Friday, 27 April 2012

Garden Hedgehog Latest

The good news is that the current survey at Hedgehog Street has received 46 hedgehog sightings from my garden since March 2nd. That’s just the ones I see Live too. Without a doubt the real number will be higher. If you see hedgehog visitors in your garden, outside your garden, alive or dead the The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species would love to hear about them for their survey.

When watching my garden hedgehog feeding station I take photos and sometimes video. For those not familiar with my set up I have an IR camera installed in a single story, moulded plastic ex-guinea pig hutch. I put a paving slab on the base to make the height level with the entrance. It makes for easier cleaning too.

Every time I see a hedgehog visit my feeding station (where sunflower hearts, dried mealworms, crushed peanuts, sultanas/dried mixed fruit and a bowl of water will be found) I take a series of photos to help identify any distinctive markings so I can ID different hedgehogs. I find that fun.

At the end of March I took the photos below which accurately show that at least three hedgehogs were visiting at that time. You can read the way I identified them in the captions. You can also see that the previously mentioned, regular hedgehog, Bagman (1) was really pretty thin in comparison to the other two. This began to concern me as he ate and drank considerably more than other hedgehogs that visited.

After one night’s viewing in the feeding station (known as Hedgehog Manor) saw another hedgehog bully Bagman in to a corner I went out with a torch to get a better look at him. He was still in the corner and, as I suspected from looking at him via my camera, he had spines missing from around one side of his face. To my eyes, he didn’t look well at all. I had no hesitation at all next.

Quickly walking to my shed for a deep sided plastic box, some newspaper to cover the bottom, some hay and pair of thick gloves I returned to Hedgehog Manor where Bagman still waited in the corner. I lifted him, put him in my deep box then added some food and water. With another camera placed on the top edge of the box I could keep an eye on him for any signs of distress. Lid loosely on the box (leaving a gap for air) I went indoors to watch.

Bagman, as expected, had hidden under the hay. I watched. After some time he moved a little. He showed no signs of distress. It got late. After a final check on the box (which was at my back door out of any direct sunlight) to ensure that I was happy that this box wouldn’t be disturbed during the night (a few obstacles were put around it) I put all cameras off and went to bed.

Being fairly sure Bagman would be alive in the morning, my plan was to call the SSPCA then. Bagman was still looking unwell to me in the morning. I made the call giving details on the condition of Bagman and was told someone would be out later. This was not the first call about a hedgehog I had made to the SSPCA so I knew what to expect.

Knowing that a little heat underneath a sickly hedgehog would make a difference (until the SSPCA could care for it) I warmed up a hot water bottle/bag. The bag couldn’t be too warm as the hedgehog would just move off it and not benefit from the heat. I wrapped the bag in an old tea towel, then lifted Bagman and put the water bag underneath him. He stayed there until the SSPCA lady (Bev) arrived.

Gloves on, Bev lifted Bagman and had a first look at him. She agreed with me that he was a little on the thin side and that spines were missing but added that Hedgehogs do moult spines and that perhaps he was thin after hibernation – although I did say he had been feeding in my garden for almost a month. Bev put Bagman on the ground to see if he’d move. He did and she had to move quickly to pick him up again.

Gloves still on, Bev took a second look at Bagman and saw the greyish colouring of Bagman’s skin and suggested he might have a bad case of mites and she would take him to the wildlife centre where they would treat him. She also added that he might also have lungworm (through eating slugs) and it was likely that they would treat him for that just in case.

Bagman left to the care of the SSPCA in a pet carrier with a heated pad underneath him. I asked Bev if it was possible (should he get well again) that he could be returned to my garden. I had also asked this when I called the main SSPCA line earlier that morning and was given a Reference number that would identify Bagman in any enquiries I made. I was told it might be possible but once the hogs put on weight and mix outside in enclosures ID could be tricky.

