A couple of days ago I went to check the food I’d put out for the hedgehog(s), it was in a bowl under my custom built hedgehog feeding station (to deter cats) and remained untouched for over a week, then to my amazement it was all gone! The bowl had been completely cleaned out. Unfortunately this happened during a few days when the camera was switched off, so I put some more hedgehog food out and reset the camera, today when I came to check the footage I saw the likely culprit.
I might switch the camera to night-time only and video mode, see if I get anything interesting in the next few days.
This is probably the first time I’ve captured footage of a badger in this location (certainly for a long time, can’t remember seeing one here in the garden before), although it’s no big surprise as there looks to be a badger set on a bank at the other side of nearby farm land.
While out for a walk past a local stream (fairly wide and shallow) we spotted a Little Egret (link to RSPB page opens in a new window) sitting in a tree, probably waiting for it’s next opportunity to get back in the water once people had moved away. This is the first time I’ve seen one of these in this area, perhaps it was just stopping over on it’s way to more common wading grounds, possibly the Humber esturary.
Yesterday we spotted a pair of sparrowhawks terrorising the small birds at the feeders which hang in a small apple tree, one swooped in and missed then perched for a few seconds before flying away, then a second came in and perched in exactly the same spot for a few seconds before it also flew away (I did see them both at the same time, it wasn’t like Clark Kent and Superman!)
I don’t often get to see the raptors stationary in the garden so this was a rare treat, perhaps they’re a pair hunting for chicks, or just hunting and nesting somewhere nearby. I hope to see them again and perhaps get a snap or two, they come and go so quickly though.
A quick survey of the garden pond yesterday evening, around 7.30pm, revealed five newts but no sign of frogs yet. They were most likely smooth newts (definitely too small for great crested), although I haven’t reminded myself of the difference between smooth and palmate yet. A couple were males with nice looking crests.
Evening temperatures are mostly staying above freezing (around 4C) with just a slight morning frost, daytime is up to around 15C in the sunshine today. The snowdrops are fading fast and the daffodils are coming out.
I’ve modified the hedgehog feeding station with a further internal wall to deter neighbourhood fat cats, it’s amazing how they can contort their fat bodies where food’s involved (as I found out last season). The feeding station is now deployed with hedgehog food, no takers yet but hopefully the trail cam will pick up any visitors, prickly or otherwise. So far it’s just been passing cats by night and birds / grey squirrels during the day.
Today while out for a walk in the much milder weather compared to just a few days ago I spotted a bird that looked similar in size to a thrush but had a very striking pale stripe over it’s eye, with brown cap and speckled breast. I made use of the rather excellent RSPB Bird Identifier and came to the conclusion that it must be a Redwing, a common winter visitor to the UK from Scandinavia. Really nice to see these different birds sometimes on my usual daily walks.
The recent snow has revealed an interesting insight into the types of visitors we’ve had in the garden and the routes they take. There are the usual culprits of course – pheasants, blackbirds, and rabbits, the occasional cat paw prints crossing the garden – but further away from the house I noticed some larger prints which at first glance one might think are more cat prints but they’re just a bit too big for that, these must be fox paw prints. I’ve previously captured footage and photos on my trail camera of foxes around the same place, just fascinating to see their route across the garden laid out before me.
One of the interesting things was the veritable highway that skirted down one side of the garden close to the undergrowth and brambles down to the apple trees where there are often windfall apples on the ground for birds to eat (we always leave plenty for them). The other side has very little by way of tracks.
The snow is fast melting away now so perhaps we’ll get some milder temperatures off the Atlantic for a while after this cold NE blast.
After a bit of watching and waiting, and some mysterious ‘food gone but nothing on the camera’ morning inspections, I decided to change tactics a little. I altered the position of the camera to guarantee that the camera sensor was pointing directly at the feeder with no chance of grass or other things getting in the way, made sure the feeder was stocked up with hedgehog food and well within the camera frame, and also set the camera to video mode. I didn’t have long to wait to get my answer.
Sure enough, the next day the food had gone, and upon checking the card there was only one video clip recorded. The culprit – old Greedy Guts itself! Looks like the same cat that was snooping around and helping itself to the food I put out for hedgehogs a few years ago.
Time to go back to the drawing board on this one, perhaps get much stricter on the entrance shape and dimensions, add a small maze inside, see what works. I don’t expect to see any hedgehogs until the spring now though, but the camera will keep on looking and I’ll keep on checking.
The past three weeks or so have seen no hedgehog action around the feeding station, the only visitors were some curious and greedy neighbourhood cats, one of which managed to reach the food bowl.
I decided to upgrade the feeding station with a baffle to prevent cats from simply leaning into the box to reach the food (it’s impressive how far a cat will stretch when there’s food involved), and while I was at it perform some maintenance.
I had previously added a strip of plastic sheet to make the entrance hole narrower, 16cm. A fat cat wasn’t able to get it’s back legs through but the rest of it managed to twist around to the left and reach the food. I used pot rivets where possible to provide a strong fixing.
The internal wall has some mesh added so that visitors can still smell the food.
A repair to the end wall which had become cracked, using some cross-stitch mesh and a hot glue gun.
No hedgehogs yet (it is almost November however still very mild, I expect them still to be active but could be busy building their hybernation nest elsewhere) but a curious fox could clearly smell the hedgehog food inside.
Two stones on the top hopefully prevent the station from being tipped over.
A strange sound greeted my ears as I went to put out food for the hedgehogs… the unmistakable ‘Ribbit! Ribbit!’ of frogs in the pond… in late September?! I shone the torch down to the water and sure enough there they were – two frogs staring back at me.
I don’t know how far their activities will go at this time of year, can tadpoles survive if the water temperature drops suddenly, or if the plants start to dwindle? If we have a mild October and they’re able to leave the water before it freezes then who knows, they might just make it.
It may not sound like much, but seeing a hedgehog in the flesh is quite a different thing to just a black and white night vision video clip recorded several hours ago by a trail camera.
I’d left it a bit later to put some Spike’s Dinner out for the hedgehogs up the garden, around 8pm. After filling the food bowl I wandered around the garden looking for bats or owls and taking in the fresh night air, always feels good after being indoors for a while. On my way back down to the house I noticed a dark blob in the moonlit grass that I didn’t remember being there before, a quick peek with the night vision scope revealed that it was indeed a hedgehog! Upon closer inspection it certainly looked healthy enough, there are a few weeks yet before it’ll have to hybernate so I’ll be putting the grub out each night while the big bag I have lasts.
Impossible to tell whether this is the one that visits the feeding station or not, likely it is though at least some of the time.