Friday, 10 September 2010

Visitors beware…

“This blog contains way too much chat, photos and video on garden plants, birds and wildlife. It also goes wandering on visits to gardens and nature reserves!

There are cameras and links everywhere… are you brave enough to browse? I hope so :-D”

Under the heading ‘A GARDENWATCH WARNING’ in my sidebar, at present, this is how I have loosely described my blog for new visitors strolling by. Although I was being humorous, regular visitors would very likely agree that a warning is necessary ;-)

However ‘A GARDENWATCH WARNING’ does have a serious twist too. I do hope my blog goes a little way to encourage others to look more closely at the wealth of habitat our gardens can provide for pollinating insects, birds, wildlife and our own well being. As temporary keepers of our gardens we can help keep species from reaching endangered lists and help bring ones back that are on it.

I could chat on at length (as per warning) about this and on the pros and cons of writing a garden blog and the discoveries you could make about your own outdoor space/garden as I have found for myself. Instead I’m just going to share a little (LOL) of what’s been going on in my small Scottish Garden over the last few weeks…



We now have a regular hedgehog visiting our garden again. He is making full use of the facilities on offer too. Above he is seen munching noisily through some dried mealworms I have been putting out for him. This scattering was placed as part of a trail leading up to the hedgehog house my daughter made last year.



Once it gets dark in the evening, we have enjoyed watching the routes Hedgehog ‘Hamish’ has taken - my daughters decided we should name him. I’ve been moving the IR night cam around and discovered that although hedgehogs can climb, the gentle slope of the log roll path was proving a bit tricky for Hamish as you can see above on the left.

The white glow on the right of the photo above is this IR camera picking up the IR of another camera in our converted 'rabbit hutch to hedgehog feeding station'. No light glow is visible to the eye. It’s fun to watch Hamish wander back and forth.



After seeing Hamish struggle with the log roll steps the next day I built an arrangement of stepping stones leading up to the veranda of the hedgehog house where he would be rewarded with... mealworms!

I also added a larger stone at the top which acts almost like a patio… spoilt or what? I also cut back a few stems of my Acuba to help him wander the area and so I could see him with my night camera too.



I sat patiently waiting one night to get photos of Hamish feeding on the house veranda but sitting in the dark it was difficult to catch him in focus. You can see how close the mealworms are to the entrance of the house and yes… he was tempted to wander inside!

Hamish is now regularly using our Hedgehog House for evening naps. I have timed the visits which range from 1-1½ hours from around 10:30pm. He may well take naps there on and off all night but as I don’t use any image capture software I don’t know. All images you see in my blog are ones that I have watched live myself.



Yesterday morning I gently removed the roof to see if he was perhaps in there but I was pretty confident this wasn’t likely. Originally we had a camera in this house and found the hogs only ever made night naps last year when we saw it being used for a brief time. You can see a video of this at the end of this post.

I should say I wouldn’t recommend opening a Hedgehog House if you suspect a hedgehog may be in it. To be honest based on watching visits last year it may be hidden under the hay or leaves inside anyway. That’s one of the reasons I decided to remove the camera from inside ours.

I’m enjoying using the night cam on a tripod or gorrillapod to watch Hamish explore the area around the house. As well as seeing him leave we have also seen him step in...




Eat on the veranda...



Explore the area...



It's great fun trying to predict the routes a hedgehog may take through your garden. Once you know where they go and then put out food and water on a route this will very likely bring them back again. On a serious note for a moment this fun I am having is also helping endangered hedgehogs... win, win :-)

At this time of year it is good that hedgehogs know where to find food for the colder days ahead prior to hibernation especially the young ones. I'm wondering if any other hedgehogs visit my garden... it would be interesting to see Hamish have company for supper inside our feeding station one night!



In daylight hours the photo above shows how our hedgehog feeding station looks. The green roof I planted earlier on in the year has been a great success allowing me to consider keeping it in such a central location of my garden. That’s good news too for Hamish and other passing diners if they come to rely on it.

Note the stone step outside the 13cm x 13cm entrance in the Perspex. I used this as a way to get the Hamish to go inside by putting a trail of mealworms around and on it. That is no longer necessary as he knows there is food inside. Some nights I scatter sultanas and peanuts so others might stop and explore.



Perhaps I should have censored the revealing view in the photo above – apologies if this offends anyone. Hedgehogs seen scratching are most likely to have ticks and it was during this scratching session that we could identify the sex of our regular diner at Hedgehog Manor.



