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 🙂

 

Meeting and Filming With Sir David

Around about last February I received an email from Humble Bee Films, asking if some of my hedgehogs could be filmed for a new series they were working on. They mentioned it was Attenborough's Natural Curiosities, and having seen the first series I, of course, said yes. They came back with what they wanted to do, close ups of spines etc etc, Sir David holding a hedgehog…… Wait, what? He'll actually be there!! I didn't think for one moment we would meet him, but yes, he'd be there! How could I say no!

I had a lot of autumn juveniles in last year (same this year) so I had a few who would be ok. I decide to take Little Chris (who was found whilst filming Autumnwatch) and the amazing Little John.

The big day came, and off we went. The hedgehogs demanded a rider, so only the best hedgehog food and water for them 🙂 We arrived at the location and walked round the corner, and there was Sir David! He stood up to meet us and shake our hands, I almost went into Wayne's World 'we're not worthy' mode, but I think I managed to utter a vaguely coherent sentence.

They set up the cameras with Sir David and then it was time to introduce the hedeghogs. We popped them where they needed to be and…… Little John stayed curled up…. And still….. And still…..! Sir David was fascinated watching them, he truly does love hedeghogs, you could see the joy! After what seemed like an age, there was movement, Sir David started to speak, and the hog walked straight at the camera! Take 2! This went on for a while, much to Sir David's amusement! He was quite happy lying there just watching them.

After they got all the shots they needed, Sir David then had his photo taken with the stars 😉 He was thrilled to be able to see them so close and interact with them, and I must say Little Chris and Little John were very well behaved!


We had a lovely chat about hedgehogs with him, it was really strange to be answering his questions and him being intent on our answers, I was thinking, what can I tell you that you don't already know!! He was telling us that he didn't have hedeghogs in his garden and couldn't have them because it wasn't suitable. He did miss seeing them in the wild.

He was kind enough to have his photo taken with us and to sign some autographs. My hedgehog logbook, is now signed by him 🙂 He really is as nice as he appears on tv!

Look at the grins !!


The new series of David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities starts on the 18th February on WatchTV. The hedgehogs will be in the second episode, at 8:30pm on the 18th.

 

Hope you all tune in and watch the new series, especially episode 2 😉

Happy Hedgehogs

 

Hogs on TV

I mentioned a little while ago that the hedgehogs had been filmed, well they are going to be on TV Soon. The new series of David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities starts on 18th February on Watch TV. I believe the hedgehogs will be in episode 2. It appears that 2 episodes are shown a night, so the hedgehogs are on 8:30pm on the 18th!

The Eden and Watch Channel website have some links to trailers and pics of the hedgehogs (I may also appear on the website so be warned!)

http://watch.uktv.co.uk/david-attenboroughs-natural-curiosities/clips-david-attenboroughs-natural-curiosities-series-2/video/hedgehog-clip-episode-2-david-attenboroughs-natural-curiosities/

http://eden.uktv.co.uk/nature/animals/mammals/article/hedgehogs/

http://eden.uktv.co.uk/photo-galleries/gallery/photos-hedgehogs/

http://watch.uktv.co.uk/david-attenboroughs-natural-curiosities/gallery/photos-david-attenboroughs-natural-curiosities/

A Podcast

I had an interesting conversation on twitter the other day that has lead to me being in a podcast. I'm talking about my views of science after being involved in a couple of Citizen Science projects.

You can listen to it here – Audioboo / What is Science? Part 4

I take part in several schemes and surveys and would encourage anyone to do so.

Some of the ones I do are:

– BTO Garden Watch

– BTO Birdtrack

– Moth trapping records to county recorder, these feed to Buttefly Conservation

– UK Ladybird survey

There are plenty more around, have a go, it's fun and useful!

The Search Begins

Well, that was a soggy start! Torrential rain all day made all the challenges quite difficult today, so a relatively slow start to the year. But it's a start! The river has been on flood alert all day, so seeing a Heron try to fish was somewhat of a surprise.

18 species of bird, 3 trees, 1 moth and a so far an un-ID'd mushroom and mosquito!

The list so far –

1. Mottled Umber

2. Robin

3. Greenfinch

4. Siskin

5. Great Tit

6. Blackbird

7. Blue Tit

8. Dunnock

9. Magpie

10. Herring Gull

11. Chaffinch

12. Woodpigeon

13. Grey Wagtail

14. House Sparrow

15. Grey heron

16. Mallard

17. Moorhen

18. Alder

19. Beech

20. Oak

21. Lesser Black Backed Gull

22. Jackdaw

Only 978 species and 364 days to go! 🙂