Less than an hour later, I had a call from Bev who was out on the road again. I had shown her my feeding station and told her other hedgehogs had been visiting. Bev called to confirm that Bagman had mites and to tell me that I should disinfect my feeding station as mites could be in corners and edges and would infect and hedgehogs that came in to feed. She added it was good that my station was made of plastic as it could be wiped down.

Keeping bird feeders regularly cleaned to reduce the spread of disease in visiting birds I have mentioned many times. However, I never considered that a hedgehog feeding station might need cleaning too. Perhaps this should also be a regular job too.

Five days later, using the reference number I had been given, I called to ask how Bagman was getting on. Was he alive? Yes, he was. He was still eating well too. The news sounded positive. Bev had said it could be as long as 6 weeks before Bagman would be fit for release back into the wild.

Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending. I called the SSPCA last week (4 weeks after Bagman went there) to be told that sadly he had been put to sleep. He wasn’t putting on weight despite the fact that he was eating well (as I had seen in my garden). I didn’t enquire further on his final state of health before they made the decision to put him to sleep.

I am happy though, that Bagman died in the care of the SSPCA who did their best to bring him back to health. I am very happy that Bagman wasn’t out suffering poor health in the torrential rainy/hailstone days/nights we have had recently.

At this moment as I finish writing this post, it’s just after midnight and (genuinely) there is a possible new diner in Hedgehog Manor. I’ll study the photos I have just taken tomorrow when I’m more awake :-)

The reality of nature is that wildlife of all kinds can live and will die in and around our gardens. Life goes on. However, our gardens can provide a valuable place of shelter and food for endangered species like the hedgehog and I feel privileged to be able to see and help them.

The photo below shows Bagman seen for the first time in my garden on March 2nd. My guess was that he was not long out of hibernation.

My apologies, for lack of postings and blog hopping recently. I’ve been out and about and have images cropped ready to share but time seems to be running away yet again. I’m guessing I’m not alone there. I’m never short on a story or too either. That’s me for tonight though - wishing you all a great weekend.

Gosh… are we really nearing the end of April? What has been keeping you busy this month?

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2012.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Subtle for April GBBD

Subtle and last minute am I for this Month’s celebration of blooms in the garden (it’s almost midnight on the 15th). Our snow only lasted a day (Phew!) but since then we’’ve had a mixed bag of cooler, wet weather with bursts of sunshine.

The bees have returned to my garden and the blossom on my Pieris (largest image in montage below) have been a favourite spot as have the opening blooms of my weeping Pear tree and daffodils Iced Follies. The first colour is showing in buds of my yak hybrid Rhodendendrons and (home sown) pale yellow primroses are creeping into corners (also popular with foraging bees).

Blooming the brightest in the bird population have to be the finches (Chaffinches, Siskins, Greenfinches & Goldfinches) who are making good use of a new feeder set up (more on that soon).

Considering photographs as well as practicality for visiting birds a passing Starling today shows how successful (popular) this perching hotspot is going to be when the first juvenile birds arrive in the garden.

Usually it’s the Dunnock that is spotted first in my garden with young followed by Blackbirds. By the increased activity on the ground with many male and female Blackbirds I’d say they are already in nesting mode. The Dunnocks are running around the ground purposefully too.

The photo above shows last year’s revamp to a small (basket based) border where a few Crocus and drumstick Primulas are still hanging on. I have been very pleased with the way this border has taken shape.

Also seen above are Pieris blossom (middle top in photo) which was deliberately moved there to get height for added interest and to attract passing bees. I also hoped I could get close-up photos of bees feeding but that is becoming a bigger challenge than I thought :-)

The border in the background is host to my new bird feeder set-up and home to some (fav wildflowers) Wood Anemones that are settled in around the base of my bamboo and contrasting well against the rich dark heuchera leaves.

Note the hint of red water in my bird bath. Last May I had this problem (see here) and I moved my birdbath into a more shaded spot. I’ll give it a good clean tomorrow and keep an eye on it.

In the shady area behind my garden gate, the oriental Hellebores are still looking well as are the (previously flattened by snow) Cuckoo flowers which I adore. I also love the tiny clusters of blue flowers from Brunnera Jack Frost which I added for its wonderful leaves.