However the next photo above shows Hamish slightly crouched down. He remained very still. We were both taken by surprise this time!

You can see some light outside. I had been feeding our guinea pigs in their hutch. When I finished I walked across and using a torch checked to see if Hamish was inside before I went to get the mealworms out of my shed. I’m guessing… you’re guessing… what happened next ;-)

After dropping down the Perspex front and finding Hamish inside I stayed still a moment. When he didn’t roll into a ball I stretched out for the container of mealworms and without any quick movements gently poured the mealworms into the dishes behind and in front of Hamish. I didn’t refresh the water this time.

After putting the Perspex front up again I went inside to see what happened next. Hamish didn’t move for almost ten minutes… then he moved forward and started munching the mealworms as he had done any other night. Phew... he has continued to visit. Let's see some him in action...



For those that can't view the video above it shows visits Hamish has made both to Hedgehog Manor and back and forth to the Hedgehog house. By flicking a switch inside I am able to switch between cameras and follow what’s going on via my PC monitor which is great fun.

I should also add, that purely for extra entertainment value on an otherwise silent piece of film I add a soundtrack at the editing stage... Hedgehogs are just so Country and Western don't you think ;-)



The camera in Hedgehog Manor will also show colour images too when there is enough light during the day. Birds have been seen visiting then too. It was after encouraging birds to my garden that I considered starting this blog. Unbelievably, I have now seen and identified (a good few with help) some 27 species visiting my small town garden!

If I had just one wish for my blog it would be to successfully show that a garden doesn’t have to be completely wild to attract birds and wildlife. I am a gardener, I love plants and enjoy experimenting with planting schemes. Plants frequently move around my garden… I am well known for not leaving well alone ;-)



For the hearty souls who are still reading this let's take a quick daytime, armchair garden tour of the area that Hamish seen. Firstly, I’d like to show the location of Hedgehog Manor. It is situated almost in the middle of my ‘L’ shaped garden. It is below my Ivy covered Pergola under my Wisteria.



Hedgehog Manor is nestled between a wooden seat/table and the aromatic, evergreen and glossy leaved Choisya Ternata. Let’s now follow the path and walk down to the corner to behind the seat.



Behind me now is the house wall and another straight path to the garden gate. In this crouched view you can see just about make out the Hedgehog House in the border.

I love the curves here and had planned extending this box hedge to give some winter interest and more definition. However this would spoil this camera view at night so the jury is still out on this ;-)



Standing up, you can see that this border sweeps round to a scree type landscape on the left. Looking closely on the right you will see the grey roof of the hedgehog house. I had some young Griselina plants I grew from cuttings so the plan is that I will keep pruning them to screen and protect the house.

After winter losses of Rosemary and Sage here this gave the opportunity for a replant! I was already considering this anyway due to the view changing for my pond build in the background. After raiding another area in my garden I am delighted to see heucheras back here again ;-)



Taking a brief detour walking towards the corner wall of my new pond you can see pockets for wildlife to hide and some sedums planted in crevices. Once again I am thinking on winter interest. Although progress is still very slow I am happy with how this is taking shape.



Back in October last year I spotted the planting of gentians shown above at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Ah… another ‘lost, first love’ plant. A month later I picked up some at an end of season sale, divided them, potted them up and had a vision of this blue reflecting in my new pond. They are planted now. I have many ideas for this pond but whether they will all be realised is another matter ;-)



In the next view (standing behind from behind the pond wall) you can see the Choisya on the left which nestles around Hedgehog Manor and the temporary seat on the right where I sat trying to get photos of Hamish on the veranda of the Hedgehog House. You can get a good idea of scale now. This isn’t a big area to hold so much interest.



A new addition to this area is this wonderful Japanese Anemone. It seems quite jewel-like in this border of predominately foliage plants at the moment and an absolute magnet for the hover flies. It makes me smile to see them both :-)



Through blogging I find myself strolling around my garden a little longer especially when I have a camera in my hand. You just never know what you might find. Just look what I spotted when pruning the whippy summer growth from my Wisteria… a flower bud!

In actual fact I saw two. Looking at them again yesterday I’m not convinced they will open to flower but fascinating non-the-less. I’ve also got a hellebore flowering at the moment too. Pre blog… I suspect I wouldn’t have been garden watching close enough to notice these out of season flowers!

