Monday, 21 June 2010

Location, Location, Location

No, we haven't moved home, nor have we moved the hedgehog nest boxes, but we've been moving the cameras to get a different view of things.

In the three weeks since the last blog, things have been going on as normal on the hedgie front. We still have two residents, Alfie in 9b on the patio, and Indy in 9f (left) in the boiler room at the front. Indy no longer seems to be indecisive - she (we still think Indy is a she... for the moment) is quite definitely living in 9f (left) and hasn't been into the right-hand nest for some weeks.

At the moment, with the longest day, it is getting dark about 10 pm. The hedgehogs normally venture as it is getting dark, but they do have a peep out a little earlier to see if it is dark enough. It seems that they start getting peckish and Indy may come out of her nest into the hall a couple of time before finally coming out. A couple of nights ago we decided to sit by the front door waiting for Indy to pop out, and got into position about 9 pm. Only a few minutes later there was a little "tap tap tap" - and another hedgehog appeared round the corner of the garage, its claws tapping on the concrete path. It was there for quite a while - then Indy came out and there was some "huffing" before the visitor moved off. It's quite amazing how the hedgehogs will walk past you within a few inches, as long as you remain still and quiet.

So, back to the new camera positions. We have retained the old ATM camera, looking through the hole in the fence, but we now have ATM2, mounted over the ATM, looking straight down. It shows the wooden steps leading down from the ATM, and shows that quite a lot can happen below the view of ATM1.

In this clip a hedgie comes in through the ATM and tucks into the mealworms, when a cat decides to leave via the ATM. The hedgie prickles slightly, but doesn't seem too bothered as the cat pushes past:

We have two more cameras on the patio, looking along the patio in opposite directions. These, combined with the camera on the steps leading down from the lawn to the patio, combine to show unusual hedgie behaviour. Unusual, but we have seen it before - the hedgehog seems to be looking for something. We think this one is Nightshift, who hasn't been in the nest boxes for many weeks. Starting all three clips together should give an idea of the whole event - she climbs down the steps, has a quick look in 9c, goes up to the doorway of 9b and then back up the steps. The surprising thing is that she seems to be quite determined in her mission - she is moving very quickly, without the usual meandering wander of the hedgehog.

Our other new cameras are in the alley, about 6 feet (2 metres) up the alley to the left of the ATM. This alley provides a thoroughfare for the hedgehogs, and links all of the gardens together. The alley stops half way along our garden at a gate leading to the garden with the decking. As this is not a through route, the alley is very overgrown by bushes, and the concrete path is covered in fallen leaves. It's ideal for the hedgehogs, as only they and the cats use it. We put a single camera at the new location a few weeks ago to try and see where the hedgehogs were going, but we found that a lot of the action was just out of camera shot. So, we came up with the new design - three cameras mounted together, looking left, across and right, giving an almost 180 degree view of the alley. We have had seen quite a lot of meetings, and this is one of the more exciting meetings. Again, starting all three clips together is quite nice.

Some hedgehogs are definitely more aggressive than others - the one here getting attacked seems to be particularly timid. A few nights ago we saw one poor hedgie (probably this one) get attacked five times in about ten minutes in the alley, by other passing hedgehogs. In the end the poor thing gave up trying to get into the garden and went back up the alley.

On another occasion we saw it waiting patiently outside the ATM for the hedgie on the ATM to move. Finally, after five minutes it gave up and went under the decking and came into the garden through that entrance.

We have had very little activity under the decking for the last few weeks. The same thing happened last year. We wonder if the other entrance to the decking has become blocked by growing plants.

