Thursday, 28 May 2009

A Welsh Woodpecker

I'm at my parents' house in Pembrokeshire for a few days (don't worry, the hedgehogs are still being fed nightly back at home), and have brought my wildlife camera with me. Unfortunately I don't think hedgehogs are very common in this part of Wales (too many badgers perhaps?), but I did manage to get a minute of footage of this Greater Spotted Woodpecker feeding on the peanuts in the hanger on the tree in my parents' garden this afternoon.

Unfortunately the only place I could position the camera on the tree was facing into the sun, so the picture looks drained of colour.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Tuesday night hedgehog video

Compilation of clips of hedgehogs feeding in the garden, betweem 10pm and midnight, Tuesday 26 May 2009. I'm sending this one to BBC's Springwatch.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Hog in a box

Here's a photo of a hog in the feeding station, taken just a few moments ago as I write this. He (or she) appears to be sitting in one of the food bowls!

A Gaggle of Canada Geese and Goslings

Please forgive another non-hedgehog post, but I just wanted to share with you these images of Canada geese and their goslings that I saw whilst on my bike ride along the banks of the Thames river this morning.

And here's a video:

By the way, the coots have left their nest at Folly Bridge now too.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hedgehogs on a Sunday night

The hedgehogs seem to be getting used to the feeding station, although tonight from the start I put two bowls of food out - one inside and one outside of the box.

Note also a cameo appearance from a neighbour's black cat, who thankfully doesn't interfere with the hogs. I'm happy to have that cat in the garden so long as it keeps a certain other visitor away. (See last weekend's videos!)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Saturday night hedgehog movie - introducing the hedgehog feeding station

After watching this footage, I'm still undecided about the success of the hedgehog feeding station. A couple of the hogs didn't seem to realise that they were supposed to go inside it and just sniffed around outside looking for food, whilst others had no problems at all about going inside. After a while I put some mealworms around the entrance to entice hogs inside, and later on I moved one of the foodbowls inside nearer to the entrance. It didn't seem to make a lot of difference.

The weird thing is that even though hogs were going in the box, not much food was actually eaten. I wonder if it was a sense of mistrust, perhaps of things not being as they should be. Perhaps hogs don't like change.

Notice also the strange way in which the first hog inside the box acts. It looks like its being crashed into by another hog, but it is alone in the box! I wonder if it caught sight of its reflection and gave itself a scare.

On the positive side, I was pleased to note that the camera sees nicely into the inside of the feeding station. I was worried the infrared was going to bounce back off it and it would just appear as a white opaque box.

Hedgehog feeding station

This afternoon I have made a hedgehog feeding station from this plastic container (£4.50 from Wilkinsons), into which I have made a doorway in one end. I have put layers of hard-wearing weather resistant tape around the doorway so as to protect the hogs from any sharp edges. The tape cost £1.19 - also from Wilkinsons - so that's a hedgehog feeding station costing a grand total of £5.69.

So, why the feeding station, you may well ask. The hogs have been feeding in my garden for a year now perfectly happily and unmolested. Feeding stations are often used so hedgehogs can feed safely whilst cats, dogs, foxes and other animals can't get to the food.

In my case the problem arises on occasions when I'm out for the evening and need to put food out for the hogs earlier than I would normally do so. Usually I only put food out when it gets dark; if I have to put it out earlier - and bear in mind I usually feed our hogs on mealworms and peanuts - the birds come down and eat it all.

Now I realise that birds can easily get into the feeding station, unless it's something like a big fat woodpigeon, but I'm hoping that the food being in a box is going to be a deterrent. However, birds can be remarkably clever and they may figure out after a while what they've got to do.

All I can do is to try. I'm going to put the feeding station out soon and see what happens. There will be two things to watch for: 1) that the birds don't go in the box and eat the food, and 2) that the hogs DO go into the box to eat the food!

If the birds do figure it out quickly, the other solution would be to switch to putting cat food down for the hogs when using the feeding station. That would be one solution, although I know my hogs far prefer mealworms to catfood.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Don't forget the hogs!

I'd been out all day and when I got home I crashed in front of the telly and got the laptop out to check a few things online. I was so tired I hadn't noticed how late it was getting until suddenly at 10:30 it occured to me "I haven't put any food out for the hogs!"

I felt so guilty. I immediately leapt up and dashed out into the garden to dispense mealworms into feeding bowls. As soon as I had done this, I saw a hedgehog running across the lawn towards the nearest bowl. I was standing in plain view on the garden patio and with the back door wide open and light spilling out. This hog obviously didn't care. It just wanted feeding!

