The Sun Came Out!

The weather has changed a bit here, sunny but still chilly at night. This has prompted some changes in the garden at last.

The Blue Tits have been adding dog hair (that we leave out especially) to their nest and are still roosting together. The male has occasionally brought the female food

Hedgehogs have started to appear quite regularly now and I've got some nice footage from my experimental trail cam. Quite a few animals eat the hedgehog food I put out!

The Foxes are still coming regularly and there at least 3. Watch out for the magpies at the end of the video!

Cold nights and clear skies have meant few moths, but still some new for the year

Blossom Underwing

Brindled Beauty

Plume Moth

I spent some time in the garden on Sunday and tried to photo the hoverflies and bees, some successes, some not so!

Hoverflies

I'm still to ID these

There were lots of bees around the flowers too. They really are stunning!

Andrena haemorrhoa

Andrena carantonica

Some of these may be the above species but I'm still to ID them!

You may remember I posted a photo last week about the sexton beetle with the mites. These are apparently Poecilochirus carabi

I best get on trying to ID the rest of these then :-)

 

 

Warning – May Contain Beetles (And Hogs and Blue Tits)

Heather the Hedeghog was released back to the wild this week. I'm always filled with mixed emotions at this time, but it's why I do it, it's great to see them back where they belong.

Heather leaving

We watched her go on the cams

Good luck little one, come back and visit

A few hedgehogs have started appearing in the garden again, that's Jeffrey in the top right corner

 

The blue tits have been nest building at pace again this week. It won't be long before they lay the first eggs.

Here's a video of some of the nest building, I'm rather pleased with the quality (more on this at a later date)

They've also spent the nights together all week again.

 

A few more moths have been appearing in the trap this week too

Small Quaker

Herald

Knot Grass

Mottled Grey

A few different things have turned up in the moth trap too

22 spot ladybird

The biggest though was this Sexton Beetle, Nicrophorus humator. If you sniff them, they really do whiff! They have amazing orange tipped antenna

They also always seem to have some mites hanging on

Look at the jaws on the beetle!

Fantastic things!

I wonder what the next week will bring?

2 Blue Tits, Hogs and Earth Hour

The blue tits have started to build their nest in the normal nest box. But, this year something a bit different has happened. They always build in the same one that the female roosts in overnight.

Once they started building something different happened, they were both in there that night. And stayed all night. This has continued all week

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Has anyone else seen this before? I know some birds do, but I've never seen it in Blue Tits.

On Saturday it was Earth Hour and we joined in and turned all the lights out. It was very nice and we intend to make it a regular occurrence.

As everyone is doing selfies at the moment, here's my Earth Hour Selfie

I also monitored the surrounding area, unfortunately not so many people took part

Saturday night did bring some serious excitement though. Finally a hedgehog turned up! Only a brief visit but, 10 days later than last year, one turned up! Phew! You have to look close, but it's in the bottom right :-)

Some big news on Heather the hedgehog but that will have to wait for another blog post of it's own.

A few years ago there was a campaign for people to plant tree whips, it was shown on springwatch. People had to plant all at the same time on the same day. We planted some and one of them has just flowered.

This week has not brought any new moths, but I did see my first beefly of the year, it was too fast for a photo though, maybe another day :-)

In Limbo

Well, spring has ground to a halt here. Cold temperatures over night have put paid to anything really changing here in the last week. Still no sign of any hedgehogs (maybe they knew the cold was coming!) and insect numbers have dropped again. A little wood mouse has taken up residence in one of the hog boxes, it's very entertaining watching him (or her!).

The blue tit is still roosting but no signs of any nest building yet

As far as moth trapping goes it has been very quiet, but, this week did turn up something special! A Pine Beauty! An absolutely stunning moth and a first for the garden

The only other thing of note in the moth trap was this lovely Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum

My other projects are coming along, I will be making a few changes to the website soon to show one of them, hope you like it!

And I leave you with the hope that hedgehogs return this week and a shot of the garden by mothtrap light

 

Spring is Springing

Spring is officially here. I've heard a chiffchaff sing, so that's it, it's Spring! The chiffchaff made a brief appearance in the garden on Thursday and then started singing from a nearby tree!

This week has brought about the first sightings of bumblebees, hoverflies, ladybirds and a butterfly (a small tortoiseshell). Also, some rather lovely spring flowers have appeared. That being said, there still haven't been any hedgehogs in the garden yet. Given the weather, this seems quite surprising. The longer it goes on, the more I'm worried that they have been affected by the very wet weather we've had. I'm not panicking yet as the ones I've rescued that are hibernating haven't woken yet either. Last year the first hedgehog was spotted on the 19th.

