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Hoggy out and about

hoggy coming out of feeder

Last November, I found a tiny hedgehog wandering around the garden.  It was too small (less than 300g) to survive the winter, so we took it in (see hedgehog seeks board and lodging).  With a custom built run, house and a personal heater, Hoggy grew stronger over the winter months.

We released her at the end of March (see Hoggy Released).

We set up a wildlife camera to capture what she did and placed a feeding station near the hedghog house we released her into.  In the first week, only videos involving a mouse, a deer, a cat and a robin were captured.

I looked in the hedgehog house and Hoggy had gone.  It’s what one would expect from a hedgehog, but for some reason the wildlife camera didn’t capture her leaving.  Most annoying.

hoggy eating
Hoggy eating

We kept the feeding station and camera in place.  A few days later, we had our first video of a hedgehog.  It didn’t go into the feeder, but it was a hedgehog in the vicinity nevertheless.  It took a couple of days (or nights) before we finally captured a video of a hedgehog in the feeder eating.

We are pretty sure it’s Hoggy because she ate the dog food and dried calcium worms but left the specialist hedgehog food.  This is what she had done in her winter quarters.

We shall keep replenishing the feeder to ensure she, and any other hedgehogs, have access to a tasty snack if they need it.

 

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Duck House installed

duck house

In our smallholding here, we have a small loch which attracts ducks, herons and other water birds including geese and even occasionally, a cormorant.  We also have a duck house that we bought years ago.  This year, we got our act together and rooted it out ready to go onto the loch.

duck house ready to goWe loaded it onto the quadbike and set off.  We had plenty of nylon rope (for securing it).  They can be attached to an anchor, but we don’t have a boat so we couldn’t take it out to the middle of the loch.  Our cunning plan was to tie it to two trees, one on each bank.  I also had to relearn a sheet bend, a knot I had failed to learn as a boy scout, a mistake which nearly cost me my advanced scout badge.  It’s funny what we remember.

duck house getting ready for launchAnyway, first things first, we had to get the duck house on the water.  It comes in two pieces, a floating platform and the house itself.  It can be quite tricky to get this level, but we got there.

This plan started well with us securing it to the first tree.  The idea then was to walk around the bank to the opposite shore.  The problem was that there were other trees in the way making this tricky.  Also, the first think to happen was that the duck house got tangle up in some branches.  We couldn’t pull it free without knocking it and thus causing it to tilt.  Nor could we reach it to push it clear.

duck house - getting feet wetSo, it was boots off and into the water I went.  By judicious prodding with a tree guard, I managed to get it free.  By this time Nicole was half way round the loch and had come up against a rather tricky tree of her own.  This one was in the middle of a marshy area which we couldn’t really walk on.

I nipped back to the house and got a plastic milk carton and some more rope.

Back at the loch, I joined the ropes, attached the milk carton (full of water) and lobbed it over the loch.  This enabled Nicole to fetch it and tie it to a tree on the opposite bank.

The duck house was in place and ready for use.  Now all we have to hope is that the ducks use it.  There are a pair of ducks down there though they are quite nervous so we can’t go and look otherwise we’ll disturb them.

duck house

 

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Hoggy Released

hedgehog released back into the wild

Last November, I found a tiny hedgehog wandering around the garden.  At less than 300g, she would never have survived the winter.  We took her in and she has overwintered in a special box in the pantry with her own personal heaters.

While the nights are still a bit chilly here, I have seen other hedgehogs out and about.  Hoggy has also been very active of late, completely re-arranging her winter quarters every night.  We decided it was time to release Hoggy back into the wild.  The heaters have been off for the last week or so so she should be a little acclimatised to outdoor temperatures.

Nicole getting ready to release Hoggy
Nicole getting ready to release Hoggy

We had a hedgehog house set up under a bush and we stuffed it full of fresh hay.  We also added some hay from her indoor bed so that she would recognise her smell.  Next to it we placed a cat and dog-proof feeding station that I built years ago so we can continue to provide food.

