Hedgehog Log – 2020

Sunday 13/09/20

Weather : Warm and sunny all week. No rain.

Notes : The first full week of the Hedgehog feeding station and it has been a big success. Straight away on the first night the hedgehogs were using it.

The most important reason for installing the feeding station was to stop the cats getting to the hedgehog food. This was also tested during the first week.

Firstly the cat watched the hedgehog leaving the station.

Before having a go at getting in itself.

I’m satisfied that the feeding station is cat proof. It is really not possible for the cat to get far enough it to get to the food.

What I have noticed is that on nights when there is food available hedgehogs are much more active and spend much longer in the garden. To try and put some proof to this and also to be a little more systematic in recording the hedgehog activity I have started making a daily record. I will keep it updated on the website and it can be found at the following link.

No sign of any activity in the house during the week. Next week I will try and introduce a little food into the entrance area to see if they can be enticed back in.

Sunday 06/09/20

Weather : Generally warm and sunny. Only a very little rain.

Notes : Still a reduced amount of hedgehog activity and at least a couple of nights without any visits. So this week a made a come of changes to hopefully try and increase the interest for the hedgehogs.

Firstly I cleaned out the Hedgehog house and moved it back into the corner of the garden which I think is a better spot and is where we have had hedgehogs hibernating before. Opening the box back up was interesting, I found some hedgehog poo actually inside the box which I was surprised about and I’m not sure if perhaps it would discourage use of the box. So I cleaned it out using a light disinfectant.

I also added a few air-holes to the base and a tube on the back face to allow more air to circulate. I think I should have done this originally as it will prevent dampness, especially in the winter.

Second change is that I made and installed a hedgehog feeding station. It was becoming impossible to leave out any food without it being taken by the cats so hopefully the feeding station will prevent this and bring the hedgehogs back.

For those interested, I’ll add the plans of the feed station construction onto the website, soon.

Sunday 30/08/20

Weather : Sunny with occasional rain showers. Not particularly warm.

Notes : First log update for a while due to the holidays. I did try to keep recording the activity throughout the period. However the trend of declining hedgehog activity in the garden seems to be confirmed. On several nights there have been no recorded visits and this hasn’t happened for many months.

I’m not sure if it’s a seasonal variation or if there is some other causes. We have had some rain during August, my grass is turning green again, so there are plenty of slugs and snails in the garden, lots of potential food.

What I have noticed is an increased presence in the garden from the neighbourhood cats. Also now each time I place a tray of hedgehog food out it is being taken by the cats without the hedgehogs getting a look in. I have even seen a cat poke it’s head into the entrance of the hedgehog box to look for food.

Therefore I think I will now install a proper feeding station. In this way I can be sure that any food I put out is protected from the cats and is actually getting to the hedgehogs.

The most notable recorded behaviour during the period is that shown in the video below, taken on the 17th August. It’s a little jumpy as there are three segments spliced together.

It seems to be a much larger male approaching a small female. The female is making the huffing noises. I believe hedgehogs may still mate and even have litters this late in the year although the chances of survival for any young are much less as they do not have enough time to build up the necessary resources before the winter.

Sunday 02/08/20

Weather : Very warm this week, temperatures up to 40oC.

Notes : Quiet week for hedgehog activity and still no further use of the hedgehog house.

The weather is now very hot, we are into the weeks where we will see typical daytime temperatures in the 30’s and maybe up to 40 degrees. One consequence of this is that the grass has now completely gone from the lawn as I took the decision not to do any watering this year.

The lawn is a good foraging ground for worms, slugs and snails which are much less numerous and easy to find during the hot weather. I’m sure all will be back when the weather turns in the autumn, lawn and snails, but this lack of habitat and food may be one of the reasons of the relative lack of hedgehog activity at this time.

One highlight is that I do keep seeing the very small individual that I assume is a young juvenile.

I have still not seen this hedgehog in the company of any others, so it seems that even though very small it is already independent.

Sunday 26/07/20

Weather : Warm sunny weather all week, rain overnight during 1 night.

Notes : I did a bit of citizen science this week to help collect some data for a French project ‘Mission Herisson’. Asking people across France to gather data on the hedgehog activity in their gardens and to contribute it to a website they had set up. Right up my street.