Another thing I would have missed out on (if I weren’t blogging about my garden) is the antics of garden birds. By looking that little bit closer it is clear to see they all have quite different and entertaining characters. I am enjoying watching so many at the moment but as this is way too long (you were warned) I’ll come back to them in future shorter postings.



Sitting on the seat between Hedgehog Manor and the Hedgehog House I can look out to the feeders hanging on my Acer tree just a short distance away. The antics of the Blue and Great Tits here have been great fun to watch there. Coal tits have been visiting with them too.

However, I have to note that I’ve never seen so many Blue tits visiting as I have done recently. I tried to count them but with their quick turn of speed couldn’t be accurate at all. There had to be ten anyway… which is a lot for my garden.

One rainy morning, I opened my window and straddled the tripod out it to take the following video to give you a little snapshot of frantic bird activity from the Blue, Great and Coal tits.



Watch out for the Great tit doing a spin on a branch near the beginning. The Coal tit ends this series of clips. I’m sure any American visitors will enjoy seeing it as it looks like the chickadee. I edited this video with a more upbeat background track… not a Country and Western mood here ;-)

I am speculating that the small groups of Blue tits that stay together are from the same family and quite possibly some are from the successful brood from our Camera Nestbox Diary for this year as one day they were popping in and out the nestbox! Great fun to watch once again :-)

This was to be the end of this posting! However, in the usual fashion of update blog posts just when I think I've covered everything in an order something comes up to stir things up…

Yep, as I was writing this last night I was viewing the cameras on and off. Being after midnight, it got too late to finish this post and I had one last look inside the feeding station, Hedgehog Manor, to see a 'still' hedgehog with its back to the camera. I had to watch a little longer of course ;-)




Mm… this wasn’t the usual behaviour of regular diner, Hamish! Nope, not at all… standing in a dish of mealworms to eat peanuts is something Hamish just wouldn’t do. He ignores them. Nor is climbing over the dish to under the camera and eating from there.

LOL… I’ll spare you the image of a scratching moment that revealed another male hedgehog! Without going into too much detail (for fear you may be eating as you read this) I am pretty certain this is a new diner to Hedgehog Manor. Now, this could get interesting in future nights. I am thinking I’ll run a little feeding experiment with only one food in each dish to so harmony in the dining room can be maintained ;-)

Harmony in the Hedgehog House could be another matter. Walking past it this morning I stopped in my tracks… for the first time hay was outside! Quite a bit too… now I wonder what has gone on here… an altercation perhaps with Hamish and this new male or is this new one just a messy house guest. Interesting night garden watching to come I suspect :-)




For any new blog visitor, that has found there way all the way to the end of this post, I should say that not every post I write is quite as lengthy. Yes, I do chat on but I haven’t posted in a few weeks and this has been a bit of an update as well as an introduction to my blog. I hope you return and would welcome your comments :-)

For regular blog visitors, thanks for bearing with me once again. I’m sorry to keep you so long but wanted to give you a bigger picture of the hedgehog area of my garden and hoped you would find it interesting. I know this interests me in other blogs. I have one blog in mind… HogBlog where colour photos of hedgehogs are taken through a catflap.

Although I have been a bit absent on the blog scene for the last few weeks (not even visiting my own) I browsed my phone one day and spotted one blog title ‘Prickly Visitor’ in my side bar. I have to share that with you now.

Rich at Wildlife Photographic Journals has some fantastic colour photos of a hedgehog during a day visit to his garden. He named this visitor Horace. LOL… there is now a debate between my daughters and I over a name for our second male visitor. I will be honest and say that I’m not overly comfortable with the naming thing but it is better than numbering them. Any suggestions… it doesn’t need to begin with ‘H’ .

I’d like to wish you all a wonderful weekend, I’ll try not to make it so long for the next time. I wonder what you have been watching in your garden these past few weeks. I know my visitors from the US don’t see hedgehogs in the wild and I wonder what night creatures visit gardens there.

Wherever you are in the world, it would be great if you left a comment telling us what you’ve been watching in your garden during the day or night. I genuinely hope you get as much enjoyment out of your garden plants, birds and wildlife that I do :-D

9 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour through hedeghog paradise. It was fun seeing some of your garden as a human would see it too. It is that time of year again. We can look forward to hedgehog antics.

Southern Lady said...

I really enjoy hearing about the hedgehogs. They are not native to my area, however, people do buy them as pets. I would much rather see them in their natural environment. Thanks for sharing. Carla

patientgardener said...

your hedgehogs capers look more entertaining that anything thats been on TV recently. I did laugh when you described how your have made a small patio for them. I always worry that I will end up attracting rats rather than hedgehogs particularly as we have had problems with rats over the years and never seen a hedgehog!!

shirl said...