In the early afternoon we took her out.  Nicole did the honours, carrying her to her new home.  We say “new home”, but there’s every chance Hoggy will leave and not come back.  Like many wild creatures, hedgehogs don’t really have homes like us humans.  That said, there are a couple of hedgehogs that nest under the pallets that support our hay, so maybe round here they like to have a nest.

Nicole introduced Hoggy to the tunnel into the hedgehog house.  Hoggy needed no second invitation and was straight in.  We watched her disappear into the bed area and said our goodbyes.  We will be resisting the temptation to look in as hedgehogs don’t really like to be disturbed when they are sleeping.

We have set up the wildlfe camera to see what she does and will do our best to keep an eye on her, should she decide to stay.

hedgehog house and feeding station
hedgehog house and feeding station
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Hoggy update

hoggy the hedgehog

In November last year, I happened upon a tiny hedgehog out foraging.  At just over 300g, she was too small to survive the winter so we brought her in so that she could overwinter indoors (see Spending the Winter Indoors).  Had we not done so, she would have perished.

Over the first few days, Hoggy put on weight at a phenomenal rate.  Now, two months later, she is approaching 800g and so we have to be careful not to let her get fat.  Indeed, we have been considering releasing her early.  This can be done if the overnight temperatures stay above 5o for a week.  In preparation, we have turned her heaters off so can get used to it being a little cooler.   I say cooler, but it still averages around 14o in her indoor home, a good 10o warmer than outside.

January has been pretty mild, as it happens, but just not quite warm enough.  On top of that, the rain has been relentless so we are now looking at a February release.  A deluxe hedgehog house has been purchased so she’ll have good shelter (if she chooses to use it).  I’m also repairing the hedgehog feeding station (cat and dog proof) so we can leave her food to help her get established outdoors again.

In the meantime, despite the strong temptation to sit with her on our laps, we handle her as little as possible.  We change her bedding regularly and that is the only time we pick her up.  It takes much willpower as she is undeniably cute and, for a hedgehog, incredibly tolerant of being handled.

 

#hedgehogrescue #rurallife #galloway #hedgehog #hedgehogs

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Spending the winter indoors

OK, so I was out and about as usual around 8:30pm on a cold November evening when I saw the human and two dogs approaching. I wasn’t that worried as I’d seen them before and they always keep a respectful distance. However, this time, the human came over, crouched down and then PICKED ME UP!

“What’s going on?” I thought. Next thing, I’d been whisked to a place I’d never been before full of straight lines and strange smells. That said, it was lovely and warm and, truth be told, I was feeling a bit cold. I suppose that’s why I hadn’t curled up into my protective ball.

Anyway, there I was perched on the humans hands listening to the humans babbling on about something. I was a bit peckish and I was offered some food, but I was too distracted to eat anything. In fact, I was quite enjoying sitting in those warm, toasty hands. I even flattened myself out a bit so I could get maximum warmth into my feet and tummy. It was lovely.

Next thing, I’m being put into a dog crate. Well, I’m not having that I thought to myself. I waited a few moments and then sized up the bars. I could squeeze through them, I thought, so that’s just what I did. Only, I got halfway through and got stuck. Luckily, the humans cut me free and I was back in those warm toasty hands. Lovely.

I was soon quite warmed up and now the humans, having learned from their mistake, put me in a nice big box with lots of fresh hay, food and water. I scoffed the food and settled down for a siesta. I was a bit tired as it has been quite cold of late and so food has been a bit scarce. A full tummy was just great and I felt really sleepy.

Next day, I was moved into a larger area. It’s plastic so I don’t think I’ll be getting out in a hurry, but I now have my own little bedroom and a steady supply of food and water. I get cleaned out every day which can a bit of a pain, but there’s nothing quite like snuggling back into clean fresh hay.

It’s a lot warmer than outside, so, you know, though I don’t have as much space as I’d like, I’m quite happy really.  Plus I’ve put on nearly 100g in just three days so that’s pretty good too.

