Sunday, 1 May 2011

Catching Up

We were rather shocked when we realised it is a month since the last post to the blog, so a bit of catching up is in order. We've been busy, not least keeping an eye on the prickly visitors to the garden.

This is the fourth year we've been watching the visiting hedgehogs, but we decided we would be a bit more "hands on" than in previous years - instead of just watching them, we would check them over on a regular basis, and more importantly mark them so we could be more precise in the monitoring. This has shown us just how many hedgehogs we have visiting, since without marking most hedgehogs do actually look quite similar, at least through the lens of an infra-red camera.

The last post to the blog, on 2nd April, reported on the eigth visitor to the garden, whom we had named Henry or Henrietta, as the hedgie had not fully uncurled. This particular hedgehog has continued to visit the garden, and a subsequent check-up has confirmed that he is, in fact, Henry.

That last post also referred to hedgehog number nine, Gordon, and number ten, Cameron, and until the beginning of the week that was how it has stayed, with ten hedgehogs. This week we had a sighting of an unmarked hedgie by the boiler room. We gave hime a check-up, and number 11 is another male, Osborne. We had a sighting of another unmarked hedgie two nights ago, but didn't manage to check him/her over.

So, the current count it 11, two females (Bailout and Cameron) and nine males. Not surprisingly, the girls are in great demand, and we have seen some very active courting. We were amazed to see that James had actually visited Cameron in her bedroom - they were active in there for an hour or so, before moving outside, where they spent another hour circling on the patio, (right outside the back door), before moving up the steps onto the lawn for another couple of hours.

Unfortunately, we'd had little Henry in for another check-up and were just about to put him outside again when the two lovers moved onto the patio, and poor Henry was nursed for an hour until the coast was clear.

James "007" was cetainly behaving like his namesake where the girls were concerned, but the other hedgehogs were also trying their luck. Although Quattro was living in 9a and 9f for quite some time, he has moved out of the garden, just spending the odd night in one of the boxes.

We now only have one resident - Cameron. She is alternating between 9c and 9d. She spends quite a lot of the night in one or other of the boxes, although she does go out and spend some time on the feeders, and also out of the garden.

It does seem that all eleven of the hedgehogs we have identified are still visiting the garden regularly, most of them several times a night. The only one we haven't seen for certain for a couple of weeks is Twearly, although we think we did see him two nights ago. His emulsion markings are wearing off and in need of touching up.

We are rather concerned that most of them have actually lost weight recently. We weighed them at the first opportunity after they came out of hibernation, and most of them had put weight on then next time we checked them, but subsequent checks show that most of them have lost weight since. We have had no rain in the area for about six weeks, so we think natural food supplies must be rather poor. We always have food and water out for them, but it seems they are still looking elsewhere. Water in particular is probably quite difficult to find, and we have seen several hedgehogs come into the garden, walk past three food bowls to the water, have a drink and leave the garden again.

The other big worry has been the large number of ticks on some of the hedgehogs. I think Bailout holds the record, with 36 ticks removed in one night. Fortunately, most of them were tiny, so they hadn't been on her to suck much blood, but we hate to think what state she should have been in within a few days.

After Bailout, the next worse hedgie for ticks was poor Alfie, with 22 on him, most of them very swollen with blood. As related earlier, he also had pneumonia, and we decided to bring him indoors for treatment.

We have found a wonderful Vet, Rachel, and she has been very helpful with his treatment. After a course of treatment with Baytril, his pneumonia cleared up, but he had developed a cough. We sent a poo sample off to Vale Wildlife Hospital. Caroline Gould, who runs Vale, was so helpful, analysing the poo sample, and ringing us up to advise on treatment. This told us that poor Alfie had lungworm and another parasite, so we took him back to Rachel for more treatment. After a five day course of Telmin for the lungworm, backed up with Baytril, his breathing was much improved. He's also had two injections of Ivomectin for the other parasite. We're due to start the second course of Telmin on Monday, and hopefully after that he should recover - a second poo sample to Vale confirmed that he was clear.

So, we should be saying goodbye to Alfie shortly, although we hope he will simply move back into his old home in 9b, where he's lived since he was a hoglet - but who knows? We will have to wait and see. The good news is that he has put on weight - he was 790g when we weighed him just after he came out of hibernation, 780g after we had removed all of the ticks. He's now 1050g, so we feel he's doing quite well.

So, that has brought things a little up to date. We'll try and take advantage of the long weekend to catch up on some of the videos we have to post.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

I'm Henrietta the Eighth, I am

We've been rather busy this week, so haven't been able to post for a few days, but the hedgehogs are getting very active.

James "007" has now become a resident - he's moved into 9b. He'd been coming down on to the patio for a feed, and taking a snooze between meals under the garden seat in the the corner of the patio, but then one night he took a snooze in 9b. He obviously liked it, because he went in later and spent the day there. He wasn't in today (they all seem to have the odd awayday) but came back in about 22:00 tonight. He's just come out again.

