.

Monday, 16 November 2009

It looks like I spoke too soon...

Last night I noticed all the mealworms in the feeding station had been eaten. (I have been continuing to put food out - just in case!) I was really hoping that a rat wasn't responsible. However, tonight at approx 9.00 pm, I noticed a dark shape in the feeding station...

Here, above, we see a hedgehog leaving the feeding station after having eaten all the mealworms.

Here is another shot. You might question why I was out taking photos of the hedgehog and potentially scaring it away. Well, as I said, it had had a nice feed already - the bowl had been emptied, so I wasn't too worried about it running off, but more importantly I wanted to check that this was an adult hedgehog and big enough to survive hibernation. For one horrible moment when I saw a shape in the feeding station, I thought it might be another autumn juvenile.

This particular hedgehog has a tick near its ear, and may well be the same one I saw shortly before the visits dropped right off over a week ago.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

All gone now...

I do hate to post without a picture or a video, but sadly I have no new images to share with you. Since my previous post from a whole week ago I have seen no more hedgehogs. There were no visits at all last weekend, although most of the food in the feeding station was eaten on Monday night (possibly by a passing hedgehog searching for food rather than a regular visitor - if it had been Scratchy I would have seen her at her regular times). Since Monday night there have been no more visits.

I feel a sense of sadness now that the hedgehogs have gone; I just hope they have all found safe places to hibernate through this ghastly weather and I am already looking forward to seeing them again in the spring.

If I see - and more importantly photograph - any other noteworthy wildlife in the intervening months I will post on this blog, otherwise all I can say for now is thanks for visiting and see you next spring!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The last hedgehog is an old friend

Please forgive the quality of this video. It seems that the position I placed the camera in meant that quite a lot of glare was created. I have reduced the brightness in an attempt to improve the picture, but it's far from perfect.

Regular readers to this blog will know that most of the hedgehogs that had been visiting my garden this year are now hibernating; all except this one individual hedgehog that is still braving the cold weather and filling up on as much food as possible.

Studying the above video footage I now believe that this particular hedgehog is an old friend ... Scratchy!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Look at who's been eating the mealworms!

I didn't get to put the motion-detector camera out last night until very late (about midnight) because I had been re-charging the battery again. There were a couple of hedgehog visits between 9:00 and 12:00 pm, although I suspect it was the same hedgehog on each occasion. I don't think there were any more hoggy visits after that because a lot of mealworms (which I had replenished when putting the camera out) were left this morning, providing a feast for these starlings.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


It's the 5th November which is traditionally bonfire night in the UK.

If anyone is having a bonfire tonight, PLEASE check your bonfire stack before lighting it to make sure that there are no hedgehogs inside. Thank you!

(Photo from 13 July 2009)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Big news... videos are back!

OK, so this movie isn't the most exciting, it's just a hedgehog eating (and as it had been raining, I think that was mealworm soup!). However, there aren't too many active hogs around at the moment, I think most of them must be hibernating already. I'll have to see what other footage I can get of them with the infrared camera whilst there are some still about.

I've had the new camera battery for about a week already, but had been experiencing a few problems getting it charged up properly. Let's hope it's OK and is going to continue working properly now.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Hedgehogs in the news

There's not been a lot of hedgehog activity in the garden recently. Visits have dropped right off. Only one bowl of food was even touched last night. I guess most of them have begun their hibernation. On the upside, I'm glad to report that I have found no more autumn juveniles.

However, I have found several hedgehog stories in the news this past week or so:

Guards hired to protect hedgehogs

30 October 2009

Security guards armed with torches and chicken wire are keeping 24-hour watch to stop hedgehogs hiding in a bonfire at one of the country's largest fireworks displays.

The initiative at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, is part of a campaign to raise awareness of the danger bonfires pose to hedgehogs.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) has teamed up with cleaning company Spontex, whose mascot is Ernie Hedgehog, to promote the campaign.

Clifford Soper, from Spontex, is one of the guards hired to keep watch.

"A bonfire looks like a five-star hotel to a hedgehog searching for the perfect place to hibernate," he said.

"Most people don't think about checking a bonfire, or better still rebuilding it, before lighting which can result in the death of all sorts of unsuspecting wildlife asleep inside.

"The Three Counties bonfire has followed BHPS advice and encircled its bonfire with one-metre high chicken wire."

The Halloween bonfire and fireworks display will take place at the showground on Saturday night.

Drunk hedgehog rescued in Devon

Friday, October 30 2009, 15:28 GMT
By Mayer Nissim, Entertainment Reporter

A hedgehog has been treated in an animal hospital after getting drunk on fermenting apples in an orchard.

The creature was discovered lying on its back and squealing last Wednesday and was helped by local wildlife rescue expert Ann McCormack at The Prickly Ball Hedgehog Hospital in South Devon, the North Devon Journal reports.