Lesser Celandine

Hoverfly

 

One of the blue tits was also spotted with some nesting material

The blue tit is still roosting every night

I've also had one of the live cams on the bird feeders. The birds fly in very quickly, this makes for some very strange freeze frames!

The moth trap is picking up rapidly with lots of new ones for the year, and some lifers for me as well

Early Thorn

Pale Pinion

Early Grey

Double Striped Pug

Diurnea fagella

Satellite

Yellow Horned

Oak Beauty

Twin spotted quaker

Dotted Border

I've been working on my other ideas a lot this week and they are progressing quite nicely, hopefully these will be unveiled shortly.

Here's hoping the hedgehogs appear soon!!

 

Get Your Garden Ready For Hogs

The weather has changed quite dramatically over the weekend, it finally feels like spring. Lots of first for the year appearing, butterflies, bees and flowers. Another first spot for the year was the SUN, I had to get my ID book out to work out what it was :-) More about this later in the week.

All this means that hedgehogs are emerging and I have had reports from round the estate, and the country via twitter of sightings. A lot of people are now starting to garden again so I thought it would be worthwhile giving some tips on making your garden hog friendly. I hope you can implement some of the ideas, and that you see hedgehogs. If so, please let me know, I’d love to hear what you’ve done and seen!

How to tell if you have Hedgehogs

One of the problems with finding hedgehogs is that they are nocturnal. So, how do you know if you have hedgehogs in your garden? The signs are quite subtle, but once you have your ‘eye in’ they are quite easy to see.

The most obvious are footprints. Although hedgehogs are quite heavy (about 1kg) they don’t leave many footprints unless the ground is really soft. A small mud or wet sand trap is easily set up to see if you get some. The prints are about 2.5cm long and 2.8cm wide. The front toes are quite widely splayed, but the back toes are quite long and slender.

If you see poo around, that is a good indicator! The poo is 1.5-5cm long and 1cm in diameter. They are normally quite dark coloured due to being full of beetles.

Hedgehogs tend to leave slight tracks through the grass of a lawn or small tunnels through undergrowth as they go about their foraging. A good time to see these is in the morning through the dew on the lawn.

Go into your garden at night and listen. Hedgehogs are noisier than you think, and you may hear them snuffling and huffing around as they search for food. In the spring they can get very noisy as they can fight over females.

Gardening For Hedgehogs

If you already have hedgehogs, or want to encourage them into your garden, what can you do?

The first and most important thing is access! A lot of gardens are fenced and there is no way a hedgehog can get in. A small hole under or in the fence will do, about 3 inches is usually sufficient. If you have the option, a native hedge is fantastic, hawthorn etc, make a very good hog friendly border. Hedging provides easy access and shelter for them and other wildlife

Keep parts of the garden a little untidy. Try leaving an area of long grass and some shrubs for hogs to root around in. Piles of leaves, logs or a compost heap can also provide them with a place to nest and rear their young or to hibernate.

 

Water is a very important commodity for hogs. The best way to provide it is a pond, but, make sure the pond is either shallow, or, has shallow parts, so, if a hog does fall in it can easily get back out again. If that can’t be done, leave out a water bowl!

 

Put out food for them. Dog/Cat food and shop bought hedgehog foods are great. Dry food is also good, if it is small, such as puppy food, this will last and is good to leave out in the winter in case they wake up from hibernation. They also love mealworms. Don’t feed milk or bread, this will make them ill. Set up some feeding stations for them tucked out of the way or under hedges.

 

Provide some shelter, hedgehog boxes, compost heaps, piles of twigs, logs or leaves will always be welcome.



Encourage your neighbours to do the same. Gardens are a vital resource for hedgehogs. Consider joining http://www.hedgehogstreet.org and become a Hedgehog Champion.

Dangers to Hedgehogs

- Don’t feed milk or bread, this will make them ill.

- Don’t use plastic netting as this can entangle the hedgehogs and cause serious injuries.

- Slug pellets are very dangerous. Hedgehogs enjoy the odd slug, and any poison they ingest can kill.

- Check compost heaps before turning. Hogs may use them to nest and hibernate.

- Check under hedges and bushes before strimming. Strimmers can cause horrific injuries.

- Check bonfires carefully for hedgehogs. Better still rebuild them before lighting.

- If you disturb a nest please replace it and leave well alone.

- If shed doors are left open over night, don’t suddenly shut them, a hog may have made it it’s home and this will trap them. Check first.

- If a hog is seen out in the day it usually means it’s in trouble. Please contact your local hedgehog society for advice. More information can be found here- http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk

 

Frogspawn and Still Waiting for Hogs

It's been a relatively quiet week here, the rain has continued to fall, but spring is just round the corner.

The frogs have been croaking very loudly at night and have started laying some spawn

The slightly warmer weather still hasn't brought out any more hedgehogs. To check whether any of the hibernating hedgehogs emerge from their boxes I have put some crumpled up newspaper in the entrance, this will let me know when they leave. If you use twigs etc they can easily be removed by birds etc.