Here he is having a little "fun" with Spot. James arives first - he has the spot on his neck, and Spot has the stripe on his rear. Sorry about the quality of the video. This is one of the older cameras and is getting very grotty. We have installed a new one with more-or-less the same view, and it is giving better pictures.

When we first checked James on 26th Match he weighed 540g. We checked him again tonight - 650g, so he seems to be doing quite well. He had one very large tick behind his ear, which we removed, and we touched up his paintwork.

The next arrival, number 8, arrived on 28th March, and weighed 710g. It wouldn't uncurl fully, so we weren't quite sure if it was a boy or girl, but the attention it has been receiving from the males makes us think she was a girl, so we called her Henrietta the Eighth, and marked her with two spots on the neck. Surprisingly, she had no ticks on her.

Here Henrietta (as yet unmarked) co-stars with James and Tog (three spots on rear). We wondered if we had mis-identified James, as Tog didn't bulldoze him, but we have confirmed that James is a boy, so maybe he's too small for Tog to worry about.

We had decided that hedgie number ten would have to be called Cameron, so when number nine turned up, we decided on Gordon - the one before Cameron. This little chap was marked with three spots on his neck, but we only saw him the one night.

Cameron showed up unexpectedly - in 9c (Nightshift's old pad) this morning. It was down on the patio eating outside 9c and popped in for a snooze. Just after five it went in for the day. There was no sign of a hedgehog on the 9c bedroom camera, but the straw seemed very tidy. About 8:30 this morning I was looking at the monitor, just in time to see a little bum disappearing into the straw.

We haven't actually checked Cameron over yet - we don't like to grab them right outside their home, and we lost track of it when it went up on to the lawn yesterday. It came out early this evening - about 20:00, just as it was dark - for a drink, and gave us a lovely close up scratch which let us see that she is a girl. We decided to stick with Cameron, instead of renaming her Samantha.

She's just been out for a feed and gone back into 9c. She had a bit of a shock earlier this evening - Tog came down on to the patio. Outside 9c his nose went up and he started sniffing - and piled into 9c. Cameron defended her honour wonderfully, and Tog was ejected after a brief scuffle.

So, apart from Gordon, who we've only seen once (but he could have come in when we weren't looking) we are still getting all of the hedgies visiting every night. Twearly is still busy - we need to get him in for a check and a touch-up. Quattro is still with us, spending two or three nights in 9f, and then one in 9a.

Spot is very active. He was tucking in to mealies on the feeder outside 9a last night when Quattro returned home. Quattro just zipped in - no fighting or anything.

The only one missing from the list is poor Alfie. He's still in the bathroom, being dosed with Baytril. He does seem better, in that his nose isn't running as much, although his breathing is still noisy sometimes. He is eating, but is only putting on weight very slowly. He was 915g yesterday and today, so he had gained from the 780g when we first took him in. His poos seem normal so we think he's hanging in there. He is quite lively when we give him the Baytril orally, so we will continue to look after him. Of course, at the moment there is a squatter in Alfie's 9b.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Name's Hedgehog, ... James Hedgehog

What else could we call Hedgehog 007, but James? We first saw him on the patio two nights ago, munching the mealies outside Alfie's pad, 9b. At first we thought it might be Alfie, but he didn't go into 9b. Instead, every ten or fifteen minutes he disappeared into the corner for ten minutes or so - we assume for a snooze. Alfie would definitely have gone back into 9b - and besides, the poor hedgie who we are certain is Alfie was poorly in our bathroom.

James was on the patio for two hours then, and he appeared on the patio again last night. We did see him earlier in the evening, getting thoroughly bulldozed by Twearly. After Twearly left him alone, we went to collect him to get a check-up. He was the smallest hedgie we've had this year - only 540g, curled up length 47cm, curled up breadth 38cm. From his size we think he must be one of last year's hoglets, the same sort of age as little Bailout.

We removed two ticks from him, but apart from that he seemed in good condition. He (we confirmed he is a he) was very inquisitive and uncurled very readily. We wouldn't have room on his little bum to make a lot of marks, so we gave him a spot on his neck.

A little later we saw little Bailout go into 9e, and were horrified to see Tog heading for the feeding station very shortly after. Tog is definitely Top Hog in the garden, and we've seen him plaster several very large hedgehogs against the back wall of 9e, so poor little Bailout didn't stand a chance... except that when he arrived, Tog started rubbing noses.He pushed Bailout into the corner, but not violently - more a case of Bailout backing off. Bailout just kept eating. We wondered what was happening - until we realised the Bailout must be a little girl, and Tog was fancying his chances - and little Bailout wanted her dinner. We had never got Bailout to uncurl fully so we could be certain of the gender.

We were shocked to see more ticks on Bailout - we had already taken 13 off a couple of nights ago, but in view of what we had seen on poor Alfie we decided to check her over again. When Tog exited 9e we grabbed Bailout - you can see a pair of feet and gloved hands at the end of the video.