McCormack said: "They had placed it in a guinea pig cage and it kept going round in circles. The hedgehog kept falling over and was on its back with its legs up in the air for most of the time.

"It was legless. This is definitely the first drunk hedgehog I have found. The next morning I came in and turned the light on and she squealed really loudly. She obviously still had a big headache."

The hedgehog, nicknamed Tipsy, will be fed up to a healthy weight of 600g before being released back into the wild in the spring.

Spare a thought for a Stroud hedgehog

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Help a Hedgehog Hospital founder Annie Parfitt wants people to keep a look out for prickly creatures confused by global warming.

Annie, whose rescue centre is in Brimscombe, says milder winters and pesticide use mean hedgehogs are on the decline.

She says those that remain are getting confused about hibernation times.

At this time of year a hedgehog seen out in the day needs rescuing and taking to the hospital.

Mother hedgehogs are also having second litters late in the year due to the mild weather and the babies are unlikely to survive winter.

Annie, 41, says hedgehogs are being attacked by badgers and are vanishing from the landscape in certain areas.

She said: "They also climb into people's dustbin bags to shelter and get thrown away with the rubbish.

"Of course, at this time of year they hide in bonfire woodpiles made for Guy Fawkes' Night."

Annie has been fascinated by hedgehogs since childhood and, on turning 40, she decided to set up her hospital and do something positive to help support dwindling numbers in the Stroud area.

Annie works under the umbrella organisation the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. She can be contacted on 07867 974 525 or
And finally:

Hedgehog triplets born in five-star luxury

Staff at Edinburgh's Prestonfield left stunned by delivery in hotel reception.

21 October 2009 14:42 PM

A choosy mother chose a five-star maternity suite in one of Edinburgh's plushest hotels - even though she was giving birth to hedgehog triplets.

Guests at the Prestonfield were stunned when the critter walked into the hotel's reception and settled on the carpet.

However, they were even more surprised when she gave birth to three spiky babies before taking a snooze behind a basket of logs beside the hotel's open fire.

Staff from the SSPCA rushed to the five-star venue to care for the creatures.

Now, the seven-week-old hoglets are said to be doing well and are living with their mum at a rescue centre in Fife.

Centre Manager Colin Seddon said: "This was a very unusual place for the hedgehog to choose to have her babies.

"She was obviously confused and knowing that she was about to give birth, decided to find the nearest warm and sheltered place, which just happened to be a very plush hotel.

"We were worried when she came in because it is not uncommon for a mother hedgehog to eat her young if she is disturbed or feels threatened, so we were obviously very keen to avoid that happening.

"Initially, we kept the family warm and dry and provided them with food and water, but we left them in almost complete isolation to minimise the risk of cannibalism.

"Thankfully this approach has proved successful and all three hoglets are now seven weeks old and ready to be released back to the wild with their mother."

James Thomson, proprietor of the Prestonfield Hotel, admitted staff had been surprised by the delivery, but said: "The wellbeing of all our visitors to Prestonfield is of the utmost importance to us and so we are all really thrilled to hear that both mother and all three hoglets are healthy and are now ready to be released back home.

"We are just glad that they checked in and enjoyed a little five-star luxury along the way."

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Cheshire Hog

Photo by Hannah Boardman

My niece Hannah has just sent me this photo of the little hedgehog that she and the family found outside their house in Cheshire last night. My sister phoned to tell me that they took him to the Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital this morning, where he was weighed and found to be only 209g. Definitely an autumn juvenile, and even smaller than the first one I found last week. He is being kept at the hospital for overwintering seeing as he is too small to survive hibernation. Well done to the Boardman family for another hedgehog rescue!

Hedgehog at the waterbowl and a couple of items of news

There are still one or two hogs visiting the garden each night, and thankfully they are nice big ones that look like they're going to be able to survive hibernation. Here's another of my trademark "through the cat-flap" photographs of one of last night's hedgehogs at the waterbowl. I like how its front paw is in the water. So, that's how they manage to leave those prints everywhere.

I had a telephone call from my sister late last night. She and her family had just arrived home to their house in Cheshire after a short break in London (I went to meet up with them all on Monday) and they found an autumn juvenile trying to sleep on their driveway by the garage door. She's put it in a box with some bedding and taken it inside into the warmth and I've advised her what food she can give it. I've also given her the phone number of a local carer - who, it turns out, she believes she already knows. Hopefully, she'll get the little hog to this carer in the morning and it'll be safe and sound. It's so weird that this should happen after I was telling my sister on Monday about my own two autumn juveniles.

If anyone else out there finds an autumn juvenile and needs to find a local carer, see the list at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

In other news, I have at last received the replacement battery and charger for my infrared motion-sensor camera. I was hoping to make a few more videos before the hedgehogs all go into hibernation, but alas, this one does not work either. I think I'm going to have to send the whole camera back. How infuriating!

