Friday, 8 August 2008

Comings and goings

There has been plenty going on in my garden recently but with the school holidays there has also been plenty going on elsewhere too! Time at the PC has been short and sweet so I do apologise for not answering all my mail and comments or visiting my favourite blogs – I will soon. Oh… and I have so much I could post on too.

Hedgehog visits to gardens at the moment are just so special when you see them that I just have to start with them! This post is entirely dedicated to this wonderful night time visitor. It has seen a decline in numbers here in the UK in recent years which is most likely due to loss of habitat.

The photos above were taken last night and I do believe this is a new visitor to my garden by its timid behaviour. I don't usually put out sunflower hearts but when some spilt I added a few more on the ground. This hedghog was very keen on them and didn't even look for any other food. I put more out tonight and guess what - this hog came back for them again. He did go to the entrance of the feeding box but it didn't go in.


So how do you know if a hedgehog is visiting your garden? Well, perhaps you could look out for its droppings in your borders, lawn or garden paths. They are usually black as you can see in the photo above and much larger in size than those of garden birds. I haven’t seen any hedgehog droppings since the end of May but even so at the moment I do have regular hedgehog visits to my garden. I’ve seen and heard them! I know my regular visitors from America won't see or hear this so this post is for you too.

What noise does a hedgehog make? If you were to stand quite still outside on a quiet evening once it gets dark you might hear them shuffling through dried leaves, grasses, ground cover plants and shrubs. You might also hear them make a snorting sound as they forage for food. I will be honest here and say I have never heard this in my garden - so far. However, they can also make a much, much louder noise.

What is the loud noise a hedgehog makes? One evening last week I went outside and completely stopped in my tracks. Initially I didn’t associate the loud scrapping noise at all with the two hedgehogs I eventually noticed in my garden. I walked quite close to them. To my surprise it was coming from the larger of the two hedgehogs – I think. My first thoughts were that it was being territorial and was warning off the smaller hedgehog that regularly visits my feeding station. I was expecting a fight. Oops… I was well of the mark there!

Since then, I have discovered it was more than likely that a male hedgehog was attempting to mate. Now, I have to say I am not sure which one was which now. The larger hedgehog repeatedly took a few steps backwards and forwards towards the smaller one from the corner edge of my house. The smaller hedgehog moved around the larger one before finally walking away into the night. It seems that this behaviour can sometimes last hours - without success as the female hedgehog looses interest and leaves. A cheeky comment is so very tempting here!! Anyway moving swiftly on I wonder if the female was the smaller hedgehog? Oh… I really wish I had gone in for my video camera that night. Since then I have been watching and listening but alas no sightings – but hey I’ve a few more videos and photos to share.




What about a feeding station? Oh… I have to say that I have found this a great way to feed and see hedgehogs. I love to watch them walk in it especially on a wet, windy or cold night. I have made mine by turning an almost clear plastic storage box upside down. I cut out an entrance at one end (13cm x 13cm). I have a standard double pet dish with crushed peanuts and sultanas in one side and water in the other. The dish is positioned opposite the entrance. I also have a second dish and on dry nights I put it nearby so we can get a better view of them outside too.

Where to put a feeding station? Mm… I have put mine near my back door where I first saw them visit. It seems to have worked for me. I have noticed that they do appear to remember where the food is and go straight there. I have also experimented by putting food nearby on the ground outside the feeding station. I have a basic infra red camera fixed to an old tripod which I position around my garden and we have watched these visits. I have noticed that although there is food outside the feeding station the hedgehogs will often follow the edges of my house wall and go straight in the box and not bother looking outside. I guess it probably feels safer in there.




How do you get the hedgehog to go in a feeding station? My method is really pretty simple. I just leave a little trail of food outside and they eventually follow it in. There are at least two that visit mine but just in case any other hedgehogs pass by one evening I still put a trail outside the entrance. If the hedgehogs don’t take this food by morning the blackbirds, dunnocks and robins will. The trail I usually make is less than shown in the video above. There was a little wind that night and the skins of the peanut blew about and for a while one stuck to the hedgehog’s nose! I love the way it slide along the ground trying to get rid of it.