We had another surprise early visitor -still in broad daylight. Unfortunately, not the sharpest of pictures as it is quite dark round the ATM and the shutter speed was quite slow, but quite a nice shot:

Moving to our feathered friends, most of the starlings are now self-sufficient. We heard a single chick calling for food yesterday, but that was the first for several days. This is good news, as the noise level has diminished, although it is replaced by the noise of them squabbling. We suspect we aren't too popular with the neighbours. The starlings seem to be using the garden as a nursery, with lots of youngsters and only one or two adults. We did count over sixty birds at one stage! Their aerobatics and formation flying are getting very well developed. Although we have lots of starlings we get the feeling that there are several flocks each visiting at different times, since there is one very distinctive bird, "Chalky", who has a completely white tail feather. We only see this bird at one time of the day.

There are quite a few blackbirds around, and we get a lovely song from one each evening as he perches on a nearby tree or on the neighbour's TV aerial. The blackbirds are very active at the front, too. We have a hanging feeder by the front door, which was attracting robins (sadly, they visit very rarely now) and has been attracting lots of bluetits recently. Possibly as a result of spilled food, the blackbirds started visiting. We saw them on the camera we placed to watch Indy, so we started putting out "Buggy Nibbles" (suet pellets with insects) for the blackbirds, and they have proved to be a real hits. We have seen three blackbirds queuing up on the lawn to feed. They will even take food while we are standing at the front door. They caught us unawares yesterday and had cleared the food early in the morning, and we were surprised to see a blackbird on the bluetit feeder!

Finally, a real treat - a woodpecker on the fat balls. Unfortunately, most of the time it was on the far side, but we did get one reasonable photo:

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Quiet nights...

Things seem to be getting quiet in the evenings, hedgehog-wise. The last few evenings have seen fewer visitors than in recent weeks - we were getting two visitors just before dark, one under the decking and one through the ATM, but they haven't been for several nights. The feeding station in 9e was almost continually occupied, but again for the last few nights there have only been one or two visits. We hope that this is a sign of plentiful natural food so the hedgehogs don't need our help so much. We just hope the little chaps are all doing well.

We still have Alfie in 9b, and we think Indy spent the day in 9f, but the hedgie who was staying in 9c for the last few days didn't return last night. I did have a surprise yesterday morning, though - just after half past nine, in broad daylight, I looked out of the back door, and there was a hedgehog drinking from the bowl outside 9c, for several minutes, before climbing back into 9c. We looked back through the videos and found it had been out for about 20 minutes - it just popped out, stayed behind 9d for a quarter of an hour, then had a snack and a long drink and back to bed:

It would seem it had nipped out for the loo. We have seen this in 9a, which is very well hidden under bushes, but not on the patio before. Strangely, about 10 minutes later Alfie got up in 9b and came to the entrance of the tunnel, before thinking better of it, turning round and having a poo just before he returned to the nest.

Two nights ago we did have some action on the ATM, with what seemed to be quite a violent pushing fit:

We were getting rather concerned about Indy's lack of exercise. (S)he (yes, on one clip we got the distinct feeling Indy is actually a little girl) as she just seemed to be squeezing out under the door to the mealies and then back into 9f, but of late she has been spending more time away:

So, we will just have to wait and see...

... and Noisy Days

Just as the nights are getting quieter, the days are getting louder. We have been feeding the birds for several years - in fact, it seems it was the bird food which attracted the hedgehogs.

We have a reasonable range of the standard birds - blue tits, robins, blackbirds, pied wagtails, wood pigeons, collared doves, and ... starlings.

It seems a lot of people (our neighbours included, no doubt) don't like starlings, as they are aggressive, messy, frighten off the other birds - and are VERY noisy. The noise is on the increase at the moment as the young birds have now fledged and are all around the garden screaming for food. Fortunately, many of them are already able to feed themselves, although that doesn't seem to count as they immediately squawk when they see an adult with food in its beak.

They have learned to enjoy a bath, though, and once one takes the plunge they all want to get in on the act. In the first clip you can see Chalky, one of the baby starlings with a white tail feather.

From the archives

Finally a couple of interesting clips from earlier in May, when we had a cold spell (down to 1 degree above freezing) - a hedgehog collecting nesting material. The hedgie made two trips under the decking within ten minutes, but we haven't seen it collecting any more since then: