Posts Tagged ‘hedgehog’

I’ve been busy lately – working in the garden and down in Wiltshire for the solstice – so I haven’t had a chance to get out to the woods for a couple of weeks.  However, I’d like to get a few minor experiences on the record.  They aren’t really enough for a post on their own, hence I’ve brought them together into a collection of short tales.

A Very Regular Owl

Tawny Owl on the RoofEvery summer we get a visit from the local tawny owl.  We have a lot of tawny owls in the area.  For the last three years there has been a nest in a small copse about a quarter mile from our house.  You can year the young owls (owlets?) calling as they start to fly from the nest.

This is a picture of the owl that sat on our roof on June 12th.  Looking back through the archives, I note that I had taken similar pictures of the owl on June 12th 2008 and June 2nd 2009.  It isn’t a very frequent visitor, and it only seems to come in early June.  Clearly an owl of very regular habits!

So why does it only visit the house at this one time of year?  Is it something to do with having young in the nest?  Or is it that I only see it in the long evenings of June?

A Family of Wrens

I was walking through the wood the other day when I disturbed a family of wrens.  They were obviously nesting in an ivy-covered tree stump.  As I walked past, three of the tiny birds flitted out and perched on nearby trees, apart from one of them which perched on my arm.  It was only there for a few seconds (long enough to poo on my sleeve!) but it was fantastic to have one of these delightful little birds so close.  Thinking about it afterwards, I was in a fairly remote part of the woods and the wrens had quite possibly never seen a human before.  Truly a new experience for both of us.

The Bedfordshire Red Kites

Regular readers may remember my quest to see Red Kites in our village.  I haven’t seen them for a while.  I don’t know if this is because they haven’t been in the area or because I haven’t been out and about so much since Scarlett arrived.  Anyway, I was pleased when my wife came home last week to say that she’d watched one of the kites as it glided low over the end of our road.  I’ll have to make an effort to get out more and try and get a photograph, but at least I know they’re still in the area.

Graveyard Hedgehog

I have a soft spot for hedgehogs.  We still get one coming into the garden occasionally (I see the poo on the lawn) but I don’t see them very often out in the wild.

I was walking through the churchyard in the village the other evening.  It was about 7.30pm and still very light.  There, sitting on the path in front of me was a hedgehog, large as life.  Before I could take out my camera it had raised itself up on its little legs and trotted off to a gravestone by the path.

This gravestone dates from the mid 19th century.  It’s a large horizontal stone slab, raised up on blocks on each corner like a low stone table, about 4″ off the ground.  Without pausing, the hedgehog ran straight underneath it.

I lay down on the ground and peered in.  There was a clear run worn into the grass, and under the stone was a wide hollow space, clear and dry.  The hedgehog obviously has its home there, and a perfect home it is too.  I don’t know what the rightful owner of the grave (one Mr John Francis) would say about having a lodger, but the urchin isn’t doing any harm so I hope he wouldn’t mind sharing too much.

Incidentally, I was walking through the churchyard the day before and a kestrel flapped up from where it had been perched on the grave next to this one.  I assume that kestrels don’t hunt hedgehogs, so perhaps it was just a coincidence.  It seems that even in a pretty rural village like ours the old graveyard is still a haven for wildlife of different kinds.

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Things have been a little quiet around here since we’ve got the new addition to the family.  Scarlett and I have been out for a few walks already, but I’ll wait until she’s settled into more of a routine before I get back to any serious badgerology.  In the meantime, here’s a post from the vaults.

This is a short essay on setting up a track trap in my garden.  This is a simple and fun thing that anyone can do to try tracking in any small space.  The originally appeared as a discussion on the Tracking Group of the Woodlife Network, but if you’re not a member of the network (and it’s highly recommended to anyone interested in the subject) hen you may be interested in seeing it here.

I’m quite fond of hedgehogs, but we rarely get them around here. When I found some hedgehog poo in the garden in June this year I was quite pleased. It would be good to get a resident hedgehog around the place.

Hedgehog poo

I bought myself some hedgehog food to try and entice the urchin to stay, but the problem is that it might get eaten by birds (or by my cat – she does things like that). How would I know that the hedgehogs had been eating it and not some other animal?

Hedgehog food

I decided to set up a track trap – in other words I would place the food so that whatever eats it will have to leave their tracks. I’m going to make them work for their supper by leaving me tracks in return.  This is an established technique for unobtrusively identifying and monitoring animals.