Also of note above are the purple flowers of a dwarf Rhododendron I took as a cutting from a plant in my previous garden. That plant always makes me smile when it’s in flower.

The yellow flower in the pot on the left has also been making me smile. This Marsh Marigold is yet to dip its roots in water but… it’s en route to (still being built) new wildlife pond. This has been a stop start project but I have a vision for it now and it is getting there :-)

Finally, I’m not sure that my last photo above does the shape and slopes of my grass mound justice. It was interesting to see this idea featured by Monty Don on Gardener’s World on Friday’s programme. You can see my Primroses near the bottom and Cuckoo flower on the side. My hope is that both will spread themselves around here.

Note I deliberately cut around this grass mound to give it contrast and interest to the main lawn. I also cut around the narcissi, crocus and Fritillaries in the background too where I had a few planted a few cuckoo flowers too :-) I have a Hawthorn tree in my mound.

To the left of my Arbour I have another mound in process of being built which may lead to the edge of my new pond. I picked up grass seed at the weekend and once I’ve established the shape of mound No.2 too it will be seeded. Then the arbour will have a sense of place. Wildflowers and bulbs will also feature here. I love the creative side to gardening.

Playing with colour in the garden I do enjoy but I am still a tad careful and not as daring as I might be. That being said, my main back garden is really in partial shade so bright colours are more of a challenge.

So, that’s it for another Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day. If you’d like to see what’s been blooming around the world in the middle of April head over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens and go garden visiting through links there .

Hope everyone has had a great GBBD! It’s a tad late now, but before I go I’d like to mention something on behalf of the RHS. See link below for more info.

“National Gardening Week has been launched by the RHS to get the nation growing.

Thousands of people across the country are coming together and getting involved to enjoy, share and celebrate everything about gardens and gardening.

Communities and organisations are pulling out all the stops to host garden open days, garden parties, quizzes, plant swaps and a wealth of other activities to share advice or lend helping hands to friends, neighbours and the local community.

At the RHS we know what a difference gardening can make to our lives and how important it is to our environment. Gardening is life-enhancing; it creates beautiful spaces and brings communities together, but best of all it’s fun.”


This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2012.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Yes, the snow did come

The chilly cold and snow of winter came overnight. What weird weather we are having here – it was almost summer-like on Sunday! On Tuesday morning, winds swirled the snow in every direction and we couldn't see clearly through the windows.

The pink flowers of the drumstick primulas could only just been seen in the white carpet we now had. As the wind direction changed I went out and swiped clean the snow droplets covering the glass. Now, I could use my camera from indoors.

The snow continued all morning but by lunchtime there was a break in the weather just long enough for a quick dash around the garden to see the damage. As expected, many flowering plants were on the ground, flattened by the wind and snow.

However, after the unseasonably warm weather of March many flowers were ahead of themselves. Having had a busy weekend, I didn’t realise my (eagerly awaited) cuckoo flowers were in flower.

Perhaps this was just as well as I would have been cringing at the snowflakes! In all three areas where the cuckoo flowers were growing they were flattened but behind my gate where the fence sheltered the ground a little the stems were longer and they looked worse.

The upside to this instant winter weather was the instant garden full of birds! Joining the Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Robin, Woodpigeons and Starlings was a large mixed groups of finches (Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Siskins). A male Brambling was spotted in the group (not in the photos or video below) which was a bit of a surprise at this time of year.

Another surprise sighting at my feeders was a good sized group of Greenfinches. I spotted six at this feeder but there may have been more at other feeding areas. This is very good news for this species that has seen a decline in numbers over the last few years.

I had to grab a video of the Greenfinches… note there seems to be a pair sharing or helping each other with food. You should also note that there is background music with this video as it is taken from inside and through a window. It isn’t a long video and you can select higher quality if you wish. The video is followed by a photo of a pair of Siskins catching the sunshine.