UPDATE: Wait... I think the camera is working now after all. I shall test it tonight.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Autumn Juvenile #2

Yes, I'm afraid I've found another one! Why are these juveniles only showing up now? As you can see in the picture, this one weighs 400g, so he's a bit bigger than the juvenile I found earlier in the week. He's currently safe and sound in a pet carrier box with food, water and bedding. I haven't worked out yet how I'm going to get this one to either Tiggywinkles or another hedgehog carer (I don't drive, hence the predicament). If anyone relatively local to Didcot in South Oxfordshire can help, please let me know. Email me on or leave a comment on this post.

UPDATE (14:45pm): I'd like to say a huge thank you to S and E from the Twosie the Hedgehog blog for coming to the rescue and getting this delightful little hog delivered to Tiggywinkles this afternoon.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A visit to St Tiggywinkles

I'll tell you about this fellow (pictured above) in a few moments. First, let's talk about the little hog I found in the garden last night and posted about yesterday. I rang St Tiggywinkles and was told that I had indeed done the correct thing in bringing the hog inside and putting it in a box with food, water and bedding. I was advised to bring it in to St Tiggywinkles as soon as possible, because at 300g it was underweight and would not be able to survive hibernation.

So, off to St Tiggywinkles we went. Thankfully, it wasn't too far a drive (and thanks to Ben for being the hedgehog ambulance man). At reception a nurse was called and she scooped the hedgehog up and took him/her off to the nursery. I asked what would happen to the hog, and was told that they'd try to fatten him/her up but it was unlikely it would reach the required weight to survive hibernation, so the most likely scenario was that the little hog would be kept in the hospital for overwintering and released in the spring when it was big enough to make its own way in the world. I felt a little sad that I didn't have the chance to say goodbye to the little hog, but was happy that it was now in safe hands.

While we were there, we thought we may as well take a look around the visitors centre. There were a fair few enclosures but the animals themselves were thin on the ground. We figured that hedgehogs, badgers and foxes would all be sleeping. Thankfully, there were a lot of birds to be seen at the pond, else we would have seen very little.

Below we see a cygnet which was sharing an enclosure with another cygnet.

I was surprised to see a few juvenile seagulls, seeing as how they are hated by so many people. It's nice to know that St Tiggywinkles doesn't discriminate.

St Tiggywinkles also has the world's first and only hedgehog museum, featuring every imaginable cultural reference to our spiky friends.

One of the staff, a very pleasant lady, asked if we'd seen any hedgehogs whilst out in the visitors centre. I told her we'd only seen those through the windows of the nursery, where we'd seen babies and juveniles like the one I brought in being weighed by a nurse. They were very cute, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos. We were then taken outside to see one of the permanent hedgehog residents at Tiggywinkles - this is the chap in the next two photos and the one at the beginning of this blog post.

It is believed that this poor hog had suffered some kind of head injury as his right eye was visibly bulging. He seemed very relaxed whilst being held, and it was an honour to meet him!

So, what started as an emergency visit to a wildlife hospital turned out to be a very entertaining day out. All the staff we met seemed very friendly and are obviously all animal lovers and dedicated to helping animals. They are a fantastic organisation! If you get the chance to visit, do so, and if you are able, please help them with a donation.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A little hog comes to visit

Here's a new visitor to the garden - or at least one that I haven't seen before.

I spied this little hog in the feeding station. I could make out that it was sitting in the
feeding bowl eating "Spike's Dinner" and flinging it around all over the place. I thought I should take a closer look to see how big - or little rather - it actually was.

As you can see, the hog is small enough to sit in the palm of my hand. Which doesn't bode well for surviving the winter. I weighed the hog and found it was 300g. I then put it back outside in the feeding station where it curled up and I put plenty of food down for it. I quickly checked the St Tiggywinkles website to see what weight hogs should be to survive a cold winter (600g) and was just about to ring them when I checked the feeding station again - and it was gone.

I feel annoyed that I let it leave, but to be honest I wasn't really sure what I should be doing. I shall ring Tiggywinkles tomorrow and ask for guidance should I see it again. I hope it returns!

22:48 - MORE... The little hog hadn't gone far. I found it curled up asleep with the dead leaves of a finished courgette plant barely covering it, just a few feet away from the feeding station. The poor little thing is now in a pet carrier with a towel and a blanket for warmth. I've put some food and water in the pet carrier for it. It's currently sleeping, and I'm a little concerned about it. I tried a couple of phone numbers - both Tiggywinkles and a hedgehog carer in Oxfordshire, but neither were answering. I'll try again in the morning, if the poor little thing makes it through the night.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The return of You Know Who...?

Although not 100% certain, I'm pretty sure that this visitor at approx 8:50pm tonight was our friend Scratchy.

Hedgehog visits seem to be getting fewer and farther between. Although I am still seeing two or three hogs each night, these last couple of mornings there has been food left over uneaten.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Tuesday night visitor

Here's a couple of sneaky photos of tonight's first visitor taken through the cat-flap!