We confirmed Bailout is, indeed a little girl, and that she now weighs 580g. What we hadn't expected was what came next - a marathon de-ticking session, lasting over two hours. By the end, we had removed 36 ticks (remember we had taken 13 off a few nights earlier). Fortunately, only two were large, bloated ones full of blood, so they hadn't taken as much out of her as the ones we took off Alfie - 24 of them, almost all bloated. It looks as though this year is a good year for ticks, and a bad year for anything which they can hook into. They were everywhere on Bailout, including about 15 on her face and five or dix in her ears. She was amazingly patient, sitting there quietly for two hours while we removed the ticks.

Meanwhile, Alfie is still being cared for in the bathroom. I don't know if we are getting better or if Alfie is making things easier for us, but the oral does of Baytril seemed easier today. His chest and snuffles are still bad, but he seems a little more energetic. He only put on 10g today, but at least he's not losing weight.

Bailout Made It ... and so did Alfie

Forgot to post this as we've been busy with work and hedgehogs...

On the night of 22nd/23rd of March we had a lovely surprise - a hedgehog on the lawn feeder with a single spot on his back - Bailout, the small hedgehog which returned to the garden in late November last year for a couple of weeks, trying to make up weight before he hibernated.

At the last weighing, a few days before hibernation, he had made 600g, so we hoped he would be safe, and it was a relief to see that single white spot on his back. We picked him up to give him a check-up. He weighed 585g, curled up length 45cm breadth 38cm. We think he was probably 650g to 700g at hibernation. The bad news - lots of ticks on him, but fortunately most were small. Removed 13 in all, two large, one medium and the rest very small, hardly swollen at all. Possibly one or two more near his eyes, but couldn't get at them, since he wouldn't uncurl fully, the same problem we had last year.

Earlier in the evening we'd had an even bigger surprise - a little nose suddenly poked out of the straw in 9b bedroom - and we didn't even know we'd got a second lodger.

Checking back through the previous night's videos we saw the hedgehog arrive - in through the decking, a seven minute feed on the bowl by 9a, down on to the patio, and straight into 9b. We thought it must be Alfie, as he knew where he was going - back to the nest where he'd spent the whole of last year, and then end of the year before.

He seemed quite interested in 9a - lifting up to give it a sniff, but we were horrified to see his face shortly after as he came to feed on 9a bowl - there was a huge tick just above his eye, and there seemed to be several others.

So, when he came out we left him get up on to the lawn, and picked him up for a check-up. What we found was frightening. The poor chap was covered in ticks, virtually all of them swollen and full. In all, we removed 26 ticks. The hedgehog forums say that more than 10 ticks on a hedgehog can lead to anaemia, and more than thirty could be fatal. Not only that, he had a runny nose and terrible, wheezy, breathing, which indicates pneumonia. To top it all, he only weighed 790g (with ticks) and 780g (without ticks). We wondered if it really was Alfie, because we had thought Alfie looked rather overweight last year, and couldn't believe he weighed so little. However, the way he went straight into 9b, the way he ate hanging out of 9b doorway and the way he had a scratch when he got up convinced us it really is Alfie.

With the bad chest we decided to take him to the vet the next morning, so we kept him in overnight.

The next morning we took him to a vet. She was very kind, and agreed to treat him, even though wild hedgehogs are not their normal patient - they even had to enter him on the computer as a mouse, as they didn't have an entry for hedgehogs. After examining as best she could, she prescribed Baytril for his bad chest, and gave him an injection. She gave us enough Baytril for a course for a week, to give him the rest orally, twice a day.

We hope the little chap pulls through.

This makes hedgehogs five and six out of hibernation.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Two special videos

We have never really been interested in making movies, and took nothing but still photographs until we got interested in hedgehogs. As a result we have never had any experience of video editing, and so our  videos have really only been clips of the captures from the DVRs.

Sometimes the action is spread across several cameras and we have managed to join a few clips together, but the three cameras in the alley (10, 11 and 12) sometimes call for special treatment, as they are arranged to look down, across and up the alley from the same point. This clip uses the "picture in picture" to show the action on all three cameras as it moves from one camera to the next and back.

It happened a few days ago, as Quattro was making his way up the alley, having left home in 9f a few minutes earlier. He stops just before the ATM, and has a "toothpaste moment" (watch his little tail go up first). We don't know if he was preparing for what happened next, or just got caught at an inconvenient moment, but Tog comes dashing out of the ATM and bowls him over. Poor Quattro is then well and truly battered by Tog for several minutes.

This is a video from June last year, taken on the normal video camera we bought on eBay. It is of Nightshift, just after she moved out of the nest box in the garden (we think to have her hoglets). After she moved out she visited regularly for a few weeks, but then she stopped coming and we haven't seen her since. We still miss her, as she was our first resident and was visiting us for nearly three years. We found that in the long days several hedgehogs would visit in the late evening before it was dark - we think they were probably getting hungry. It meant that we were able to video in daylight instead of Infra-Red and thus use the normal video camera. It is so nice to have a video showing what a hedgehog really looks like. It is high definition, so it may be worth viewing full screen.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Quattro goes flat hunting and Spot the Hedgehog

No, it's not a game - Spot the Hedgehog is our fourth visitor to emerge from hibernation. More of him later...