Hi again Lisa, Carla and Helen :-)

Lisa, I am pleased. I’m glad you liked the human views too. Lol… I do think antics could be on the cards alright. Pretty soon too I’d guess. Tonight the new male hog was inside Hedgehog Manor eating sunflower hearts at the same time as Hamish was on the House veranda eating mealworms. I kept flicking back and forth with the cameras but on this occasion I never saw them together. Wishing you a great weekend :-D

Carla, I love to hear that… I do enjoy chatting about them. Yes, I’ve come across websites saying they are kept as pets with you. I’m guessing it’s the pigmy ones. Seeing them come and go as they do is what makes them so special. I love the idea of them wandering around my garden. Seeing hedgehog footprints in the snow earlier in the year was fascinating. You are most welcome. It is always a great treat sharing on the hedgehogs. Wishing you a great weekend :-D

Helen, lol… they might just be yet! I’ve heard other bloggers describe them as bulldozers when they push into each other knocking the other away from the feeders. I think I’ve heard the description Sumo too. Now we have two males visiting we could see this. Lol… as I was trying to find a way to describe the larger stone (that acts as a feeding spot too) I considered where it was in relation to the Hedgehog House… Patio sprung to mind. I hear what you are say re the rats especially when you’ve had them before. Not surprisingly, I’ve had many comments from people saying they are concerned about rats if they leave food out for hogs. I’ve just done a quick Google search and see that some people have had probs with rats on bird pole feeders… I never knew that. Fingers crossed we don’t see that here… you neither! Hope you get to see hedgehogs visit your garden one day. There is something really special about them. Wishing you a great weekend :-D

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

This was such fun...we don't have hedgehogs here, although there was a fad of keeping them as pets about 15 years ago, which I never embraced. Hamish looks quite charming and I'd swap a few hedgehogs for our insufferable raccoons!

Shady Gardener said...

You are way too creative! :-) I love little hedgehogs (though I've never seen one in real life). I would have loved to have one in my classroom... but they cost so much ($$$) that I couldn't bring myself to purchase one for fear it would die. Oh, well. We read Jan Brett! :-)

lotusleaf said...

A very enjoyable read. You seem to have 'tamed' the hedgehog. A mongoose visits my house everyday. Perhaps I should put out some food for it.

The Wessex Reiver said...

blimey Shirl, that was a marathon, but one I'd run again (if my physique allowed) though I am slightly traumatised by the nocturnal hedgehog view. I'm off for a lie down now in a darkened corner :-)!

shirl said...

Hi again Jodi, Shady, Lotusleaf and Andrew :-)

Jodi, how nice to see you again :-) Ah… I wondered if anyone would mention racoons. Guessing they’ll be as troublesome and mischievous as a large squirrel would be. Yes, keeping them as pets would be weird to us. Guessing there is no chance at all they could survive in the wild with you in Nova Scotia. Delighted to hear you enjoyed this. They are great fun to watch at night just now. Hamish does appear to be a character all right. So far he and the new male visiting haven’t been seen together so I’ve no idea if they will tolerate each other. There is one bonus… the new male is more interested in the sunflower hearts and peanuts than the mealworms… saves on cost too!!

Shady, lol I can’t help experimenting with things. I’d love to see a very young one myself but at this time of year if they are about they need to eat up fast to be heavy enough to survive hibernation. Yes, although great for the children to see in the classroom I guess it would be too warm for them too. Ah… just done an Amazon search and spotted Hedgie’s Surprise. Love the cover illustration :-D

Lotusleaf, thank-you once again I must apologise for rambling on. There was just stuff I didn’t want to leave out and this is useful for me to look back on too. Lol… nope I doubt I could tame a hedgehog… they have minds and directions all of their own. However, they do seem to have a way of remembering a route for a while. I guess when they stop coming they have found a better food source! Now, that might work for a mongoose for a while too. If it was me I’d be tempted to try :-D

Andrew,lol… for me too!!! Lol… on the nocturnal view too… not from Hamish though! The new visiting male (fortunately for my bank account) is not showing interest in the mealworms but instead preferring the crushed peanuts and sunflower hearts. If we are to name our hedgehog visitors as a means of ID I decided a good name for him would be Sonny. Lol… I did need to recover from his nocturnal view!!