Roo used to love ‘In the Night Garden’ on TV when she was a bit younger. It used to give me a breather during the most tiring times whilst pregnant with her sister. These days we barely turn the TV on – I think the last time was sometime last week for ten minutes whilst I cooked some dinner. Besides, if you’ve been following my social media feeds recently then you will know that our own night garden is far more exciting than the likes of Upsy Daisy and co on TV. Why? Our garden hedgehog is back.
Well when I say ‘back’ I really mean ‘we have seen it again’. We first discovered we had hedgehogs in the garden last September after investigating an odd rustling in the wood pile whilst camping in the garden. Imagine our delight (particularly Roo’s) when we found hedgehog rooting around! Following that, we saw our hedgehog about occasionally near the compost heap or in the veggie garden. We built a hedgehog box and put it near the compost heap, hoping the hedgehog would make it through the winter. There were no signs of hedgehogs in the garden as the weather warmed up other than a mysterious set of legs heading down our side-alley that I caught on camera one night. When I peered down the tunnel of the box once in late spring therefore I was surprised to see find it full of dry grass and leaves, with a definite hollow in the middle. I carefully put the tunnel back in place and left it alone.
Another recent garden camping adventure with the girls a week or so back and we literally stumbled over our hedgehog friends again. Beth had thrown some of her food on the floor near the tent entrance (remind me not to take her camping in Canada) and as my husband came back from shutting up the house for the night he nearly stood on not one, but two hedgehogs hoovering up the scraps we had missed. I was in the tent at this time and had been wondering sleepily what the odd ‘ack ack’ noise was outside and why the squirrels were shouting at each other so late at night. Turns out it wasn’t squirrels, it was our noisy prickly neighbours instead. We are very lucky – hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline. With increased roads cutting off their roaming grounds, reduced entry to gardens due to fences and issues to do with badger numbers, these mild little garden visitors are at serious risk of extinction within ten years.
Since then I have repositioned the wildlife camera my brilliant husband gave me for my birthday and put out food and water for the hedgehogs. To our delight a hedgehog came every night and on one night, it appeared to get a lot larger on its second visit – so we definitely had two. Then, whilst watching footage back with Roo and Beth one morning, a pair of very long and not so cat-like ears appeared on screen. We had a fox and it turned out it too enjoys cat food.
The fox livened up our nocturnal viewings no end. At first it was very nervous and skittish, flinching at the tiniest sound or movement. It trod in the water one night and got such a fright it ran off. Another night our cat chased it out the garden. Turns out our pets know how to manipulate the cat flap lock. Then the fox started moving the food tray – flipping it up in its mouth like a dog with a squeaky toy and bolting down the garden. It was pretty funny to watch although meant the hedgehogs went light on their supper for a few night until we replaced the plastic tray with a china one.
Last night the footage got even better. I knew it was going to be an eventful night. Working late in the study which opens onto the garden, I was alerted by the sound of crunching biscuits through the window. I opened it and sure enough, one of the hedgehogs was helping himself to early dinner on the lawn. A few minutes later and the most terrible ‘ack acking’ noise was coming from right below the windowsill. Sticking my head out I saw two hedgehogs having some kind of domestic in full light of the study. They were so involved and noisy they paid absolutely no attention whatsoever to me hanging out the window watching them and taking a sneaky photo.
The footage from the following hours proved to be equally entertaining. I’ve included the key bits in the short video below. All I can say is that one of the hedgehogs has a very hard (and hungry) time of it and we need to get that food shelter sorted out sooner rather than later! I don’t mind the odd scavenging fox visit but I don’t really want to encourage it to become too bold either, especially at the expense of our hedgepigs.
It’s amazing how a garden can transform after dark and when abandoned by us humans. It’s fantastic having the camera too for the kids – Roo is completely hooked on finding out what has been going on out in her garden after bedtime and helps put out the food and water every evening. Even her baby sister has taken to demanding to come on my lap whenever I’m working on the computer in the hope of seeing a hedgehog. Since the fox came on the scene, it has also had the added benefit of making Roo very particular about tidying away her garden toys! We got her up one night well after bed time and brought her out wrapped in blankets to watch the hedgehog. We weren’t sure if she would remember it as she was so sleepy but the next day she told us all about hearing the hedgehog snuffling and crunching its biscuits and today she has gone into nursery clutching the photos I took last night to show her friends.
As for me – well, I’ve been doing some fast homework on hedgehog care and on using a wildlife camera. A week in and I’ve certainly not got it all sussed quite yet and am also no closer to knowing where our prickly friends come and go from. Hopefully once I do I can position our feed station to avoid them coming out into the open unnecesarily. They are certainly no fans of the rain – on our wildest night yet they barely visited the bowl at all, shaking themselves a lot when they briefly appeared. Even the fox gave up after a few seconds of slouching about in the rain. The next time it rained I tucked the bowls in close in the shelter of our decking. Despite the proximity to the house and the awful weather, both our hogs and the fox visited that night for extended periods of time. Shelter, it turns out, is definitely a good thing.
So for us today our #30dayswild challenge activity will be repositioning the camera and setting out the food and water bowls again. Maybe if we get time after nursery, Roo and I can make a start on the food shelter too and no doubt she and her sister will head off exploring in the garden for signs of foxes or hedgehogs before bed.
Have you got a garden hog or trying to encourage them to visit you? If you’re looking for more information the I’ve found the below websites really helpful for hedgehogs. If you’ve got advice about our fox then please get in touch – there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.