Thursday, 19 August 2010

Are hedgehogs still visiting?

For sometime now I have wondered this. At this time of year with the garden full of lush foliage the reality is that hedgehogs are very well camouflaged. Being predominately brown in colour they blend in beautifully with any exposed soil below plants.

During the day we can see that our garden plants attract many insects as they hover and flit above them. As day turns to night the evening shift at ground level is not as welcome! Hedgehogs are our nightshift garden helpers being attracted to the army of foliage feasters on leaves such as hostas.

Yep… the garden slug dines on the hostas in our garden beds as we sleep in ours. However, in the cycle of our natural world, they in turn become a meal for the hedgehog. So how can we tell if our garden slug offer of ‘eat all you can for free’ gets any takers?

Let me reintroduce you to Dora, my daughter’s guinea pig seen two nights ago drinking from her water bottle...




Lol… no, she didn’t tell me ;-) However, back in August 2007 when I went out one evening after dark to put down the cover on her hutch (located at my back door) I nearly stood on one! That was my first sighting. So Dora, and her then companion Eliza, indirectly introduced me to my first 'know of' hedgehog visitors.



So how do you know if hedgehogs visit your garden (if you are in a part of the world that they can)? Well, at a guess if you have lots of plants covering the ground be they neat and tidy or even just long grass then that might make it a possibility.

Add that to bird feeders in your garden with the spill of seed on the ground below and that further adds to your chances. However, being able to see hedgehogs when they visit is a whole different game. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and basically they will wander, eat and nap throughout the night.

For any new visitors to my blog, being completely unfamiliar with this wonderful garden creature back in August 2007 I found myself reading up about them. I was interested in what extra foods I could provide and found they enjoyed dried sultanas, unsalted peanuts (sometimes I crush them), dried and live mealworms.

I have also tried a variety of dried hedgehog mixes bought from shops and even tried dried dog food as suggested by others. However, it always gets left and I only end up throwing it away. I do know cat food is enjoyed by hedgehogs but having a good sized bird population with a variety of species and lots of juveniles at the feeders I don’t want to attract any more than already visit.




After my first hedgehog sightings, I quickly made a feeding station out of a simple (almost transparent) plastic storage box by cutting an entrance 13cm x 13 cm at one end and then turned it upside down. I added a pet dish to the end away from the entrance and placed this near my back door where the hedgehog had been first spotted. This was a great success and I especially liked to see it being used on wet nights.

You can imagine my excitement after seeing the image above the next morning when I looked out my window. This was clear evidence that there had been some hedgehog activity… the biggest clues being the messy state they left things in and droppings! Now, I knew what the dropping looked like I could tell if hedgehogs had passed through my garden ;-)

If you were considering setting up a hedgehog feeding station of any kind I would suggest you locate it along the edge of some thing like a house wall or fence. I’d also strongly suggest you positioned it so you can see the hedgehog using it from a window. They are fascinating to watch. I found myself trying to film them with my video camera before eventually moving on to night cams out in my garden.




This evidence of hedgehog droppings has been missing from my garden this Spring/Summer. I have been considering if perhaps the guinea pig hutch at my back door (there April-October) which made me aware of hedgehogs in my garden are now keeping them away. Could the new family in the bottom floor be too noisy perhaps?

After the humble beginnings of a plastic box feeding station I converted the original plastic single storey guinea pig/rabbit hutch into a larger feeding station with an area for hedgehogs to have a night time nap too. I renamed it Hedgehog Manor.

This worked well but with limited space at my back door it was relocated to a position under my Pergola where it could remain all year round. Given a bit of a makeover of a green roof to make it blend to more with the garden the waiting game began. I have waited, filled up the feeding dishes, refreshed the water and waited. Our last sightings were in March.

The birds found this secret hideaway and the food has not gone to waste ;-) I knew relocating a feeding area was going to be risky. On the positive side, after the snowfall of last winter, this will make a good covered bird feeding area over the winter. I have consoled myself with that.

For new blog visitors, my daughter made me a Hedgehog House (school exam project) for hedgehogs to hibernate in. I put an IR camera in it and secretly hoped we might see a Mum raise her family in it this summer. Alas, no visitors there this year either. I tried different locations too. On the positive side there, I had a camera I could now relocate to inside Hedgehog Manor...






Lol… yes two nights ago when I was capturing photos late in the evening (for this post) I did get my fourth sighting of activity inside Hedgehog Manor! Local cat, Edmund, looked like he was making his first visit… as explored all the way right to his nose at the camera!