To participate you needed to set-up a hedgehog tunnel and record the activity on 5 consecutive nights, I did this from 21/07-25/07.

The hedgehog tunnel is a nice idea and the best way for anybody to establish if there is an active hedgehog in the garden without the need of trail cameras. It’s the Old school method.

For those not in the know the tunnel is made out of cardboard and is placed outside overnight. I think the standard design is triangular so that on the base you can insert another piece of cardboard which can be easily extracted. The aim is to lure the hedgehogs into the tunnel, by placing some food in the middle and by recording the footprints on pieces of blank A4 paper positioned at either end.

The pictures below show the basic concept.

The key question is what to use as the ‘ink’ which the hedgehogs step on so that the footprints are recorded. Obviously real ink or paint is a no-no. I used a solution of ash, from the BBQ, mixed with cooking oil until it achieves a paint like consistency. This is then applied onto the 2 strips on either side of the food container positioned in the middle of the tunnel.

It is all very homemade and quite simple and I would advise anybody to give it a go as a bit of an experiment. I set-up my trail cameras to record the activity and I’ve included below a video from the week.

On each of the 5 nights I recorded hedgehog footprints in the tunnel and I’ve shown all of the results below. I’m not an expert tracker but I’m fairly sure that I only recorded hedgehog prints, no other rodents and no sign of the marten. Apparently hedgehogs have 4 toes on the front foot and 5 toes on the back foot so it is possible to distinguish front from back.

All of the tracks from the 5 nights are shown below.

Apart from this experiment little to note from the week. Obviously hedgehogs continue to visit and I have also seen the young juvenile hedgehog. However there has been no further use of the hedgehog house since the 7th July.

Night 1

Night 2

Night 3

Night 4

Night 5

Sunday 19/07/20

Weather : Warm sunny weather, no rain.

Notes : Absolutely no activity in the hedgehog house since the last visit on 7th July. I admit I have not been putting out as much food and nothing inside the house, and activity seems to have dropped away.

I have still been getting hedgehogs in the garden and I have seen a couple of visit from a very small one which I assume is a juvenile.

It’s obviously much smaller and I took a still image to compare it with a typical adult below.

I have only seen the small one on it’s own, never with any siblings or an adult, but it would be an indication of nearby breeding. Assuming that it must be at least 1 month since the birth and maybe a little more, it would indicate a birth time of early June, with conception early May.

Sunday 12/07/20

Weather : Warm sunny weather, no rain.

Notes: Only one significant stay in the hedgehog house this week but for only the second time it was an all-day stay.

The Hedgehog arrived just before 06:00 on the 7th July and proceeded to stay. Interestingly again the hedgehog left the box during the day for a brief visit to the flower border. This time for around 20 minutes right in the middle of a very warm day, before returning and sleeping through to the evening.

After this there were no further stays in the box during the week.

As ever there were plenty of visits to the garden. Especially to the water dish which I try and keep topped up during these warms periods.

Apart from the Hedgehogs the most frequent visitor to the garden are domestic cats and there is a particular black cat that often takes the hedgehog food. It would be interesting to understand if the hedgehogs are at all bothered by the cats. This week I did get a moment with both on camera and although the cat appears to be dominant there doesn’t appear to be any particular tension.

Sunday 05/07/20

Weather : Warm this week, not as hot as previously, with a few rain showers.

Notes: Very slow this week in terms of hedgehog action. The hedgehog left the house last Sunday evening, after staying all day and since then I haven’t recorded any stays of any duration, night or daytime. I got a nice video of the Hedgehog leaving after his all day stay.

I was away a lot this week and I only left out food on a couple of nights in the house entrance. I have also noticed slugs appearing in the hedgehog box. Perhaps they are attracted by the food but it seems quite odd as they are an important part of the hedgehogs diet, I’m surprised I keep seeing them as they are likely being eaten.

During the week I have filmed hedgehogs in the garden but there definitely seems to be less activity, I have not seen two together for a couple of weeks and the number of visits per night is much lower. If the females are nesting and giving birth I assume that they would be less active and this perhaps could explain the situation.

Another indicator I look for to message hedgehog activity in the garden is poo or maybe I should say scat. Again there is much less at the moment although as a guide of what to look for I took the pictures below a few weeks ago showing a very good examples.