Quattro the hedgehog has been living in his semi-detached nest box 9f (left) for a couple of weeks, apart from the odd awayday to 9a in the back garden. The nest box next door, 9f (right), is unoccupied. He spends quite a lot of time in the nest, with his head in the hall, or even in the hall with his back to the camera. This time he was resting in the hall with his back down the tunnel, towards the exit. He seems to have put on a little weight and reverses down the tunnel, since he seems to be having trouble turning round. He then gives the entrance camera a sniff - and goes into 9f (right) to have a look. He was in for about three minutes, but went back to his own box, so maybe he doesn't like it. Although he passes the entrance to 9f (right) every time he goes in and out, this is the first time he has been in exploring. There is a camera in 9f (right) as well, but unfortunately it is covered in straw at the moment, so we couldn't see what he got up to.

We had a cold spell at the beginning of the week, but didn't realise how cold it was until we saw the videos, and saw that the water had frozen. Here is poor Twearly having a drink - the corner near him is not quite frozen, but he seems to be running his foot over the frozen part.

We have another cold night tonight. I've checked and the water is already partially frozen, so we've put a microwaveable heat pad under the water. Hopefully it will keep the water from freezing, but it is a little thick, so access to the water will be more difficult - but we think the hedgies will manage.

For the last few nights we've been having a fourth, unmarked, hedgehog visiting the garden. He's been beaten up by both Tog and Quattro, but he's still visiting, although it has been after we went to bed so we missed him. He came a little earlier last night, so we went out to give him a check up.

Surprisingly, he barely curled up when picked up, and he uncurled almost immediately. He was able to curl up - he didn't like it when we turned him on his back to see if he was a boy or girl (he is a boy) and curled up, but straightened out as soon as we had him the right was up. He didn't appear to have any problems curling up, he just didn't want to.

He was in good shape, with no ticks we could see. He weighed 720g, so he was the smallest yet - we wonder if he was one of last year's youngsters. Curled up, his breadth was 40cm, his length 44cm.

As we're running out of space on the rear end for five spots, we marked his with a horizontal stripe - and called him Spot...

We are lucky in that most of our hedgehogs do seem to be in good condition, but we did take poor little Twosie, after whom we named this blog, to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, who do a great job looking after hedgehogs and all other wildlife. They have had a poor hedgehog in for some time who has lost all of his spines and fur, and photos keep finding there way into the media. The latest one, wearing a knitted jumper, was on the Telegraph web page today.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Quattro has an Awayday

When he first arrived in the garden after coming out of hibernation, Quattro spent a couple of nights in 9f at the front of the house. We were surprised when he spent the next day in 9a nest box in the back garden. Here he is arriving:

We were surprised the way he trotted down the lawn and into 9a - he appeared to know exactly where he was going. As you can see in the background, it was just starting to get light. He spent the day in 9a, but as we expected, he came out of 9a, had a bite to eat, and went out for the night:

and when he went to bed the next morning, it was back to 9f. He was quite restless during the day, as most hedgehogs seem to be, rearranging the bedding, sleeping, and sometimes just laying in the tunnel looking out:

He stayed the next few nights in 9f, but last night he moved back into 9a. He was up quite early tonight, around 20:00 - and he was back in 9f having his dinner and retiring for a nap by 20:30.

We saw the unmarked visitor again last night - in at the ATM, fifteen minutes eating in 9e and out via the decking. We were hoping to check him over when he came down to the water, but he didn't come down.

Tog was his usual self, showing who is boss. We were amazed to see how he treated poor Quattro. Tog was in the garden when Quattro came trundling up the alley alst night - but Quattro stopped just outside the ATM and waited, for quite a while. Sure enough, Tog came shooting out of the ATM, and bulldozed Quattro about 2 metres down the alley, right in front of camera 12. Then Tog went further down the alley, turned round and battered Quattro again - then up the alley, turn round and strike again. Then off he went, down the alley.

Twearly was in again, but he gives 9e a wide berth. All of the hedgehogs come down to the water for a drink, carefully leaning over the edge of the tray and drinking. Not Twearly - he like to paddle as well, although he did have a good snack first:

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Quattro is settling in... and a new visitor is greeted with violence

The night after moving into 9a in the back garden, Quattro was battered by Tog, and he seems to have decided that the risk of being manhandled by humans is not as bad as being attacked by another hedgehog, as he only spent that one night and day in 9a before moving back into 9f, where he has been lodging since. The nest box there is quite tightly packed with straw, as it had been prepared for a hibernating hedgehog, in case one felt the need for accommodation, and Quattro now seems to be tunnelling into it. During the day he seems to be quite busy, and there seems to be quite a lot of straw finding its way into the tunnel and even outside.