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Underweight hedgehog seeks board and lodging

hedgehog winter quarters

It is our custom to take the dogs out in the evening to give them a chance to pee before bedtime.  Often, we have been lucky enough to see a hedgehog.  Given they are having a hard time of it, we feel quite privileged.

The other night, I spotted one in front of me and stooped for a look.  I realised it looked quite small.  Hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600g or they cannot hibernate.  If they can’t hibernate, then they can’t make it through the winter.  I know this because many years ago, I used to overwinter underweight hedgehogs quite often.  At that time I had close links with Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital which was, back then, a set of sheds in a suburban back garden.  These days it’s a fully equipped purpose built wildlife hospital (Tiggywinkles).

Anyway, I scooped up this little critter and took it back inside.  Sure enough, it weighed only 300g.  It would need warm winter quarters.  On the positive side, it looked pretty healthy and there were no ticks or fleas that I could see.

temporary hedgehog quarters
temporary hedgehog quarters

The problem was, we didn’t have anything suitable to keep it in.  All the rabbit hutches were long gone.  While I sat warming up the wee hedgehog, Nicole scoured the house for a suitable container.  Eventually, one of us remembered we had set aside a large cardboard box.  Handing the wee hedgehog over to Nicole, I set about transforming the box into a temporary hedgehog home.

Making plenty of airholes and also ensuring it was escape proof, we put in dog food, water and plenty of hay.  In my experience, hedgehogs make Harry Houdini look like a beginner when it comes to escaping.

Next day, we set off to get a better home.  The box was fine but it would only last one, maybe two nights before it gave in to the relentless soaking from hedgehog wee.  First stop was the only pet warehouse in the area, a mere 45 minutes drive.  It had rabbit hutches, but these days they are multi level house shaped obstacle courses.  I just wanted something with an area for a nest and and area for night time wandering.  The only one they had which might have been OK wasn’t in stock.

So, next followed a trip to a country store and then a garden centre.  Plenty of pet homes, but nothing suitable at all.  This was not going well.  So, I did what I maybe should have done in the first place, I sat in the car, got my phone out and went onto a hedgehog rescue site to look for ideas.  Well, rabbit hutches are out, the new des res for an overwintering hedgehog is a large, deep plastic box.  Thank you Hedgehog Rescue for that idea.  I would never have thought of that.

Googling plastic boxes pointed me to Homebase where, after a long and gently dispiriting search (Homebase is not what it used to be) I found a massive plastic box and a rather attractive green bucket that would make the perfect nest box.  I nearly did a little skip, but being from Edinburgh, I didn’t.

In fact we jumped in the car and headed speedily home to set it all up.  And it has worked perfectly, a good nest box, enough room for food and water and space to do a bit of roaming.  And it’s not far from a radiator for warmth.

Now it’s all about keeping it clean and providing plenty of food and water.

hedgehog winter quarters
hedgehog accommodation - a huge plastic box
hedgehog winter quarters
After the morning clean up

Oh, and if you are wondering why there’s no photo of the wee hedgehog, it’s because it has had a stressful enough experience already so we are trying to leave it in peace as much as possible.  We’ll probably take a picture when we next weigh it in a week or so’s time.

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Weather and Frogs

frog in the grass

Well, what can I say – February had some unusually warm weather with bright, warm sunny days. It was lovely, even if it was a sign of underlying climate change. We took full advantage including getting in some early seed sowing. We now have brassicas and turnips germinating in the greenhouse. This is helped by the fact that I laid in an electric cable and installed a small tube heater to keep the frost at bay.  And those warm February days did turn pretty chilly at night.

The next thing that happened was that suddenly, there were frogs everywhere. The frog chorus met at the pond and started singing their hearts out. Driving up the track at night suddenly became an exercise in frog spotting followed by evasive manoeuvres (or Nicole getting out of the car and helping them to safety). We think we have done quite well because there are no flat frogs on the track. That said, the herons are back. I suppose it’s an early spring feast for them.