The very interested could spend the time to pick it apart as it can tell you what the hedgehogs have been eating.

Sunday 28/06/20

Weather : Very hot temperatures nearly all week, up to 35oC.

Notes: The week started slowly for hedgehog house action with only 1 short visit on the night of 21-22nd June.

Then last night there was a much longer visit with the hedgehog arriving into the house at around 04:35. It left briefly around 05:00 for twenty minutes or so before returning and then going back to sleep.

By the time it again stirred around 08:30 it was already light and so after a brief check outside the hedgehog decided to stay the whole day. As I write this it is still tucked up asleep in the box.

This is quite a moment as it is the first time that the house has been used by a hedgehog during the day.

Watching the hedgehog during the day is a very interesting first for me. They are very fidgety and do not stay still for long. Also surprisingly once during the morning it did leave the house, in daylight for a nose around the garden. It is quite rare and in general not a good sign if a hedgehog is out during the day. I found the following description in one of my nature books.

Healthy Hedgehogs aren’t usually seen during the day, but a nesting female may be spotted out on summer afternoons or early mornings, collecting bedding material or looking for food. However, a hedgehog that’s out in the daytime at other times of year, or one that isn’t lively and active, is probably in trouble.

It would be fantastic if this was a nesting female but I have the feeling that it may just have been a bit confused by it’s surroundings.

It will now be interesting to see if this visit is just a one-off or if the house will start to become more regularly used during the day.

However when considering that the box was only installed six weeks ago on the 16th May it is excellent progress to see it already in regular use.

Sunday 21/06/20

Weather : Cool weather for most of the week with a few rain showers.

Notes: The Hedgehog house continues to be used but only for short stays.

This week I got a little fed up with the cats eating the food left out so I started to place it in the entrance chamber of the hedgehog Box. I only placed food out for a couple of nights and these were the only times that the box was used. The times that I noted this week were.

Night of 17/06-18/06 – Stayed from 23:48-00:19 (41 minutes)

Night of 19/06-20/06 – Stayed from 00:52-01:26 (34 minutes)

Night of 19/06-20/06 – Stayed from 04:09-04:26 (17 minutes)

So at the moment what we have is a sort of Hedgehog feeding & napping station.

I’m still interested in identifying the different hedgehogs so the pictures I have from the visits this week are below.

There seems to be a more pronounced dark spot on the forehead in these photos. I have noticed previously that the marking can change so there is no guarantee that it is not the same animal but with markings changing over time.

In terms of hedgehog interaction I captured one interesting exchange from the week. Like the last week this doesn’t develop into violence but seems to be two hedgehogs thoroughly checking each other out. One animal is again much bigger than the other.

Again I would have understood this to be a type of courtship interaction.

Whether or not the hedgehogs use my box for nesting, we are now firmly in the time of year for the birth of baby hedgehogs. It will be interesting in the next weeks and months to see if any family groups with young hedgehogs visit the garden.

Sunday 14/06/20

Weather : Cool and overcast for most of the week with some heavy rain showers.

Notes : Several visits to the hedgehog house this week and it seems to be getting regular use. The pattern of activity is that the hedgehog will stop in for a short stay during the night, taking a nap in between feeding in the garden. A very typical visit from the week is shown in the video below.

The box was not used every night by the dates and times I noted were:

Night of 08/06-09/06 – Stayed from 23:37-00:14 (37 minutes)

Night of 10/06-11/06 – Stayed from 02:24-03:28 (64 minutes)

Night of 13/06-14/06 – Stayed from 00:48-01:45 (57 minutes)

On some nights I have left food out for the hedgehogs, this means that the hedgehogs spend longer in the garden and it is generally on these nights that the box gets used.

As yet there is no sign of the box being occupied during the day or as a nesting site. However it is a good sign that after only a few weeks the box has been found and is being used.

Another quite nice sequence from the week is one showing the teeth.

Obviously having a yawn after a nice sleep but the sharp teeth, both upper and lower, are quite distinct.

One of the questions it would be nice to answer is if it is the same hedgehog using the house or several different individuals. It is difficult to be sure, although I can definitely say that the one-eyed ‘pirate’ hedgehog has never been in the nest.