I also get the impression that they wait just out of sight for me to put food down for them. Often they are feeding within minutes of me having filled a bowl with food. However, they usually wait until I'm out of sight before making an appearance.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Wednesday night hedgehog movie

Here's what the hogs were up to tonight, rough behaviour included. After a scene fade at the 1:40 mark, we see a hog right itself after lying on its side. We don't see how it got to be on its side, but a good guess is that it was pushed over by another hog.

Return to Folly Bridge but the swans have flown...

It's been nearly a week since I've been to Oxford, and I was itching to visit again to see if the swans' eggs had hatched in the swans' nest near Folly Bridge. Here, pictured above, is the scene that greeted me today. An empty nest. The swans have gone - and I assume have taken their cygnets with them. I was really disappointed not to get to see the babies.

However, the coots in the next door nest are still there, and their egg(s) have hatched too! In the above picture we can just make out a chick (with a red beak) being fed.

Here's another new family out for a swim on the Thames.

At Isley Lock there were squadrons of ducks and geese to be seen, and watching these lovely fluffy-looking goslings almost made up for having missed seeing the cygnets.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Observations and thoughts on hedgehog behaviour

Last night I was going to put the infrared motion-sensor camera out, but the battery needed charging and I'd left it too late to do anything about it. I decided to take my regular digital camera and sit very quietly in the garden while it was getting dark and wait for the hedgehogs to appear.

The first hedgehog (pictured above) put in an appearance after I'd been waiting for say 20 minutes. It didn't seem to notice me, but it did go to the further away one of two food bowls that I'd put out that night. I think perhaps it realised I was there but so long as I wasn't going to make any sudden moves it was prepared to tolerate my being there. It certainly didn't seem bothered at all by the camera flash when I took a few photos.

A second (and possibly a third) made tentative appearances but ran away and hid having spotted me.

Eventually, the second hedgehog decided it wanted to join in the feeding and approached the first hedgehog at the furthermost feeding bowl (pictured above). Hedgehog number one (at the bottom of these pictures) started backing away all the while making the familiar snuffling sound.

As hedgehog #1 was backing away (towards me, as it happened) I suddenly realised I could smell something and saw that the hog had done a poo. Now, I don't think it did this out of fear. I got the impression that this was more of a parting shot, a way of saying, "Up yours, buddy!"

Hog #1 then turned around and ran onto the grass and into the hedge to my right, giving a couple of disgruntled-sounding snorts as it exited.

Here above we see hog #2 at the foodbowl. Note that all the mealworms have been eaten already and it's mainly just the peanuts that are left. It seems daft that these two hogs were falling out over one food bowl when I'd put two bowls of food out, but perhaps the other bowl was too close to where I was sitting for comfort.

Hog #1 came back out of the hedge after a few minutes and found some mealworms I had scattered on the grass and began tucking in, eating very noisily as hedgehogs do.

I think hedgehog #2 realised that #1 had better pickings, and suddenly ran towards #1 and violently butted into it (in the same manner as we have already seen in Saturday night's hog videos). At this point I went over to get some close-up photos which caused both hogs to curl up into balls. (At least it stopped the violent behaviour).

I had previously thought that the hedgehog snuffling noise was made when hogs are mating, or as a prelude to mating, and maybe this is true, but it also seems that a hedgehog will make a snuffling noise to ward off an aggressor. For a while I had thought that the aggressor was the one making the noise, but this does not seem to be the case.

I haven't quite worked out the aggressive behaviour. In these recent instances it seems to be about food and not wanting to share it with another, but there have been plenty of instances in the past when I have seen two or three hedgehogs all eating from the same bowl in apparent harmony.

Perhaps it is a gender thing, two males for example with one being the dominant male, but this would imply that hedgehogs were animals living in social groups or packs, and from what I've read about them they are solitary living creatures.

I think there is a lot more to hedgehogs than meets the eye. They certainly aren't the placid easy-going creatures that most people think they are.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Shocking behaviour on a Saturday Night

I've been up until 2:30 Sunday morning editing together the hedgehog footage from Saturday night. I got some great clips, but I'd never realised before that hedgehogs could be so violent towards one another. I'll let you see for yourselves in the following three movies:

Did you spot the unwelcome visitor at around 1:37 in the third installment? No, it wasn't a spineless long-tailed hedgehog! Definitely time to get a new cat, I think.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Friday night's hedgehog movie

Watch the way the first hog reacts and backs away when the second hog makes its appearance. Is this a passive/aggressive thing going on, or is it just the way they behave when mating, perhaps? I can imagine there were lots of snuffling noises going on.