The moth trapping has been continuing when the weather has been favourable, with more moths flying and some new ones.

March Moth

Hebrew Character

Common Quaker

Chestnut and Common Quaker

Chestnut

Pale Brindled Beauty

Whilst photographing the Pale Brindled Beauty I noticed the pale 'eyebrows'

This brings the total up to 8 moth species this year so far.

Not being able to get out so much has given me some time to work on some other nature projects, and to think of some more! More on the progress of these in coming weeks!

 

Hogs and Moths Awakening

The first of the 12 rescued hoglets has woken up from her slumber, Heather is nice and healthy, just quite thirsty and hungry. It's always a relief when they finally wake up, a nerve wracking time! This has put us on heightened hogwatch for wild ones, I expect them to follow suit. Petal of course hasn't even gone to sleep! So please be on the look out and leave some food and water out for any that may visit your garden.

Heather

 

The increase in temperatures has also brought more moths out, with some lovely ones being found so far.

Pale Brindled Beauty

 

Common Quaker

 

Chestnut

 

Whilst searching the leaf litter for more species to add to the 1000 species challenge I found this fantastic Rove beetle, here pictured with a Springtail

 

Also, the last couple of nights, the frogs have started croaking. A quick check of the pond tonight resulted in 9 frogs and 2 clumps of frogspawn!

Quite a good week despite the rain and wind, hopefully things will calm down, the flooding across the country will subside and we can all look forward to spring!

Hedgehogs are Emerging

The first of my rescued hoglets has woken up from her hibernation this week. The weather has got quite a bit warmer as well, and after seeing reports from around the country, hedgehogs are starting to emerge everywhere. So hogwatch starts again! Who will be next to join Heather and Petal being awake?

When they emerge they will be hungry and thirsty, so please leave out some food, meaty cat/dog food, hedgehog food (such as Spike’s Semi moist or arkwildlife pro), or mealworms and some water.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the PTES run a Hibernation Survey where you can log sightings of hedgehogs. Please join (you need to register by 28th February) and log you sightings, this will help with the study of our sadly declining hedeghogs.

You can find it here – http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/hibernation-survey.html

Whilst you’re there you can also join Hedgehog street, a fantastic initiative to educate people and make gardens hedgehog friendly – http://www.hedgehogstreet.org

Go on – become a Hedgehog Champion and help Britain’s hedeghogs :-)

 

Local Patch Reporter

I’m delighted to say that I’ve been selected to be one of the Local Patch Reporters for the BBC Wildlife magazine. I will be blogging regularly about my patch on here or you can find them, along with all the other Local Patch Reporters, on the BBC Wildlife magazine website – http://www.discoverwildlife.com/localpatchreporters

I thought it would be worth just introducing myself and my patch and let you know my plans for 2014.

I live in South Wales, well known for it’s rain, and I live in a normal suburban housing estate, with a garden 10x10m and another bit of garden by the side. There is a river about 400m away and some small corridors of wooded areas. The garden is designed specifically for wildlife, with log piles, a pond, nest boxes, wildflowers, bug hotels etc, it may look a bit ‘messy’ but it’s teeming with wildlife.

This is an aerial view of my patch:

We are incredibly lucky though, we are privileged to have lots of hedgehogs. These are one of my main passions. I monitor and record the hedeghogs, and last year we had 32 different hedeghogs come through and use the garden. I also rescue and care for the local hedgehogs and am currently overwintering 12 hoglets who were not at hibernation weight when winter arrived. These will be released back to the wild soon.

This is Barnaby, one of the overwintering hoglets:

The garden is rigged with cameras and you can watch these on the Live Cams page. The hedeghogs will be coming out of hibernation soon, so things are about to get busy! That being said, Petal the Hedeghog hasn’t been to sleep at all and can be seen wandering the garden now, if you are lucky.

My blog has lots of info on hedeghogs and encouraging them into your gardens, so please, have a look around.

I am also an avid moth trapper. I take part in the Garden Moth Challenge and last year I caught 310 different species, an amazing amount in a housing estate, and I would like to beat that this year, currently I’m on 3!!

This is one of my favs from last year, a stunning tiny micro moth – Grapholita compositella:

Another challenge for the year is trying to ID 1000 different species in a 1 km square around my garden. I’m going to see how many of these can be found in the garden alone. This is going to be a big undertaking with rather a lot of learning to do! Lots of IDing little things across a large range of flora and fauna.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy following my year around my patch, I’m looking forward to sharing lots of amazing things with you all, plus some ideas of what you can do in your own patch too. I have several plans to update the garden and quite a few projects to undertake, stay tuned and enjoy :-)