I took a few snapshots below of the hedgehog visitors on different nights. I’m afraid I can’t make out any distinguishing features.

I very much hope that the hedgehog using the box is the large female from last week. I think I saw the same female again this week. This time she approaches the male but there doesn’t seem to be any interaction.

As she walks away she seems to be pausing, hoping to attract some interest. Unfortunately she doesn’t manage to draw the male’s attention away from the jam sandwich! You can add your own punchline to that.

Sunday 07/06/20

Weather : Very warm and sunny for the first half of the week followed by a dramatic change to cooler weather with some heavy rain showers.

Notes : To try and entice the beech marten into the garden I left out a jam sandwich as food for a couple of nights. The hedgehogs absolutely loved this, although bread is not really their ideal diet, and it provoked a lot of interesting behaviour.

Firstly I can establish that there are at least three different hedgehogs visiting the garden. The first hedgehog to arrive for the sandwich was rather easy to distinguish as he has only one functioning eye.

It is a frequent visitor that we have been seeing since last year, the kids call this one the pirate hedgehog and in terms of identification it is nice and easy.

Next on the scene were another two hedgehogs, neither of which was one-eye, hence there are at least three individuals. And in the case of these two I managed to record a sequence showing courtship behaviour in a video spliced together from several clips over the same period. The male is trying to approach the rear of the larger female but he keeps getting pushed away. In this case the female can be identified by the huffing noise that she makes. As well as the size of the female it is worth noting that she is eating a lot more.

May and June is the time of the year when the hedgehogs will mate, apparently it is the period for the hedgehog rut. If the hedgehog gets pregnant the gestation period is around 4-6 weeks, therefore hoglets are typically born in July. The young Hedgehogs would then leave the nest after a further 4 weeks, say August.

Following the night of the hedgehog rut I then left a little food in the hedgehog house, to see if the female could be attracted in to check it out as a nice possible nesting sight!

Luckily a hedgehog was enticed to do exactly this. And then again the following night I had the visit captured below.

The hedgehog, and I hope that it is the female, definitely seems to be trying out the box for size. During this visit, which is the first real use of the box, the hedgehog stayed for around 30 minutes. The next staged will be to see if it will be used as a sleeping location during the day, but there seem to be encouraging signs that the box is starting to be used.

Sunday 31/05/20

Weather : Consistent warm sunny weather all week. Warmer than normal for the season and no rain.

Notes : I’ve had lots of Hedgehog visitors to the garden this week. Every night at least one hedgehog, although normally several, have been passing through.

I think passing through is the key phrase as although the hedgehogs do sometimes have a quick poke around the hedgehog house, it has not been used for sleeping during the day. I’ve tried to encourage them in by putting a little bit of food in the entrance to the box on a couple of nights. They have no trouble in finding this and it gets hoovered up straight away, but no staying over.

I did get one recording of two of the hedgehogs in the garden at the same time. It’s not very common for me to see two at the same time and it normally results in some sort of conflict, I think especially if it is two males. This time it seems to have passed off without incident.

Although I’ve been watching and recording the hedgehogs for a while I do find it very difficult to distinguish between them. Either to recognise the different individuals but also to tell the males and females apart.

The males have a penis on the underside of their body, kind of mid belly. This week one of the hedgehogs did oblige by having a good scratch just in front of the camera and in the picture below I have circled the penis.

So this one is definitely a male.

Sunday 24/05/20

Weather : Starting chilly but then developing to very warm weather. High temperatures for the time of year.

Notes : I installed the box on Saturday 16th May so this is its first full week in the garden. There are always lots of hedgehogs passing through the garden at night, sometimes also overstaying, so the ambition is to get one of these to start using the box on a regular basis.

To entice the hedgehogs in I placed a small amount of hedgehog biscuit food in the entrance chamber for the first couple of nights. This did the trick and straight away on most nights I saw a hedgehog come into the box. However they only seemed to poke their heads into the nesting chamber and didn’t show much interest in staying.

I’m sure that I have several different hedgehogs that use the garden, I would like to be able to separately identify them and also be sure of the sex. Hopefully as I gather more image evidence this will be possible.

I also saw a wood mouse make a visit to check out the new box. They are very active and seem to be building a nest in a nearby wall, perhaps they came into the box to look for some nesting materials.

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