(Recorded between 21:30 and 23:00 tonight).

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A drizzly Thursday night

I didn't put the infrared wildlife camera out tonight as the weather wasn't too good. I know the camera is waterproof, but that wouldn't stop the lens collecting water drops on it.

However, I did put food out for the hedgehogs (as always) and here we see a pair eating from the same bowl. (I took this photo with flash through the glass of the back window and so the colour might look a little odd).

Back at Folly Bridge in Oxford...

...the mother swan is still incubating her eggs. All was calm when I took these photos at around noon, but when I passed by earlier in the morning, just before 9:30, things weren't so quiet. Both swans seemed quite perturbed as a small flock of geese had gatecrashed the scene and were trying to steal some of the nesting material.

I guess things were sorted out, because both swans seemed quite unflustered at midday. Here we see Daddy swan looking on from his station on the bank.

Here is another view of the nest in which we can also see the swans' next door neighbours, the coots in their nest.

I can't guarantee that I'm going to be passing by this spot any time soon, so don't know if I'll be able to get photos of the cygnets when they hatch. I'd dearly like to but am unsure if circumstances will allow.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

It's been busy in the garden this Tuesday night!

Witness this compilation video shot between 22:00 and 23:00 tonight on an infrared camera with motion detector:

Watch those hogs go!

Another windy night

It's been particulary windy the past few nights. I've experimented with putting the hedgehogs' food bowls in amongst the flowerpots so that they are protected from the wind and the mealworms aren't blown all away. The hogs would probably still find the mealworms anyway, they have very sensitive noses!

I was putting the infrared camera out again tonight to try to capture some more video footage of our spiky friends, and I noticed this little hog pictured above was already present, so I grabbed my regular camera and took this quick picture.

Swans' nest in the heart of Oxford

Hedgehogs are always going to be stars of the show on this blog, but I've decided that I'm going to include photos of other local wildlife once in a while.

This swan - one of a pair - has made its nest on the Thames right next to Folly Bridge, practically in the centre of Oxford. I often pass this way to and from the office and often stop to see how the swans are getting on - as do many other people - there was a small crowd of onlookers when I took this photo on Monday evening. A couple of weeks ago I got a glimpse of the eggs as the swan was rearranging itself on the nest. I hadn't realised swans' eggs were so big. I wonder when they are due to hatch?

Monday, 11 May 2009

Say NO to slug pellets!

ABOVE: I took this photo last week through the backdoor window (5 May 2009)

This weekend I spent quite some time out in the garden planting out some of my sunflowers. Most of them I'd put into containers, but not having enough pots and troughs I decided I had to plant some straight into the ground (having first put some compost down, of course).

The trouble with planting sunflowers straight into the ground is that the slugs love 'em, and are adept at destroying them.

I've put a slug-repellent gel on the ground around the plants as I refuse to use slug pellets. Slug pellets are bad news and should be banned! They are poisonous to the slugs (obviously), but the big problem is that our friend the hedgehog comes along, eats the poisoned slug and then gets poisoned itself. Which we do not want.

So please do not use slug pellets, use hedgehog-friendly slug repellent only, and pass the message on!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Saturday night hedgehog action

Some of the best footage from my first night's experiments with the infrared wildlife camera.

Here we see a hedgehog drinking, eating and having a little wander around.

I didn't include the footage of two hedgehogs mating (too close to the camera - all you can see is a big white spiky silhouette), and neither did I include the footage of the hedgehog who gets too close to the camera and knocks it over.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Getting started with the infrared wildlife camera

I realise that this video is far from perfect, but I've only today just started experimenting with the infrared wildlife camera and I'm still in the early learning stages. I still need to work out distances, positioning the camera so that it is pointing in the desired direction, avoiding large objects that reflect back the light (e.g. the large plant pots), but it's still quite a nice little video of a hedgehog munching on some mealworms.

I'm thinking that perhaps I should return to putting mealworms directly onto the ground as that way we won't have videos of hedgehogs with their snouts buried in a bowl.

Here's another video featuring a speedy hedgehog. He does disappear for a few seconds - see if you can predict when he's about to re-appear!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Another hog with a (minor) injury

This hog was out on the patio making the trademark snuffling noises and chasing around after a much bigger hog. It wasn't until I looked at the photo afterwards that I noticed the poor hog had a wound on its head. Hopefully it's something that will clear up naturally. It's most likely where a tick has been gorging itself on the hedgehog's blood, had its fill and fallen off. (Yeah, gross, I know).