He seems quite lazy, just getting up for a snack every so often during the evening, before going back to bed again, perhaps having nipped out for a drink and a trip to the loo. He finally goes out about 1 or 2 am, getting back about 5:30, just as it is starting to get light. Last night he left 9f about 1:30, and appeared at the ATM about 20 minutes later. Unfortunately, he'd only got about a metre into the garden (just out of sight of the ATM cam) when he was attacked by Tog. He left again.

Tog was in fine fettle - he'd just finished sorting out our newest visitor. We have noticed over the last couple of days that Twearly walks straight past 9e - he seems to have had too many bad experiences around there with Tog, and Quattro hadn't arrived, so we were surprised to see a hedgehog eating in 9e. Tog was also surprised, and went to sort him out. Tog dashed in to 9e and the newcomer curled up. Unfortunately, Tog was trying to push him out of the door, but couldn't as he was too big curled up. We had visions of them being stuck there all night, when the only way to get out was to let the new chap uncurl, and Tog wouldn't let him. However, Tog is quite a smart cookie and after a short time pushed him away from the door, and Tog went for a drink.

Tog then went out via the ATM, meeting Quattro on the way. Meanwhile, the newcomer went down to the water for a drink before heading for the 9a feeder - obviously another of last year's regulars who knows his way around.

With Tog out of the garden, Quattro headed down for the water. He'd only been there a few minutes when his nose went up in the air and he started sniffing - and headed off in the direction of 9a.

We thought this was going to a nice friendly meeting, right in front of the Tunnelcam. Unfortunately, we realised this was not to be when the newcomer "frowned" in the direction of Quattro - and Quattro sent him flying. After a major tussle Quattro won.

We'll be giving the newcomer a check-up when we can.

Two nights ago we gave Tog his second check-up, to see how he was doing. He was eating by the water in the new bowl, and he didn't curl up, even when he was first picked up. He did curl up as we brought him in, but uncurled fairly soon, and we confirmed that he is, indeed, as boy. He weighed 1185g, compared 1060g when we first checked him on 5th March. We removed a large tick from his nose, and touched up his paintwork before replacing him.

We now have four hedgehogs visiting. We haven't seen Bailout, and we don't seem to have Alfie yet, as we are sure that he would head straight for 9b, so we could be getting quite busy this year.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Discretion, the better part of Valour

Two nights ago, the third hedgehog to emerge from hibernation walked into our garden - and an ambush by Tog, the second, rather aggressive, hedgehog to appear this year. Poor Number Three got really set about, and he rapidly exited the garden. He reappeared shortly after, and managed to sneak into 9e for a meal. Unfortunately, he was only in for a few minutes before Tog returned and plastered him on the back wall of the feeding station.

He left the garden shortly after. A little while later, a hedgehog appeared round the front of the house, and moved into 9f (left) nest box there.

Careful analysis of the videos, and a large tick behind the right ear, confirmed that the hedgie at the front was, in fact, Number Three from the back. He had apparently decided he'd had enough of Tog. The way he arrived at the front and dashed into the nest under the nose of a cat convinced us that he had stayed there last year.

In accordance with this year's decision to keep better track of our visitors, we decided to give this chap a check up. He stayed in 9f for two days. He had been out and about foraging, so when he came out again last night, we grabbed him.

He weighed 955g, was confirmed as a little boy, and his lengthwise circumference was 53cm, his side circumference was 48cm, so, not surprisingly, he is underweight. He has been tucking in to mealworms and foraging, so hopefully he will start to put weight on.

We saw five ticks on him, and managed to remove three of the horrible things.

We then marked him, four white spots on his rear, and after toying with the idea of calling him Trio, settled on Quattro, after rejecting Audie. Just to remind you, although he is the third hedgehog to emerge this year, we are still hoping that little Bailout, who we marked with a single spot, will have made it through hibernation.

We were worried that we had frightened him away from 9f, and although he was in and out throughout the night, we were concerned to find 9f empty this morning.

We were, however, surprised to see a resident in 9a! Checking back through the videos, he went into 9a about 06:00, and it is, indeed, Quattro. We wonder if he has decided to take his chances with Tog in preference to the indignity of having his rear end painted, but it is possible he just decided on a change of scenery, particularly as it was getting light. The way he approached the nest box showed he knew exactly where it was. He had walked past it the night before without showing any interest, but we think he must have been one of last year's lodgers.

Any bets where he will stay tonight?

To try and reduce the congestion and fights in 9e, we have filled the lawn feeder up, about 6 feet away. We noticed Twearly paused by 9e last night but didn't go in, and ate on the lawn feeder instead, so it appears Tog's managing to reserve all the food there.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Tog is getting really nasty

We saw considerable aggression from Tog against poor Twearly a fews night ago. We saw even more violence against Number Three, the third hedgehog to come out of hibernation.

