Tag Archives: garden

Hoglet in the House!

Britain’s hedgehog population has been in a state of steady decline – down by a quarter over just the last ten years! For a creature than is beneficial to our gardens and a delight to watch and be around, this is well and truly a shame. Intensive agriculture, encroaching development and being too slow while crossing roads (!) have all led to a sorry situation all around. But there are people willing to help. There is the British Hedgehog Society as well as smaller recue and care centres, like Willows Hedgehog Rescue, dotted around the country.

Some of you may know just how mad I am about hedgehogs. I’ve signed up at Hedgehog Street and recently joined Wild About Britain to learn more about how to get involved in their care, rehabilitation and conservation (both incredibly informative and highly recommended).

And yesterday, a little hoglet decided to take me up on that!

Lily and I were out for a quick run around the dog field in the middle of the afternoon (on our previous visit we’d been roughed up a bit by two massive boxers the owner couldn’t quite control, and since this is often the case we had been avoiding the field in peak times). As we entered we noticed a gentleman walking his pitbull around the field on a leash. Since it’s unusual to see leashed dogs within the field, I thought that he might be a bit hard to handle and for safety’s sake kept Lily on a leash as well. Turned out that there was a wee hoglet in the dog field and the bigger dog had tried to get at it, hence the owner had slipped the lead on him – I came upon the little bundle of prickles and touched him lightly to see if he was alive and he was! The other dog walker came up to me and explained about his dog and what had happened earlier. We couldn’t see how he’d got into the field, and clearly it wasn’t the place for a wee hedgehoggy to be, seeing the dog traffic, so I decided to take him home and call the wildlife folks and see what was to be done. Lily was very well behaved and after the other two left I let her off leash and she ran about while I collected the little dude in my fleece.

As we were walking home I started wondering whether I’d done the right thing – but all the reading I’d done suggested a) dogs would maul hedgehogs and often did – and b) a hedgehog would not be out during the day unless something was wrong. I got on the Wild About Britain forum where I got immediate responses providing advice, contact numbers, encouragement and agreement that it was in the little guy’s best interests for me to have brought him home.

I called the county rescue but just got a message saying they weren’t taking in any more casualties (its the time of year when they are quite overwhelmed and, very likely, under-funded) – so will try again today, just to get him checked over and make sure he’s fit and fine.

He didn’t look too tiny (I’ll weigh him later today) so I imagined he’s about a month old and weaned. I mashed up some of Lily’s food and put it in the cover of a jam jar, same for water and put them in a box set up with newspaper, a hot water bottle and a towel. And sure enough, the second he smelt the food, his nose began to twitch and he scuttled right to it and pigged out noisily! Since then, he’s eaten a few times, drank some water, taken many naps, spent the night pinging around all over the little run I put together for his nocturnal meanderings and been a regular marauder! His poo has become firm and he generally looks like he’s in good health.

I’m hoping that he can be checked over by the rescue people or otherwise the vet, and that he’s in the pink. Perhaps they’ll let me keep him around, our garden’s been overrun by slugs and could do with a resident Hedgehog-in-Chief when he’s older. We’ll have to sort him out with regards to having an outside run and a place to hibernate (if he’s old enough to survive it) or learn how to over-winter him inside if he’s not – but the man of the house says that’s all doable and if we can convince him to adopt our garden it’ll be a win all around.

Do click through the picture to read a great article in the Guardian about how beneficial they are and how to lend a helping hand by making your garden hedgehog-friendly. I’ll keep you updated on what happens to our little friend. I haven’t named him as yet – thought we’d wait till be got an okay from wildlife folks, but the shortlist so far is:

Rashers

Truffles

Hogden Dash

Do let me know if you have some suggestions, we’ll add them to the pile and take a family vote if he becomes a permanent resident.

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A Spot in the Sun

A few days back we had a sunny spell, so I thought I’d quickly grab some sunshine time in the garden. I put out the blanket and went in to make some ice-tea (sunshine doesn’t work properly without ice-tea), and when I returned, her royal doggieness had taken over my spot! Please note the very firm ‘I belong here, don’t try and mess with me – now go fetch me a snack’ look I got from her. She rules with an iron paw she does.


Hoopoes!

These guys are just lovely in life – their wings in flight, flashing their distinctive bold black and white colouring, are just gorgeous to see. I remember them pecking around our back garden in Lahore many years ago.

I do miss them – and that garden.


Fancy Frog

A fancy frog in jewel tones to warm this snowy day 🙂


Random Garden Folk

This little Starling was just too funny – there’s a phrase in Urdu that would get tossed at me when I filled up my plate with more than I could eat – ‘big eyes, little mouth’, here it is in action.

I think this little fellow was on his last legs, a tribute then, to all his hard work as a pollinating superstar.

Lady Goldfinch, not a frequent visitor, but a much loved one.


Garden Visitors – A Mixed Bag

Some mamas and papas, some little wee ones, a blurry great-tit, a frog and some smelly flowers (the one on the left smells better than the one on the right, teehee).

Mr.& Mrs.Sparrow

Bathing Babies

Ruminating Robin

Baby Robins

The ever-so-quick Great Tit

Frogger!

