A Bumper Weekend for Wildlife!

The weather’s starting to turn colder and distinctly Autumnal now. We’ve got a crop of fungi flourishing on the lawn and raking and sweeping fallen leaves into piles as homes for hibernating wildlife is becoming a regular job.

With a weekend at home ahead of me, I decided to spend some time doing some wildlife focused jobs in the garden, and to put cameras out for as much of the weekend as possible to capture our garden visitors. For once my timing was spot on and I picked a great weekend to do this!

Bird Table Trail Camera

I recently bought some new trail cameras, as the original two became faulty and had to be returned. I chose the Browning Strike Force HD model from Wildview Cameras (https://www.wildviewcameras.co.uk). All of my recent Fieldmouse footage has been filmed using these, and I’m so pleased with the image quality. I’ve been eager to have an opportunity to try them out properly during the day, so with the addition of a +3 close up filter to allow focus at a distance of 33cm I set one up on the bird table and left it there for a few hours each morning.

Instead of video I tried out the photo mode – I set the camera to take 5 photos each time it sensed movement. I’m so pleased with the results, I can see I’ll be doing this a lot over the colder months.

Yesterday was a lovely bright day and the resulting image quality is just superb. Today conditions were a little more testing, being dull and quite dark for most of the day, but I’m still really pleased with the results.

Squirrel Feeder Pole

We’ve been plagued by the murderous cat again, and after one particularly horrible incident where he killed a baby squirrel, we were keen to put up a feeder that would allow squirrels to access it without crossing open ground. So I’ve put this one up by the hedge, which will allow them to get to it from hedging and trees rather than from the ground.

My Naturewatch Raspberry Pi Cam

Featured earlier this year on BBC Springwatch, My Naturewatch is software which allows you to build a basic wildlife camera using a Raspberry Pi. I’ve been keen to have a go, so ordered a kit containing all the necessary components from Pimoroni (available here).

The only other bits I had to add were a USB power bank and a plastic food box to form the outer casing. The kit was pretty easy to make and tool about an hour and a half – most of which was waiting for the software to download as our internet seemed to be on a go slow yesterday. But soon the kit was ready to go –

I actually ended up buying two kits, one contains a daylight camera and this one which contains a night vision one.

I put it inside the hedgehog feeder last night, as I hoped to get some closer up shots of our Fieldmouse. I need to do some work on positioning to find the best vantage point as there’s not much room inside the hedgehog feeder, but the results did not disappoint. I can see me having some fun with this little camera.

More about the My Naturewatch project and instructions for building the cameras can be found here – https://mynaturewatch.net.

Hedgehog Visitor

Of course the night that I fill the hedgehog feeder up with a camera box is the evening that the hedgehog returned! I saw one cross the road at the front of the house earlier this week so knew there was one around, but I couldn’t believe it when I checked the garden camera this morning and saw that one had been happily scurrying around the lawn for a good 3 hours last night.

As always, I have my fingers firmly crossed that this one sticks around! We think one hibernated here last Winter so it would be lovely if this one did likewise.

All in all, an incredible wildlife-filled weekend!

The Hedgehog Returns

I’d just nipped into the kitchen for a drink at dusk last night, when I noticed one of the cats was glued to the window. This isn’t that unusual, the night before in heavy rain I’d seen this particular cat trying to out-stare a frog on the patio outside the door. Seriously.

Half expecting to see the the frog returned to resume the stare-off, instead I saw a hedgehog scurry purposefully past the door and down the garden path! The hedgehog was back!

We’d had a hedgehog hibernate in the garden over winter, and stick around for a couple of nights before going off on it’s travels – naturally as soon as I’d stocked up on hedgehog food and invested in the trail cam. So I’m thrilled that it’s back.

I quickly went outside and jury-rigged a feeding station out of a paving slab and a couple of bricks to protect the food from the local cats, and set up the trail cam. 5 minutes later the sound of loud crunching was coming from that end of the garden, so I knew that my prickly friend had found the food at least. I could only hope that I’d positioned the trail cam correctly to pick up some footage – turns out that trying to position one in the dark is quite challenging, who’d have thought? 😉

When I downloaded the images this morning I was happy to see that I’d managed to capture some good footage, and that the hedgehog had stayed in the garden for a good few hours. The Hedgehog Cafe will be open for business again tonight, and I’m hoping that a regular supply of food will encourage it to stay around!

A Prickly Affair

Some of my earliest nature memories involve hedgehogs. When I was very young and went to stay with my grandparents they had 4 or 5 hedgehogs that used to visit them each evening. My gran would feed them dishes of cat food on the patio next to the house and together we’d watch their visit before I had my own supper (a treat only allowed at Granny’s house)! And headed off to bed.

Then when I was a little bit older a mother hedgehog nested in the ramshackle garage next to our house. Until the hedgehog family left the garage was off limits, but I was allowed the briefest of glimpses to see mum and her babies before they left.

In the intervening years, I’ve seen few, if any live hedgehogs. Sadly, most of them that I have seen have been victims of the road. That is until I was driving home from a friend’s house late one night last year and I saw a small dark shape step off the curb and into the road. I came to an emergency stop on the deserted road and the shape looked up at the car. Hedgehog! I looked at it while it sized up the car and eventually decided it was safe to proceed across the road safely, where it disappeared into the night.

This was only a couple of roads away from me, so now I knew that hedgehogs were in the area I went round the garden and was able to create gaps in between fence panels on two sides of the garden, to create a hedgehog highway in and out.

I didn’t have that long to wait. One dark Autumn evening my husband suddenly yelled “HEDGEHOG”! And sure enough, one was snuffling around the garden. We saw it again on a couple more occasions before it disappeared, we hoped into hibernation as winter took hold.

It seems that ‘our’ hedgehog may have chosen our garden as it’s hibernation site as just after dawn broke on Sunday morning I heard the alarm call again – “HEDGEHOG”!!! There it was, snuffling around the pond and picking up fallen sunflower hearts from around the bird feeder.

We were initially quite concerned, as a hedgehog out in daylight is usually ill and needs urgent attention. But he seemed perky and bright, and after a quick query on Twitter we learned that sometimes hedgehogs wake a little early at this time of year as they are extremely hungry after winter hibernation. My husband ran out with some hedgehog food which seemed to be gratefully received, and then the hog disappeared again.

Until that evening when it reappeared just before dusk. I’d been prepared and left out food and water and these were wolfed down, adding weight to the theory that we just had a very hungry hog on our hands.

While it was about in the half light I took the opportunity to take some pictures of our visitor –

For the next couple of evenings the hedgehog returned after dark, at a much later and more hedgehog-appropriate hour. I haven’t seen it since, but have continued to put food out each evening which has disappeared by the morning. This has given me the final push to buy a trail camera to see if it returns, and I am looking forward to learning more about our garden wildlife after dark.

I am so happy to have had our hedgehog visit, and that it seemed to have found our garden an appropriate habitat in which to spend the winter. By the autumn I’ll be installing a hedgehog house to hopefully make it even more comfortable if our visitor returns, and it’ll be even better if he brings some friends with him!