Number Three had just arrived in the garden, when he was set on by Tog. At the start of the video, you can see Tog rolling him down towards 9e. At one point, Tog seems to be holding the other hedgie in his mouth and be shaking him. We've only seen hedgehogs pushing each other before.

Every time Number Three moves, Tog sorts him out.

Watch the bottom of the screen at 9:40 into the video (real time 00:03:30), as Twearly zips past - he doesn't want to get caught by Tog.

Eventually, poor Number Three gives up and leaves the garden. He returned a short while later after Tog had left 9e. Unfortunately, he'd only just started eating when Tog returns and plasters him up against the back wall:

This clip shows the action from inside 9e. It starts slightly later than the last clip, with Number Three munching away. Watch for the shadow as Tog arrives.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Looking back to 2010

We clean out the nest boxes each year, when we are expecting the hedgehogs to come out of hibernation. We keep an eye on them during the year and if we suspect they are getting a bit grotty inside we will give them a clean during the summer, but when a hedgehog is in residence it is difficult, and we don't like to disturb them, so the cleaning only takes place during a change of tenant in normal circumstances.

We cleaned all the nest boxes in the autumn, when all the hedgies had hibernated, but we leave plenty of nest material in case we have one looking for accommodation during the winter. We also give them a clean in the spring, since they could have suffered over the winter. When we clean the old bedding out, we normally leave the boxes empty for a few days, to let them "air" with the roof off during the day if the weather is good. We cleaned 9b out today, since we are expecting lodgers soon - we wonder if Alfie has made it through the winter, and if so if he will move back into 9b, his home for the whole of last season.

It reminded us of Alfie's arrival last year - on the 6th April, almost a month later that the first hedgies arrived this year.

We mistimed the clean out last year. When Alfie arrived, 9b was completely empty, except for the remote sensing thermometer. The poor chap looked rather bewildered, as if he couldn't believe there was no bedding. He even lays down for a ten minute nap - but goes out.

The next day we put the bedding in - and when Alfie returned the next night he moved in, and stayed every night until he left the garden to go into hibernation in September.

Let's hope Alfie returns this year. We got very fond of the little chap (he wasn't so little by the autumn!)

Number three - and our first lodger

Uploads to YouTube can be rather slow, particularly when they are large files, and the clips I was uploading for the previous post hadn't completed by bed time, so I logged in this morning to add them to the blog. As I was typing, I saw a twitch of the straw in 9f (left), one of the semi-detached nest boxes in the boiler room at the front. I watched, and the twitch resolved itself into... a hedgehog. We have our first lodger of the year.

A quick rewind through the videos indicate it arrived around 1:44, going into 9f at 1:51 after eating a few mealies, and had been in and out of the box several times since then. There was at least one occasion when it came out of 9f (left), along the tunnel behind the door, and put its nose into the entrance of 9f (right) before turning round and going back to bed. Could it be that Indy, the indecisive hedgehog who lived in 9f over the 2009/10 winter and up to about July last year, has returned? It is unmarked, so it is not Twearly or Tog.

Watch as he dashes into the boiler room, right under the nose of the cat.

We did see a third hedgehog in the back garden last night. It came up the alley and in to the ATM. It looked a bit bewildered as there was no food on the ATM steps like there was last year. We have decided not to put food on the ATM this year, as it was so congested last year. So, the hungry little chap headed for 9e. Unfortunately, just as he arrived there, so did Psycho, sorry Tog, and the newcomer got a right "seeing to". It appears to be quite a bit larger than Tog, because Tog was struggling to push it out of the way. Tog went in for a feed, but as soon as number 3 uncurled Tog went out to sort it out. Twearly then wandered up - but having realised what was going on turned round and went away. After a while number three left the garden. Fortunately, he returned a little later after Tog had moved on, and he managed to get something to eat and drink.

What we don't know yet is if number three is the chap who has now turned up in 9f. We will try and give him/her a check up tonight.

Psycho the Hedgehog

We have been observing the hedgehogs visiting our garden since 2008, and have seen that they have a range of personalities. The two visitors we have at the moment come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Twearly, the first hedgehog to come out of hibernation, seems to be quite a confident little chap, on his own. But put him next to the second hedgehog to appear, Tog, and you get the distinct feeling we should have marked him with a yellow stripe instead of two white spots.

Tog, on the other hand, is showing such aggression that we're wondering if we should rename him/her Psycho. A little pushing and shoving is not unusual when hedgehogs meet, but Tog seems to be taking it to a whole new level. Here is poor Twearly being forcibly ejected from 9e:

Tog is not satisfied with just ejecting poor Twearly - when Twearly recovers and starts moving Tog comes out of 9e and attacks again. Poor Twearly.

We wonder if Twearly is unusually timid. There was a regular visitor last year, who we think was Twearly, and he let all the other hedgehogs walk all over him, sometimes literally. If there was a hedgie feeding on the ATM, other hedgehogs would simply push through, knocking the other hedgie out of the way. We once saw the timid one wait patiently for ten minutes outside the ATM, and in the end he gave up and went the long way round under the decking.

