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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The garden hedgehogs

When Bev and I first moved to our bungalow, way back in November 2000, there was no way we could have foreseen the journey ahead of us. My transition from birder/moffa back to specimen hunting was still over a decade away and establishing our garden as a wildlife friendly environment was one of the top priorities. Fortunately for us, Brenda, our next-door neighbour was already well ahead of the game in providing food for the birds and hedgehogs which visited her garden. Indeed, so committed to attracting the local hedgehogs that she'd had a cat flap fitted to her conservatory but removed the flap to allow the animals free access into her home. I must add that at this time hedgehogs were extremely numerous around the locality, large numbers of road casualties indicative of a very healthy population - although not the sharpest pencils in the box! I'm not exactly sure what Brenda used to feed the animals, but feel bread and milk was involved along with cat food. So numerous were these visitors to the garden that I had to surround the moth trap with a wire mesh fence to prevent moths getting taken off the sides.

This very small individual was the first one I photographed when we'd 
started to offer the "Spike's Dinner" hedgehog food. (April 2020)

Then the population absolutely crashed, decimated by disease/habitat loss, to a point where they simply disappeared from the Thanet (UK?) gardens. Road casualties were non-existent, hedgehogs facing extinction in the UK countryside was a message coming from the various wildlife trusts and agencies. I didn't encounter a living animal for several years, any roadside corpse called a "deadgehog" and was something of note around the roadways of East Kent. I'm no expert in the ups and downs of this hedgehog saga, dates and data are not something which stimulate me to get involved with wildlife. No; it was Gary and Julie Pearse who were catalyst to my own garden efforts getting off the ground. It was probably three, or four, years back that Gary first showed me some images of the hedgehogs that Julie was attracting to their back garden, less than a mile away from us. Julie had got rather passionate about these animals and started to colour mark their spines (with a small dab of nail varnish as I recall) so that she could monitor their numbers. Gary then showed me some trail-cam footage of these animals coming to their feeding station - I'm well impressed.

Tucked away in a rather neglected spot, this is the Dumpton Hedgehog Hilton.

It wasn't, however, until lockdown started to impact upon my routine that I actually became serious about this, garden based, project. Searching the internet allowed me to find plans for a hedgehog house, which I then made out of scrap pallet wood obtained from Fuji. Whilst Cathy Newbury, over at Maxim's pet shop was able to supply the "Spike's Dinner" food, and metal dishes, needed for the feeding station. Hedgehogs have been a regular feature around the garden ever since. Right from the start it was clear that several individuals were visiting the feeding station over the course of a night and this remains true today. Exact numbers are difficult to gauge without going to the lengths of actually marking them? I'm doing my best to see if I can discover any features which will allow me to identify the individuals by using the camera kit. To my way of thinking it's an interesting side show, yet not vital, to the overall enjoyment of the venture. Just to have these creatures back in the garden is reward enough for the small effort involved in getting food and water ready for the coming night.

Spike's Dinner - can't say anything negative about the effectiveness
of these hedgehog foods. but they are very expensive!

This brief dalliance with hedgehogs has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what can be achieved with a modicum of effort. The internet is a wealth of information, via various passionate individuals and societies, all keen to promote the welfare of the UK's hedgehog population. Some excellent feeding advice is also on offer, with a major emphasis on mealworms and the devastating effects they can have upon the animals skeletal make up. Feeding mealworms is an absolute NO NO! Similarly, there is some other advice, which although not saying anything detrimental about the individual brands or products, suggests that anyone feeding these animals should use items that have been produced for the pet market, as they are governed by food standards, whereas the wildlife feed has no such standards in place. I can now vouch for this being a very cost effective way of ensuring the continued good health of my garden visitors. 


Two visitors from Monday night. The solar lights are some cheap rock effect things that
Bev had purchased from The Range - do the job.

Having used, almost constantly, Spike's Dinner; only once have I had to purchase the Mr Johnson's alternative, I am now seeing the benefits of offering Tesco Kitten biscuits - the hedgehogs absolutely adore them. And here's the crux. Spike's Dinner = £9.49/1.3 kg the Tesco biscuits  75 p/500 grms, it really is a no brainer!

75 p worth of hedgehog magnets!



4 comments:

  1. You are very lucky to have your hedgehogs, here on Sheppey they are becoming a very uncommon sight, especially on the marshes, for two reasons. On the Elmley Nature Reserve, because the hedgehogs love the eggs of ground nesting birds, the management get an annual licence to trap the hedgehogs live. This can only be done prior to the hedgehog breeding season and the hedgehogs are then removed to sites off of the Island, so at least they survive.
    Even worse, for a number of years now one of the major arable farmers on Harty as had a massive slug problemand so every early autumn he spreads a large number of his fields with slug pellets, the ones that are poisonous to most wildlife. Not hard to imagine what happens to hedgehogs feeding on the poisoned slugs. During May, June and July I was feeding a hedgehog(s) coming into my garden each night via a hole I'd cut in my drive gate. The big worry was that it seemed to be coming from an overgrown garden across the road and eventually the inevitable happened and I found it dead in the road.

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    1. It seems a very strange concept for a "Nature Reserve" to start acting like a keepered shooting estate. Removing one species to promote another? I could sympathise if it were Mink that were the issue, but hedgehogs - really?
      I wouldn't mind betting that the wholesale use of industrial pesticides, by the farming community needing to comply with CAP regulations in order to maintain their grant status, was a major factor in the sudden population collapse of the UK's hedgehog population. As for hedgehogs and the Green Cross Code - there is no answer I'm afraid!
      Thanks for the comment, as always - Dyl

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  2. Hello mate, I love to see this, I really do. I haven't seen a live one for so long. I actually went on to facebook at one point, on to the 'We Love Ramsgate' group, and asked if anybody still saw them locally. I got some interesting responses. The areas near King George VI park were doing OK. And so was Nethercourt. When I was very small, we moved from behind St Laurence Church to live in Nethercourt, before then moving on to Pegwell. All three areas had them. My brother and I used to help them cross the road where we lived at the top of Downs Road. And in Nethercourt, we lived behind the barn that was still there. They used to come in from the old farm grounds and hunt in our backyards. We'd make dens for them and inevitably, each new one was called Hector! Anyway, it trasnspired that Nethercourt was the only area from my childhood which still had them going strong. They seem to have colonised the older gardens going down Rydal Avenue (where we lived) and the newer ones built behind Rydal on the remains of the old farmstead... But none at Pegwell- my parents still live there and they're gone. And apparently none at St Laurence. So how wonderful you've got them round your way- it's a real thrill to think they're still out there, mate- Best Regards, Gazza

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    1. Gazza,
      The current interaction with our garden hedgehogs has been a wonderful by-product of the ridiculous Covid-19 situation. I'm confident that there is far more going on under the cover of darkness than we are aware of. My use of the Magenta 5 Bat Detector has given me an insight into what's occurring out there in the environment beyond my ability to use sight and sound.
      It would appear that the urban hedgehogs are doing far better than their rural cousins - that they're on the (UK) Red Data List is beyond comprehension. How have the ecological circumstances been allowed to change, in such radical manner, to have created this situation? I know one thing - I'm going to enjoy every encounter available to me whilst the current situation exists. - Dyl

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