During the afternoon, we had brief breaks in the snow where the sun got out on occasions and then several hailstone showers followed. Many areas almost completely cleared of snow only for it to return again a short while later.

The montage below shows more flowers that faced the cold temps, winds and snows of Tuesday. I didn’t realise my dwarf rhododendron was in flower, a bergenia was in flower and that I had my first allium flower bud of the year almost ready to open in my (usually sunny) front garden.

At around midnight the ground had a light dusting of snow again and it felt icy cold! As I was sorting my photos and writing this post I was watching my Live cam in my hedgehog feeding station (Hedgehog Manor).

To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to see any hedgehogs out at all seeing as it was so cold. To my complete surprise again, I did and saw the same hedgehog visit twice! This hog is a funny one to watch as it comes in and leaves at speed eating and drinking for just a short time on each visit. I think this one could be a female.

For the moment, I’m grabbing photos of every hedgehog visitor I see Live via my cams - although many more could be visiting that I miss completely. I’ll post an update on hedgehog stories soon. Below you can see our guests on Tuesday evening - yes, our nestbox has a roosting Blue tit!

My final thoughts for my ‘back to winter’ garden have to be for the bees that have been about recently (seen red and buff tailed ones) and the butterflies that I was enjoying seeing in our previously warm, sunny days (small tortoiseshell & peacock).

If you are experiencing a ‘back to winter’ garden or haven’t left winter yet do stay warm and safe on the roads. Brrrrrr... the wind can be heard through the microphone on the live cams... it doesn't sound nice out there! Oh dear... just looked out the window before going to bed and there are heavy snowflakes swirling around. Mm.. maybe they'll be gone by morning and this has all just been a weird dream ;-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2012.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Will we really get snow on Tuesday?

On the eve of a potential weather break (back to snow) from our unseasonably warm spell (where garden maintenance and new projects have taken up my PC time) let’s go back and pick up a post that’s been sitting in draft since the middle of March...

‘Guid things come in sma bulk’ (meaning just because something is small doesn't mean it's of little value) could be the motto for my March 2012 Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. Let’s take a look at some of the small stuff back on March 15th starting with my favourites the alliums breaking through the gravel…

Seen in the montage above: there were lawn planted Crocuses past flowering (early bees would have fed here), buds ready to open on weeping Pear tree (attracting small insects birds will feed on) , Sedum rosettes forming on the ground, Hellebores flowering their socks off (bees feeding again) and new growth on Catmint (ladybirds hiding in last year’s woody stems) giving just a flavour of the March garden.

Perennial Wallflower Bowles’ Mauve (photo bottom left) has not stopped flowering all winter and should any butterflies flutter by then this would be where they’d stop. No flutter sightings back on the 15th but there have been since. We haven’t had a hard winter so this plant has survived but this year I really must take cuttings. Having this plant flowering in full sun and partial shade would definitely take it to my list of recommended plants for the garden.

Also seen above: Drumstick Primulas and new mixed crocus planting in shady spot (these crocus later to flower than the lawn plantings that get more sun). Delightful small blue flower clusters on Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (large foliage leaves will shelter wildlife in summer), Bergenia buds (again large leaves giving shelter to insects and wildlife throughout the year) and last but not least the wild primrose that I grew from seed which attract low foraging bees.

Next I was going to chat about the potential of mixing up small borders and that being the main link to the ‘Guid things come in sma bulk’ but the chat got a tad lengthy so I’ll come back to that another time. I would like to ramble on with this and I do like to think slightly out of the box sometimes ;-)

Finally… I’ll end this post with a few more border images taken for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day back on March 15th. I’ve a few stories to share since my last postings including updates on flowers that have flowered since, bird & hedgehog tales and a new project and a small border that has exceeded my expectations… don’t you just love it when a plan comes together :-)

I do hope you’ve been enjoying the plants, birds and wildlife in your garden this past few weeks too. Have you taken on any new projects when the weather has been nice? Perhaps you have had special bird or wildlife moments in your garden?

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March/April 2012.