An even more extreme example of Tog's behaviour is this one:

Tog wanders up to the bowl outside 9a and starts feeding. He then hears Twearly somewhere at the top of the garden - and goes to see him off, before returning to continue eating.

It will be interesting to see what happens when more hedgehogs arrive...

Just to show Twearly doesn't always come off worst, here is a clip from a couple of nights ago, when he meets a cat:

and here he has a paddle in water that is almost freezing:

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Who is Bailout?

We've just replied to Midmarsh John's comment on the previous post, and mentioned Bailout the Hedgehog, but looking back at the last post from last year I realised that we hadn't given the hedgehog a name at the time of the post, but this was the hedgehog we called Bailout.

We spent a week in Ireland visiting family in the middle of November, and returned to find all of the mealies we'd left out, both in the back garden and at the front by 9f, had been eaten. A check through the cameras for the week we were away showed that a hedgehog had arrived on 17th November. Fortunately, he'd only finished off the last of the mealies at the front the night before we arrived home, so we were able to replenish the bowls both front and back.

When he came in that night we grabbed him to check him over, and found that he weighed about 500g - too small to hibernate safely, but as he was still feeding regularly, and we now were providing extra food, we let him be. We marked him with a single spot on his rear. Now you know why Twearly has two spots - we hope Bailout will reappear shortly.

We decided to call the new visitor Bailout, in honour of Ireland's bailout from the EU, and the little chap continued to visit for another couple of weeks. A week after we first checked him, we checked his weight again, and he was up to 595g, so he was apparently feeding well.He visited several times each night, with a couple of hours gap between visits. Interestingly, after we started providing food in the back garden again, he stopped visiting the front, so it would seem that he only visited the front after he ran out of food at the back, also perhaps a sign that he was finding very little else to eat.

November was getting very cold (we had snow at the end of the month) and we were worried that he should be hibernating, but we left the decision of when to hibernate up to him. He was still feeding and had put on weight, so we thought he would know best. We did try putting him into 9f, where Indy hibernated last winter, but he stayed for about an hour and shortly after reappeared in the back garden, so we think he felt his own winter quarters were better.

Finally, one night his visits changed - he was in for a few minutes every half hour or so, and we got the feeling that this was his last night. Sure enough, that was the last we saw of him. We hope he had indeed found somewhere safe to hibernate, and that we'll be seeing him soon.

Here's a composite video of him:

Monday, 7 March 2011

A second visitor

Our first hedgehog of the year arrived in the garden  on 26th February. We called him Twearly, because we thought it was way too early for him to have woken up, and we didn't expect to see another hedgehog for a good few weeks. How wrong we were! On the 3rd March, at 23:30, another hedgehog came in through the ATM. We were mighty pleased that we'd marked Twearly (two spots on the rear, if you remember), because seeing an unmarked hedgehog told us this was a second visitor.

He trundled into 9e and had a munch on the mealies, and then down to the water, so we were certain this was one of last year's regulars, as he knew his way around so well. We had our suspicions that the empty bowl in 9e the previous night might be due, in part, to the new visitor, but checking the captures we saw the previous night's scoffing was completely down to Twearly.

We named this new hedgie Tog (The Other Guy (or Gal!)) but were unable to check him (or her) over, as we were unprepared at that late hour, and that was the only visit he made that night. We were going to check him on the next night, but only made on brief visit and we missed him. We were better prepared on the next night, and managed to check him/her. It is a noticeably larger hedgie, and weighed 1060g (Twearly was only 815g) but was obviously quite thin - it will be quite a monster when fully refuelled. Unfortunately, we couldn't encourage it to uncurl, so we still don't know if it is a boy or a girl. We duly marked it, with three spots on the rear.

Tog was somewhat more active on this second night, wandering over to find the bowl outside 9a empty, so he went down onto the patio, and had a scoff from the bowl outside 9c. He then wandered over to 9b, and looked decidedly miffed to find the bowl there empty - we haven't been putting too many mealies out when we weren't getting the visitors, but rest assured, the bowls are full now.

Here is Tog on the patio, in pristine condition before suffering the indignity of the emulsion brush:

The following morning 9e bowl was again empty, but most of the blame still lies with Twearly - he made ten visits to 9e in one night! We've now got two bowls in 9e, since it still seems to be the favourite spot, interspersed with visits to the water.

We have seen a couple of remarkable interactions between the two hedgehogs, for which the videos will appear in due course, when YouTube gets them uploaded. On his own, Twearly seems to be a brave, confident hedgehog, but he turns to jelly when Tog is around. One night, Tog had just come in through the ATM. A few minutes later, Twearly came trundling up the alley, as far as camera 12 - and then hesitated, and turned round!

Even more remarkable is the one where Tog was in 9e. Twearly comes running up, and about two feet from 9e pauses - then runs away. Meanwhile, Tog was munching away quite happily.