What do hedgehogs like to eat? Insects, beetles, worms, slugs and snails are most likely to be what brings the hedgehogs to forage for food in our gardens but water may attract them too. Also I would suggest that if you have hanging feeders for birds it is quite likely that peanuts and sunflower hearts that drop on the ground below may also attract them. However, the slugs too are also attracted to the sunflower hearts as you can see from the photo above taken last night!

What food can you put out for hedgehogs? Well, they do enjoy meat based dog and cat food however in my garden I have continued to put out the foods that I first discovered them feeding on – sultanas and peanuts (not salted). I did try dried dog food and dried hedgehog mixes last year but they weren’t too interested in them. However, recently I put out some pieces of broken and whole digestive biscuits and they have been popular too with both the hedghogs and slugs!




Mm… now for a moment let’s go back to the end of May for the next video. There is an interesting story behind this one which I mislaid until recently. I had placed a hanging lantern-style bird feeder on the ground under my small Acer tree after Starlings had practically emptied it of live mini mealworms in a few hours. This feeder was put out to help our single Blue tit Mum feed her chicks. There were mealworms left at the very bottom as the starlings couldn’t get at them. I thought perhaps the smaller beaks of dunnocks could try so I put it on the ground where they looked for food.




What I didn’t expect to see at the feeder was the nose of a hedgehog trying to get in it! I was alerted to the noise it was making outside my window as it knocked it over and pushed it along the ground. The feeder rolled a number of times before it jammed against a small rock. It was completely unbothered by my presence with the video camera. It almost licked the paving clean! Clearly these mini mealworms were tasty enough to warrant a challenge on this feeder.

Watching the wildlife in my garden has been a challenge for me too! In order to post about my videos and photos it often requires some research first. For the last week or so I have been collecting pieces of video and photos. I have also been most surprised by what I have seen and heard. The next photo is no exception.


I originally thought the hedgehog above had sunflower hearts in its spines until I looked closer. Then I remembered something I had read on another website about hedgehogs spitting on themselves:

"Yes, hedgehogs do spit on themselves, but nobody really knows why. Hedgehogs will lick a rock or a piece of wood to start the saliva flowing. Then they swing their heads back and forth, spitting freely. Hedgehogs use their tongues to coat their spines with the spit. This startling behavior may continue for twenty minutes.Some animal experts have ideas about the spitting. Some say the saliva the hedgehog produces may drive away predators. Others believe it attracts hedgehogs during the mating season. Still others say the saliva works against parasites (PAR uh syts)—usually ticks, fleas, or small worms—that feed on a hedgehog’s body."

Incredibly I had just taken a photo of spittle on a hedgehog! I really must say once again that in writing this online diary I have discovered some fascinating facts about what goes on in my garden. I am now certain we have two smaller hedgehogs taking the food I put out and at least one larger one. I wonder what the chances are of seeing very young hoglets at some point. I'll finish off this post with photos of the smaller hedgehog (that enjoys the sunflower hearts) during its visit tonight.


Wishing you a great weekend in the garden. We have an interesting job to do this weekend so fingers crossed the rain stays away for a little while.

All photos and videos above were taken in my garden. The photos were all taken through a window with outside lights on. I also used the manual focus setting on my camera to reduce the time the flash was used.

11 comments:

Debbie said...

Shirl, love all the videos. I shared them with my 9yo, who is a huge animal lover. We don't have hedgehogs here in the US, so it was a treat for him to see the little guys.

Thanks so much for sharing.

kompoStella said...

yes, thank you so much for sharing!i miss the hedgehogs from my childhood; they are so special and cute.
i think they are generally in decline all over Europe :-( one problem apart from the disappearing habitats is that many people will (from mistaken care) feed them milk, which will ruin their stomachs...
nice photos and fun videos!

Mike - Fenphotography said...

Great and interesting post Shirl, the photos and videos are quality, TFS. Mike.

garden girl said...

Shirl, I really enjoyed all your hedgehog photos and videos. They are very entertaining little creatures, and so cute. I can understand why you love them. And any critter that eats slugs is alright by me!

Good luck with your project this weekend.

Barbara said...

Great and interesting post.The years before I only noticed the hedgehogs in our garden when hearing their typical "noise". But at the moment they must be somewhere else, there aren't any traces. But I'm sure in autumn, they will be back for their winter rest.

Karen said...

Shirl, I do love reading and watching all of your posts! Thanks so much!

shirl said...

Hi there Debbie, kompostella, Mike, Garden girl, Barbara and Karen :-)

Debbie – You are most welcome. I am thrilled that you shared my hedgehog videos with your son! That’s what makes writing this blog worthwhile!! Have a great week :-)

Kompostella – Once again, you are most welcome! Yes, I have read that feeding milk is bad for hedgehogs. Another problems for them is bonfires at the end of the season when people tidy up their gardens. Thanks, I was pleased with the photos and I always have fun with my videos – especially the hedghogs! Have a great week :-)

Mike – Thank-you! You are too kind – I’d love to see how you would capture photos of the hedgehog. Your bird and fox shots are outstanding and I’d recommend people to visit your site! Have a great week :-)

Garden girl – Yes, the hedgehog is the gardener’s friend indeed. We feel quite privileged that we can see it visiting our garden in the evening. I do wonder if it listens for me putting food out. It often visits not long after. Have a great week :-)

Barbara – Thank-you! Yes, I was wondering if you had another hedghog family in your garage again this year. I hope they return in the Autumn. Have a great week :-)

Karen – Thank-you for saying so! I am absolutely delighted I can share these visits in my garden. Have a great week :-)

spookydragonfly said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this hedgehog post...interesting, and great photos! Thanks!

Jane said...

Thanks for the hedgehog update. As I've got foxes and badgers visiting at night I've only seen my hedgehog once or twice all year. Last year one of the badgers killed a hedgehog in our front garden (not a pretty sight). I love the badgers but I wish the hedgehogs were around more... they are lovely creatures (as your pictures and videos show). Didn't know about the spitting (weird). Oh well you learn something new each day! Hope you managed to do your "interesting" job in the garden at the weekend... although our weather was awful!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Spitting hedgehogs, who knew? ;-) It's quite a little hedgehog saga you've going on here. Loved the vids and the music you have chosen for them usually crack me up. It does take a bit of research to write a blog about nature and some of its inhabitants. And it takes up quite a lot of time too but this was time well spend Shirl, thanks for this lovely post. Today I (finally!!) had the time to do it justice.

shirl said...

Hi there spookydragonfly, Jane and Yolanda :-)

spookydragonfly – Thank-you, I have found the hedgehog more interesting with every visit it makes. Have a great weekend :-D

Jane – You’re welcome! Yes, I hadn’t realised until recently that hedgehogs were prey for badgers. Fortunately I don’t think there is any chance of a badger killing the hedgehogs in my garden – that must have been awful to see. That is nature though I suppose. I know how much you enjoy the badgers and foxes too. Yeh… I couldn’t believe the whole spitting thing myself and to see it after on my photo was an even bigger surprise! Oh yes… the interesting job is now complete and up an running!! Have a great weekend :-D

Yolanda – Well, I certainly didn’t either and to catch it in a photo after just reading about it was spookily weird! Yes, I too have a giggle or two as I edit and match music in my hedgehog videos. They just are just so country music!! Yes, it is a tricky balance writing about nature when I am still learning all the time. Sometimes I just want to post the moment something happens but if it is new to me I want to understand more first rather than update a post later. Yes, I always feel the time is well spent and try to do these special images justice. Glad you made it back and now I must pop over to see if the weather has had enough breaks for you to complete your long border! Have a great weekend :-D