The question is, were they a bit early? Because, after the warm spell, storm Freya hit. Torrential rain, wind and it all turned a bit chilly. I don’t think the frogs minded the rain so much. The sheep and hens are not impressed though. The area around the sheep field shelter and feeders has become something of a quagmire. Good job they have a patio! That said, one of the great things here is that they can trundle up the hill where the ground is remarkably solid. They can escape the mud and they do, happily grazing (the grass is growing already) and cudding and generally just being sheep.

Storm Freya continues to wag her tail at us as I write this, but inbetween the rain and blustery winds, we are at least getting moments of sunshine.

And after writing this, I’ll be off to plant more seeds.

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Birds feeding time

bird cake home made

I have always been one for feeding the birds.  I really enjoy watching them tucking in, feasting, squabbling, all the usual behaviours.  I try hard to cater for the various types of birds, some are happy on feeders, some like the table and some prefer to be on the ground. And different birds have their preferences on types of food.

birds at feeding stationSo, we have two feeding stations, one catering mainly for the tit family (peanuts and seeds) and one for finches and siskins (niger seed and peanuts).  I also made a large quantity of bird cake, pictured above, as most birds are omnivores and a bit of fat goes a long way in the cold weather.

These feeding stations have proven very popular, especially with coal tits.  The dunnocks and chaffinces mop up what is dropped to the ground.  We also have regular visits from a pair of nuthatches and a great spotted woodpecker.

birds at feeding stationOn the ground, we still have windfall (apples) which are most popular with the blackbirds and the occasional visit from the ever shy and retiring fieldfare.  Strangely, no sign of siskins as yet – they were regular visitors last winter.

The bird cake is very popular.

Robins, well they are aplenty here, but prefer me to do a bit of digging or feed them mealworms directly.  One particular robin appears every time I go out so he gets his own special delivery.

 

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Wildlife in the summer sun

baby swallows close up

Running our wee patch organically, we get some pretty good wildlife.  The swallows are back, albeit a little late, but are back nesting in both our large shed and our smaller open garage.  In the latter, the nest is just above head height.  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see four baby swallows.  There are certainly plenty of flying insects here for their parents to catch.

ragged robin
ragged robin

Up in one of the fields, we have a large area of ragged robin.  According to the UK’s wildlife trusts, this is an increasingly rare site, so we feel quite privileged.

We’ll keep it safe from the cows until it has seeded.

The tadpoles are long hatched and over the last few days, we have had to tread carefully as there are baby frogs are everywhere.  Makes cutting the grass a worrying task!

Sadly, we don’t seem to have the sand martins this year.  There is some evidence of tunneling, but no sign of nests yet.  Also, the house martins have chosen not to build their nest on our house this year.  Oh well!  Maybe next year.

We also caught a quick glimpse of a lizard on one of our stone dykes.  First time I’ve ever seen one in Scotland.

The bats are regular visitors.  I have only seen Pipistrelles flying round the house and garden.  I really ought to blow the dust off the bat detector and head down to the loch to see if there are any other species of bat flying around.

Thankfully, there has been no sign of the badger returning.  We like badgers, but not when they’re in the hen house!

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Hedgehog takes over Shed

We had been allowing our hay to dry out and so had moved the farm equipment out of the shed to give us extra space.  Having dried out, I stored it all away over the weekend.

Now, we have spotted on a fairly regular basis a young hedgehog wandering around during the day.  It seems fine and has duly ignored the food we put out for it (puppy food in case you were wondering).  I spotted it wandering around our large shed but thought little of it and left it to carry on.

As you probably know, hedgehogs are called hedgehogs because they like to nest in hedges.  They can also be quite partial to piles of garden rubbish.  I also know that they don’t tend to nest in the same place until they hibernate.

This hedgehog has not read the same books as me!

I noticed, in the middle of the shed floor, a small pile of hay and straw.  I went over to look and there was the little hedgehog nesting in it.   So this little hedgehog has chosen a to nest in a huge shed, maybe to keep out of the rain.  It also dawned on me that it must have liked the space under the drying out bales of hay.

So, I put some bales round to keep it warm and safe.  The spot is marked by an arrow in the picture above.

And all the farming equipment remains out in the rain.