Mmm... I have a feeling Edmund and perhaps other passing cats have been interested around the Manor for the past week at least. Can you guess? Yep… sighting number three inside the Manor was a little mouse spotted running around and hiding under the food dish. So the locals are visiting?

Yep… sightings number two and one were slugs and the daddy longlegs! I can’t make them out but I guess there are spiders too. Argh…. both give me the shivers to watch with the slugs going up and down the inside walls and across the food dishes. Some have been seen in pairs too… perhaps mating but I couldn’t watch.

The daddy long legs just stretch out over everything. Can’t be sure, but a slug was seen last night with a daddy long legs then… would slugs eat them? I shivered for a while at the thought.

Actually, my numbers are way wrong now as last night I saw my first snail crawl up the inside wall of Hedgehog Manor too. Yes, lovely too… not! I nearly stood on it as I went out in the dark with a torch to add some dried mealworms to the dish.

The wonderful thing for me about writing blog posts (I have said this before) is that you don’t know where they will lead you. Apologies once again for chatting on… I did plan this to be more of a photo blog with brief captions to tell the story of gardenwatching with a particular message for its ending… patience.



I have really missed seeing the hedgehogs visit my garden since March. I wanted to give tips and hope for others that they may be able to see them too. One huge tip I was going to give was that of a dish of water. In areas of drought that may just be a life saver for hedgehogs when supplies of slugs will have been short too.



Another observation I have made about hedgehogs visiting my garden is that they seem to happily follow edges. In previous years I could work out the routes they took around my garden and would leave food/cameras there with success.



I began to consider my new pond area with its half built wall and large stones running the length of a strip of my hedge. This area has changed slowly over the summer so perhaps this has made following a route through it difficult for passing hedgehogs. However, once completed this area will indeed be a landmark for them.

Now… what are the chances of writing a long post like this and it all been wiped out with…


Please note there is added background music in this video.


In absolute honesty this is for real! Last night at just after 10.30pm I was about to switch the PC off for a while to watch something on the television with OH (with plans to come back to writing this post). I turned to look at the monitor and couldn’t believe my eyes…. I was watching my first sighting of a hedgehog dining inside Hedgehog Manor.

What incredible timing. Needless to say I didn’t watch the television screen then. I've been waiting a while to see this. I write a ‘don’t give up’ post on gardenwatching and the wait is over…. Fantastic!!! I’m almost tempted to change the title of this post now but I won’t. What incredible timing indeed :-)






The images above show the hedgehog searching into the dish of food. Dried mealworms had been there the previous night so I guessed it may be looking for them. As mentioned above I went out and added some more.

I was lucky enough to see this hedgehog return for a helping of seconds last night. It was easy to recognise as unfortunately it has rather a lot of ticks on it. You can see the white dots about its face and along the ear but the video shows more on its body too. Poor thing.

So that’s us, part-time blogging break for the summer over now. Got lots of stories, but just have to find a quicker way of telling them… for you and me! Latest garden mystery is a new bird visitor… only fleeting and ID is tricky. In the plant world I have another flowering out of season... a Hellebore. We've been and about at Reserves and on Garden Visits and look forward to sharing them too.

Looking forward now to catching up with everyone. Wishing you all a good weekend :-D


Regular readers will perhaps have noticed I have put copyright on my images. There’s a story there which I’ll keep for another time.

15 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I sometimes with we had hedgehogs here. What fun it would be to watch for their nightly visits. They would never go without a slug to eat here. UGH... My hostas would appreciate all the help they can get. Have a great weekend yourself. Cheers.

Gardeningbren said...

So lovely to share your delight in seeing the little hedgehog, just when you were about to turn off the camera! Thanks))))

Shame about the ticks...

Midmarsh John said...

That was indeed great timing Shirl. Don't know what is going on with them here. No sightings for four nights in a row which is strange for my normally reliable hogs.

Alice Joyce said...

Wildlife and Scotland ... a winning combination!

Stopping by to leave a quick note, reading about your hedgehog visit on Blotanical, but now following in my reader too.

Steeped in Scotland these days, reading mysteries set in the highlands before sleep;-) Cheers, Alice

aka Bay Area Tendrils / Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

Green Lane Allotments said...

We have hedgehog vistors every night. We have a ground feeding station (it has a roof which keeps food dry) for the birds that prefer to take food at ground level and the hedgehog/s lick it clean every night. We also put out Bakers dog food - dry nibbly bits - and they love crunching that too - they can be heard crunching the biscuits from inside the house. We can watch them from our patio window and so far they have hardly missed a night unless it is really wet when they are probably too busy mopping up slugs or worms or maybe they just don't particularly like wet weather.

I read that whole peanuts could cause damage to hedgehogs jaws so don't put those out but we make sure there is water as after each meal the hedgehogs seem to like a really long drink.

Gigibird said...

I have an extremely popular hedgehog feeding station – an old plastic laundry basket with an entrance hole…which I move about constantly so I don’t get a poo build up! (I have another one in my back garden but that has no cover as the foxes can’t get through)
I feed mine with Butcher’s Tripe dog food, cat biscuits, whole peanuts and mealworms. Occasionally I put out sultanas or raisins too.
I always say to anyone who wishes to have wildlife visitors is to have water available everyday….I have various receptacles to suit all sizes. The most popular watering hole is an old roasting tin which just about every visitor uses to drink from or bathe in.

shirl said...

Hi again Lisa, Bren & John :-)

Lisa, yes I was thinking of you in SW Indiana when I wrote part of this. I am certain you’d enjoy seeing them in your garden. Thanks, will do :-D

Bren, thank-you, I’m delighted you enjoyed this too. Yes, sadly the ticks are a common problem in hedgehogs :-(

John, I honestly can’t believe the timing. Oh gosh… that is strange for your garden. Hope they return tonight. This one here returned tonight. I’ve seen it twice but it seemed to leave quite quickly… I had no mealworms out! Must get some tomorrow to see if that is the attraction :-)

shirl said...

Hi there, Alice what a nice way to look at it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

As you may have noticed I haven’t been as active on Blotanical recently. I see there have been some changes. Must visit over the weekend, unfortunately I seem to have problems viewing etc and my visits get caught short.

Ah… re reading, I hope you have a warm tartan throw to wrap around you for the full highland experience… enjoy :-D

shirl said...

Green Lane, thanks for sharing your feeding station set up. Yes, my ground feeders have been shared with the birds in the past too.

Lol… re the crunching. I have put out bits of digestive biscs and they enjoy that too. They are noisy eaters aren’t they?

Sounds like you’ve a good view to see your visitors. Yep, I don’t find they visit as much when it’s raining either.

Thanks for the info on the whole peanuts. I hadn’t heard that. I had heard that chopped is better for juvs as they can choke on whole ones. Usually I take a rolling pin over mine to break them up a bit. Sometimes I put them in a processor but they can get a bit too small then and the hedgehogs don’t eat them.

Yes, water is the thing. I always have that available in a few places in my garden. Never saw my new visitor drink this time. Thanks for sharing :-)

shirl said...

Hi there, Gigibird thanks for sharing details of your feeding station. Yes, I do remember seeing pics of it on your blog some time back :-)

Lol… ‘poo build up’… not a problem I’ve ever encountered… just the once when I newly discovered they were visiting. I was grateful to have a selection to take some photos ;-)

Thanks for listing the foods you put out and for emphasising the need for water too. I guess your tin is just the right depth to suit all. The large plastic saucer shown above is the most popular in my garden, closely followed by the water running at my small pond. Thanks for sharing :-)

Orchids and Nature said...

By sheer coincidence wee returned home last night and the security lights came on and there at the base of the bird feeder was a large hedgehog feeding on the spilt bird seed, it's the first hedgehog I've seen in the garden for around 3 months.

Orchids and Nature said...

I know that this comment is 2 months late but I've just been catching up on your blog on your wonderful story and record of your Blue Tit family... fabulous.

Marta Ratajszczak said...

Thank you so much for this blog post, I've just stumbled across this when browsing the internet - and this was truly one of the few blog posts to have me completely captivated by the content. I actually found myself thinking about what you were going to do next - and when the cat was filmed in the "hedgehog house", I couldn't stop laughing at the thought of the cat discovering it :)

Truly wonderful, fantastic post - I look forward to reading through your blog now!

shirl said...

Hi again David and Hello Marta :-)

David, that is interesting! It was in August three years ago that we saw our first visits. Maybe where you are in Yorkshire and us in Scotland with evenings getting colder the hedgehogs are coming into gardens now. We haven’t seen any since March. Delighted to hear you enjoyed our nestbox story… we were kept on the edge of seats at the end :-D

Marta, thanks for your generous comment. Lol… yes I considered the cat visits after seeing another looked inside. Since then, I have returned a clear Perspex front (made previously so I could see inside with my night cams). I am delighted to say the current visiting hedgehog is quite happy using his new front door ;-)

Green Lane Allotments said...

We're in Yorkshire and out hedgehogs have been visiting all year so far and as silly as it seems it's warmer now than it was earlier in summer on an evening where we are.