This might be the last colour photo for a while. We're going black and white soon - but that's a GOOD thing. My wildlife camera has arrived. It's got a motion detector and is infrared, so that means I can get pictures of the hogs without disturbing them and without using the flash. I'm going to experiment with it this weekend so stay tuned for even more hog photographs and maybe a movie or two!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Scratch that itch, little hog!

Shortly before I took this picture, this hog was having one hell of a good scratch, first with one hind leg and then the other. I don't think people really appreciate how long a hedgehog's legs are, they just seem to scurry along as if on wheels, but beneath the "skirt" of skin and spines that surrounds their body they have reasonably long legs.

So, this poor hog probably has fleas, but contrary to popular belief not all hedgehogs are fleabags, no more than all cats or all dogs are.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Lots of snuffling happening on a Sunday night

You should have heard the noise coming from this little fellow for about 10 minutes before I went outside to replenish the feed bowls. There was some serious snuffling going on. (By the way, the sweeping brush is leaning against the wall - I am not using it to "sweep" along the hog, which is what it might look like in the photo!)

Here's a picture I took a few minutes earlier from my bedroom window and although the quality is poor is illustrates quite nicely what all the snuffling noises were about. There was another hog! I think the snuffling is all part of some mating ritual. However the second hog had already gone by the time that I ventured out. I think perhaps the noisy hog was supposed to follow, but perhaps he's shy (I'm assuming that it's the male that makes all the noise, you'll notice).

Hedgehog taking up residence on the patio?

Again this night (that is, Saturday night), we seem to have a resident hedgehog on the patio under the garden table and behind the growbags and bags of compost. I'm not sure if it's the same one as on previous occasions, nor do I know why it seems content to stay there for so long.

Earlier in the evening when I went out into the garden I heard lots of snuffling noises and when I looked in the favourite spot beneath the patio table I saw there were two hedgehogs circling one another. I decided to make myself scarce and let them have some privacy.

But often it's a lone hedgehog sitting on the patio beneath the table. I wonder if he - or she - is patiently waiting for a potential mate to come along, or if it is waiting for me to come back outside and put some more mealworms down in the feeding bowl.

I noticed this hog (pictured) at quarter past midnight and it very patiently let me take a few photos of it. I always feel a bit guilty about using flash photography on the hogs, although it doesn't really seem to bother or scare them. Nevertheless I will be happier once my new infrared wildlife camera, which is on order, has arrived and I'll be able to get photos and video footage without going out into the garden and disturbing the hogs.

I thanked this hog for letting me take its picture with a handful of mealworms, which it seemed quite happy with as I could hear from its noisy munching afterwards.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Friday night's hedgehoggy visitor

This funny little hog seemed to be hanging around the patio most of the night. I think it ate more that its fair share of mealworms too!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Gardeners issued hedgehogs alert

Here's an article from (Wednesday 29th April 2009) which raises some important issues that anyone who's been having problems with rats should bear in mind.

Gardeners issued hedgehogs alert

By Richard Catton

GARDENERS and allotment keepers are being asked to consider the danger to hedgehogs when using rat traps.

The plea comes after an animal had to be put down last week when its leg became badly infected after being caught in one of the traps, which are now widely available to shoppers in garden centres and hardware stores.

Dr Toni Bunnell, who runs a hedgehog sanctuary in Holgate, York, says she knew of two cases in the past week where hedgehogs have been seriously injured by the traps.

“There’s been an increase in people using rat traps recently,” she said. “Maybe people are just keener to get rid of them now, but there’s a new type of rat trap available now which is easier to set. The old ones were not easy to use without injuring your fingers.”

Dr Bunnell has seen the injuries which can be caused to larger animals who stray close to the traps.

She said: “I had one hedgehog brought in – it crushed its leg in a trap and then dragged the trap round for a few days and the leg became infected. It couldn’t be saved. They just can’t survive with an injured leg.”

Another hedgehog was taken to a vet used by Dr Bunnell, with a similar injury, and staff there are hoping it will make a recovery.

Instead of using the traps, which use powerful serrated jaws to crush the rats, Dr Bunnell said the safest ways to eliminate the vermin, without causing injury to other animals, is to lay poison in a tunnel which other animals or birds don’t have access to.

“Don’t even put it under a shed because everything goes under sheds,” she said. “It has to be encased somewhere that nothing else can get to, other than a rat.”

European hedgehogs are becoming increasingly rare in the UK and are listed as a species of conservation concern under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. They also have partial protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and it is illegal to trap them or kill them without a licence.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is a legal requirement for anyone setting a trap to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to protected wildlife.

“This means that a trap designed to catch rats should be placed undercover where it can trap only the intended species, and not be set out in the open.”