The best of all was this, when Twearly had just reached the entrance to 9e when Tog arrives. Poor Twearly freezes, blocking the entrance - and Tog can't bulldoze his way in. So he takes a walk round the box and tries again - no luck. Another walk round - no luck. Eventually Tog moves away and waits, just long enough for Twearly to uncurl and move into the box - then Tog bulldozes him out of the way. Poor Twearly!

This is the view from inside 9e - note the menacing shadow!

Last night (6th/7th March) was fairly quiet, but it was very cold - below freezing - so maybe they were keeping warm.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Meet Twearly the Hedgehog

Our single hedgehog is still visiting, so we think he's come out of hibernation early, instead of just waking up for a quick snack as we thought (and hoped) at first. We've decided to call him Twearly, as we think he's woken up "Too Early"...

Looking back at last year's blog, the first hedgehog appeared on 22nd March 2010, so Twearly is almost a full month early. The weather is still rather cold at the moment. It's 0 degrees Celsius here as I'm writing this, although it can't be quite freezing as I can see Twearly on the watercam, paddling. I wouldn't like to be dipping my toe in the water at this temperature and he's got all four feet and his belly in it!

He's coming earlier in the evening, too. Last night (1st March) it was 20:25 and tonight he arrived at 20:10. He is HUNGRY!

Here's a composite of him coming up the alley. He wasn't hanging around:

Surprisingly, once through the ATM he went missing for ten minutes before heading into the feeding station in 9e:

He's in feeding for up to half an hour at a time, apart from a couple of breaks to nip down to the water for a drink.

Unfortunately, we slipped up last night - we didn't realise how hungry he was. We were shocked to find the bowl empty this morning. Checking the cameras, we saw he had been back a couple of time to see if it had been refilled.

Here is a collection of the motion captures through the night:

We have decided that we will be a little more "hands on" this year, and do a bit more monitoring of the visitors, so last night we picked him up to give him a quick check up. He seemed to be in quite a good state. We didn't see any ticks on him. We saw one in the camera on the first night, but that has gone. We confirmed he is a boy, and he is actually quite large. He weighed 815g, but obviously is on the thin side. We weren't really prepared for him arriving so early, and we forgot to measure him, but we'll keep an eye on him and give him another check in a week or so. We also marked him with two spots of white emulsion on his rear - we're looking out for the single spot of Bailout, the last hedgie we saw last year.

I wonder how long before we see the next little chap.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Another visit

After the surprise visit of the first hedgehog on Saturday night / Sunday morning, we waited on Sunday night to see if he would return, or if he had just been in for a mid-hibernation snack (if you can call a full bowl of mealworms a "snack".) I'm not sure if we were more disappointed or relieved when he didn't appear. Disappointed, because we love to see the hedgehogs trundling around the garden, but relieved to think he was tucked up safely because it is still very cold - only about three degree Celsius the last few nights.

So, we thought that was the end of the hedgehogs for a little while yet, but the bowl in 9e had definitely been attacked when we got up this morning. Not emptied, but definitely visited. Sure enough, a check of the captures shows two visits:

And here he is leaving after the second visit. This is rather late, as it is starting to get light by 6:30.

We looked back at the videos of his first visit on Saturday night, and we can just see him on the Alleycam, for about half an hour before he came into the garden, so he must have found something good out there. It was very interesting watching when he came into the garden - through the ATM, straight into 9e, down to the water, back to 9e and out through the ATM - as if he'd never been away.

I wonder when the rest of the hedgehogs will appear.

Monday, 28 February 2011

The First Hedgehog of 2011

We had a wonderful surprise on Saturday night - our first hedgehog visitor of 2011. We always have the hedgiecams on, with the display on a spare monitor, and I just glanced at the monitor at twenty to midnight - a hedgehog munching away in 9e. What a relief that we had put some nice fresh mealies in that afternoon.

He was one of the last two hedgehogs to be visiting in the Autumn, although we never gave him a name.

He had a good much in 9e, then went down to the water for a drink, another quick snack in 9e and back out of the ATM. He returned a little later and followed the same procedure.

When we checked the captures in the morning we found he made quite a few visits - six in all:

We were shocked to find the mealie bowl in 9e was completely empty this morning. That was one hungry little hedgehog! We will have to see if he just woke up, came for a snack and has gone back into hibernation, or if he has woken up properly. It is very early compared to the first hedgehog for the last two years, but then this Winter was quite different from last year.

We will see...

In the meantime, we need to get ourselves busy with some maintenance of the cameras - they all need a good clean, we need a new hard disk in a couple of the recorders, and we want to reposition some of the cameras.

We also have a couple of cameras on the bird box at the front - we have a couple of blue tits showing interest in the bird box, visiting every day and going inside, but they aren't building a nest yet. Of course, they have chosen the box without the camera inside - the camera boxes are totally ignored!

Let's hope this is a wonderful year for the hedgehogs and the birds, and all the other wildlife.