First I took an 18″ square plastic tray. We use these trays in the greenhouse to put plants in.

18 inch tray

I added a 2″ deep layer of moist sand. I used silver sand from the garden centre because I’m lazy, but I could have just dug some sand or soil out of the ground. If you want really high definition you could use damp clay, but I was happy with sand. It’s cleaner too.

Add the sand

I smoothed the sand off with a piece of wood.

Smooth the sand

This will make sure that any tracks show up.

Nice and smooth

And finally I placed bowls of food and water in the centre of the tray.

Track trap baited with food and water

And there it was – a completed track trap. Any animal or bird that eats the food would leave its prints in the soft sand. The only drawback of using the tray is that it may prevent very small animals from reaching the food, but that suits me since the aim was to feed the hedgehogs.

The next morning I rushed out to see if there were any hedgehog tracks.  It was actually quite exciting – there was a real sense of anticipation.

The track trap had worked perfectly, but sadly there was no sign of a hedgehog.  The only tracks were from my own cat.

Cat tracks 1

Cat tracks 2

The fact that the cat tracks showed up so clearly did at least demonstrate that the trap was an effective way to identify the animal that had eaten the food.  I consoled myself with the fact that at least the cat hadn’t used it as a litter tray!

There was no sign of the hedgehog the next day either.  Nor the day after that.  In fact, after three weeks, the only tracks I found in the trap were from the cat, blackbirds, slugs and a squirrel.  No hedgehogs.

It seems that the hedgehog had left my garden.  Apparently, hedgehogs can walk for up to two miles in a single night, so it is quite possible that it was covering a large area.

Not discouraged, I continued to put the hedgehog food down.  Eventually, after two months, my patience was rewarded.  I finally got hedgehog tracks in my hedgehog track trap!

Hedgehog Track

Hedgehog Track 2

OK, so it was a long wait to get tracks from what is, after all, quite a common animal.  But that’s not the point.  I set out to deliberately target a particular species based on its tracks, and in the end it worked.  The trap was fun to make, and it gave me the chance to collect and study animal tracks in the comfort of my own garden.  It’s a simple technique that anyone can use, and one that can be applied in the field too.

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I’ve been writing this diary for a year now, and do you know what the most popular post has been?  Has it been my insightful and, dare I say, scholarly comments on badger behaviour?  Has it been the videos and fieldnotes that make the experience of badger watching available to all?  Has it been my adventures in tracking, discovering the wildlife of my local area?

Nope.  None of these things.  The most popular post, by a significant margin, has been my picture of a hedgehog (see Fieldnotes: 2nd August 2008).  It seems the hedgehog is the real star of the show.

So, for all the hedgehog fans out there (including the Hedgehog Fan), here’s a picture of another urchin I came across this evening.  Right click and save as to get the full size picture.



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Having failed to see any badgers in the evening, I decided to take another approach. I was confident that the badgers feed in a large pasture field next to the wood, and it’s always been at the back of my mind to take a trip up there one night and see if I can spot them feeding. It being a damp and mild night with ideal conditions for the worms the badgers feed on, I decided to give it a go.

1.45am (way past my bedtime!) saw me walking slowly through the pasture with a dim torch. And there, snuffling around in the grass, was one of the adult badgers!

It didn’t seem too bothered by the torchlight, but carried on snuffling contentedly. I watched it for about five minutes and then left it to get on with its dinner. I was happy to have seen a badger in its own element, and proved that this method of watching them was possible. I may well stay up late on the next full moon and try this again.

Finally, an answer to those readers who think there should be more hedgehogs on this site (you know who you are!). Folk wisdom says that where there are badgers there are not usually many hedgehogs, presumably because one eats the other. I don’t know if that’s true, but I haven’t seen many hedgehogs around here.



So, especially for you, here’s a picture of an urchin that was feeding contentedly on the village green when I walked past. By the time I’d gone home and got the camera he was sitting in the middle of the road, which says a lot about hedgehogs.

I did try and pick him up and move him off the road, but I found out that the spines on a hedgehog are not just there for show – they really are sharp and spiky! This may sound obvious, but I’d never tried to pick up a hedgehog before. I did manage to move him to the side of the road, and left him there out of harm’s way, spiny and verminous, but safe.

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