Smelly Flowers


Predator and Prey

A couple of weeks ago I was tap-tap-tapping away in my little ‘studio’ when suddenly the lovely birdsong that accompanies the rhythm of our lives morphed into a shrieking cacophony more suited to a certain Hitchcock film. It felt as if every bird in the sky had realized the end was nigh and begun screaming in unison. Lily and I jumped and ran to the back door to the garden, not really sure what was going on. I pulled open the door, Lily at my heels, and we were both suddenly frozen as we saw on the ground right in front of us a sparrowhawk, wings surrounding its prey and with another little fluffy body of a recently fledged starling nearby. It looked at me with that eye (oh, that eye!) and I was completely hypnotized – had I been a fluffy bunny that would have been the end of me I expect.

After what seemed like a while, though I expect was barely a couple of seconds, the bird took off and Lily sprung into action towards the spot where the sparrowhawk had been. I yelled at her to get away and she took off towards the end of the garden leaving me at the scene. Looking at the patch of grass vacated by the predator I saw the second of the little starlings get up and lurch, bloodied and spurting red, towards the cover of a nearby hedge where it collapsed and died. As I stood there, completely horror-struck by the whole episode, I may have let out a little scream myself (okay, okay – so am lily-livered city girl…*blush*).

Of course I could do nothing but fret until the man of the wilds came home and ‘dealt with it,’ admonishing me for having interrupted the female sparrowhawk (of course he knew it was) sorting out a meal for her little fledgelings back in the nest. To rub it in, he pointed out that she’d probably have to go ‘off’ a few more starling chicks in order to feed her family, the death of these little ones having been in vain (though he did leave them for cat/fox by the fence and, sure enough, just a tuft of feathers by the morning).

So I failed. My first encounter with Nature in her fiery glory and I played stupid rabbit *sigh*.Will now have to sit through a lot more Attenborough on Eden to compensate. But, at least I made a cool sparrowhawk picture to illustrate since I wasn’t really quick or calm enough to take a photograph. The feather textures are actually from a photo I took of a pair of duckies by the river, tee hee. Hope you like it.

And if you enjoyed my tale of woe – here’s another on the topic by Derek Neimann in the Guardian, also taking place in Bedfordshire.


Robins

Best loved of the British garden birds, the robin is truly a delight to watch. Their distinctive little hops, shameless posing on twigs and branches and round little silhouettes makes them a favourite for people everywhere. A pair have decided to call one of our nesting boxes home and have had two chicks that are now finding their feet on the little patio we have set up for bird-kind. Both parents are very hands on (wings on?) with the care and feeding and the little fellows are quite demanding. 


Garden Visitors – An Assortment

The wonders of the English country garden do not cease with the bird life. We have seen many other critters come and go over the last year including, but not limited to, a fox, a hedgehog family and various cats in search of a tender morsel or two. Aside from the little birds we had some ducks drop in and I had a close encounter with a sparrow hawk, which  I have no photos of unfortunately (mostly because once it fixed its eye on me I found myself unable to move – more prey than predator in me I suppose).

Some of these comings and goings were documented, I hope you enjoy them:

A Mallard – Lily was desperate to have a go at duck hunt, but had to watch from afar.

The Incredible Mr.Fox – since we got Lily last year we have had to stop encouraging this nightly visitor in case of an encounter, but he was a pleasure to watch.

Mr. & Mrs. Hedgehog would come by around dusk every night for a plate of cat-food. Contrary to popular belief, feeding them bread and milk is not a good idea as it makes the little critters very ill. 

And where there are fluffy little fledgelings, there is a a hopeful cat waiting by the bird feeder for a little smackerel of something. This one has had to be chased off a few times, but often we’d see him hiding in the nearby bushes anyway….hope springs eternal.

Named ‘Shooshoo’ after failing to respond to that command repeatedly, this cat is a regular in our neighbourhood and always ready for a cuddle. A neighbour was smart enough to bell her as she is quite the avid tree climber/bird killer herself.

Lily now keeps the yard free of predatory cats, but occasionally decides to pull a predation herself (ref. The Pigeon Caper).


Garden Visitors of the Bird Kind

Since I moved to the British countryside I have learned to appreciate the wealth of wildlife that surrounds us here. I never (ever) expected that whole afternoons would be spent watching the flutterings of our little friends, listening to the variety of birdsong in the garden and talking about the latest happenings with the bird families that have made our garden their home. My husband, an avid ‘twitcher’ (the very British term for birdwatcher) is much to blame for this state of affairs. He spends a lot of time, come rain, snow or sun, making sure his feathered friends are well fed and happy. This involves many trips to the garden centre for bird food, and related paraphernalia, as well as the construction of bird houses dotted around the garden and the maintenance of the trees and the hedges. In winter he makes sure their water bowls have warm water, refreshed multiple times a day.

I have to admit I was slow to come around to ‘twitching’ but I have been won over and now prowl about happily trying to capture these frequent visitors on film. I apologize for the graininess of some of the shots, having been taken at a distance and through glass to avoid disturbing the birds, but I hope you’ll enjoy them.

The Thrush

The Pied Wagtail

The Chaffinch

The Robin

A Starling and a Blue Tit

A Starling fledgling and some sparring Starlings

A Wren and a Thrush

We are indebted to the RSPB’s ‘Bird Identifier‘and I am indebted to my twitchy husband for bringing this little wondrous world to my attention. And in case you missed it – here’s the data from the 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch.