Hedgehog Log

Sunday 17/10/21

Weather : Perfect Autumn Weather, Cold mornings, Sunny afternoons. No rain for the last week.

Notes : Perfect Autumnal weather this week and although the hedgehogs are still active in the garden it does seem to be getting quieter. For the first time an a very long time I had a night without any hedgehog action.

The hedgehog house is currently unoccupied so I gave it a clean out, maybe I’ll get a hibernating hog this clean. It was actually quite damp inside, lots of woodlice and worms but no ticks this time.

I’ve also decided to make a small change to the hedgehog activity records starting from this week. Until now I’ve been recording the number of camera trap sightings per night. I’m going to start noting how many of these show more than one hedgehog. I feel this year than I’ve been seeing one than one hedgehog more frequently, surely a sign of greater activity, but I have no records to back it up.

Sunday 26/09/21

Weather : Start of Autumnal weather, cooler and wetter.

Notes : The hedgehog house occupant now appears to have left. He first stayed during the day of the 26th August and left on the 20th September so a stay of 26 days.

Interesting to note that I’ve now had three different hedgehogs occupy the house this year.

Hedgehog 1 – 4 days between the 22nd March and the 27th March

Hedgehog 2 – 34 days between the 2nd April and the 13th May

Hedgehog 3 – 26 days between the 26th August and the 20th September

All three have I think been Males which would seem to be more than a coincidence. Perhaps the house, it’s size and location is more suitable for Males than Females. I do think that the nesting chamber is too small for a female looking to have a litter, hence my planned winter project to make a slightly bigger house.

The 3rd hedgehog didn’t use as much bedding material inside the house so the camera was never entirely blocked, at times giving good views of the nesting resident.

It allowed me, at last, to get some simultaneous, multi camera hedgehog action from the house and the feed station.

The good news is that the presence of my cats in the garden since the summer hasn’t created any problems for the hedgehogs, the both seem to cohabite very well together. In particular the cats use the hedgehog house as a stepping stone to leave and return to the garden and I thought this might put the hedgehogs off, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. The clip below is a very typical example and a hedgehog was present in the house throughout.

So now we approach the countdown for the start of hibernation. The exact start date is obviously variable but last year the last hedgehog I saw during the night in the garden was the 15th November, so about 6 weeks from now.

During this time the hedgehogs will need to eat as much as possible and find their ideal site for the Winter, for those feeding hedgehogs now is an important time to keep it up.

My feed station is still in heavy use although interesting the other night, whilst I wasn’t recording, it was filled up with leaves. I don’t think it is a suitable location for a nest but obviously a Hedgehog thought to give it a go.

Monday 30/08/21

Weather : Quite cool temperatures but little rain.

Notes : There is a new tenant in the hedgehog house who arrived during the night of the 25-26 August. The nest building started during the night quite rapidly. On the evening of the 25th the box was largely empty but by the following morning the hedgehog had already built enough of a nest to stay during the day of the 26th. The first day time stay of the new occupant. First daytime stay since 14th May.

There isn’t much bedding material on the ground at the moment, especially around the hedgehog house so to give it a helping hand I gathered up some fallen, very dry, lime leaves from elsewhere and deposited them over and around the box.

The hedgehog has so far continued to stay every stay, further developing the nest. My internal camera has managed to show some nice images rather into the heart of the nest. This is one of the hog arriving back into the nest.

I love the way that after the hog inserts itself into the nest, the chamber is carefully closed off with some well placed leaves. Hedgehogs really are quite clever and intricate nest builders. This view is quite lucky but I don’t imagine then it is going to last. As more bedding material is added I’m sure that the camera will become blocked.

So who is the new tenant. It appears, again, to be another Male. He is distinctive particularly from the eyes which although still reflective are quite dull, especially the right eye. He also does seem around the face to be quite worn, not the springest of chickens. So an old, warn male, very apt for me.

He does appear to have some fight left in him. There was a little incident during the week where he gave very short shrift to a potential nest intruder.

I’m tracking and logging the movements and so far the new hedgehog does appear to be spending quite a lot of time inside the nest. Coming out during the night for quite short expeditions for the minimum time necessary for the essentials. Maybe this is normal when a hog has first arrived in a new nest. When he starts to think about moving on he will be out longer as he looks for a new site.

I assume that he will move on in some days or weeks,  as I think that it’s far too early for hedgehogs to be picking our hibernation sites.

Tuesday 02/08/21

Weather : Generally cool and wet.

Notes : The presence of my two cats, which now roam outdoors has had a negative impact on the birds and mice but the hedgehogs are not at all bothered. They are an object of fascination for the cats but nothing more.

And there is still a lot of activity in the garden. When I started capturing them on the trail cameras a couple of years ago it was really uncommon for me to see more than one hedgehog, but now it is typical for me to see 2 or 3 most nights. I took this video a few nights ago.

There was a peak of activity in Spring just after the end of hibernation and I thought that it may reduce as the year continued, but it seems not. It is worth saying that the weather this summer is much cooler and wetter than the norm, which is perhaps this is more conducive for the hedgehogs than heat wave conditions. Unfortunately I’ve only been making detailed records since September 2020, not even 12 months, so nowhere near enough data to have a view on such seasonal/annual variations. Pure conjecture on my part.

The numbers of hedgehogs in the garden is more likely due to the fact that over the last year I have been putting food out more regularly in a specialised hedgehog feeding station. I think the correlation between activity and presence of food is pretty direct, so if you want to see hedgehogs, the number one thing to do is leave out food.

Behaviour wise I’ve seen a couple of interesting things. Firstly some typical aggressive attitudes, which I think is more likely to occur between two males. Here it is a little comical as the aggressor misses the target, I guess it is dark.

I’ve also seen courtship behaviour where a Male circles the Female. I had a fantastic example of this last night which lasted in total for 2 hours. It must have been exhausting for both hogs, a short snippet is show below.

I’ve seen this before but never for so long on Camera. It shows that the Male was quite keen to mate and the Female was equally determined to resist. It’s possible that in the end there was a mating, discretely done off camera, but I’ve read that only around 7% of such courtships end with a mating. Obviously the norm is one of disappointment.

It is not impossible this late in the year for a female to become pregnant but the survival rate of late litters is extremely low. The hoglets would be coming out of the nest only some weeks before hibernation normally starts, also when the weather begins to get colder, and they would typically not be big or strong enough to survive.

I would recommend that these hedgehogs save their energy for next Spring.

Sunday 18/07/21

Weather : Finally starting to see some summer temperatures after a period of cool, wet weather.

Notes : Over the last month I’m afraid that the tracking of the hedgehog activity has taken second place to the nesting Robins, a question of my limited time and also technical resources.

For a period I had to disconnect the hedgehog house and feeding station cameras although I did largely manage to keep the trail cameras going, so I have some idea of what has been going on.

The other factor is that during June I’ve started to let my cats roam freely outside during the day, but not yet at night when they come back in.

What I can say is that the hedgehogs continue to be active in the garden and Certainly to use the feed station when I have left food out. I’ve often seen two individuals in the garden at the same time who occasionally in early evening have come across the cats, but they do not seem at all bothered by them.

The Hedgehog house has not been reoccupied after the resident left in May but it has been visited. The only hard evidence I have is some footage from the night of 13-14th July, during a period of prolonged hard rain, when a hog was definitely present for a while.

This would be quite consistent with my expectations. During the summer it is unlikely to attract another permanent resident, I think the hedgehogs roam quite widely at this time, but it may be used occasionally as a place for a rest or a nap.

I also haven’t seen the hoglets since the beginning of June. Perhaps they are already indistinguishable from small adults or maybe they have just headed off to another area.

Sunday 06/06/21

Weather : Warm Sunny week with a couple of days of thunderstorms in the middle.

Notes : This week I’ve been lucky enough to see something very special, and a first for me, I’ve been watching a family of baby hedgehogs ‘hoglets’.

My first sighting was a few nights ago and as the little one was out early I was lucky enough to get a colour video.

This was a single visitor and I’m not sure how many hoglets there actually are. The maximum I’ve seen at any one time is two, which would represent quite a small litter size, so there may be more. They’ve been roaming quite widely across the garden although at this age they won’t be independent, they’ll still be coming back to the nest for the day. On a couple of nights I’ve sat out watching them run around and they’ve been very unconcerned by my presence. I even had one hoglet get so close that it touched my foot, a real ‘moment’.

Seeing them next to the adult parent gives a good idea of the relative size of the hoglet.

The hoglets should leave the maternal nest around 4 weeks after birth, so this would give a birth date of early May. Then working back, as the gestation period for a pregnant female hedgehog is 4-6 weeks, the mating would have happened late March. As soon as it is pregnant the female starts to look for an preparing the nesting site, so this would be early April at the latest.

I don’t know if my hedgehog house is big enough for use as a nesting site for a pregnant female but by early April it was already occupied by a male, who wasn’t going to give it up. I did see the resident Male chase off a couple of other inquisitive hedgehogs, perhaps one of them was this female looking for a site.

As the hoglets are thoroughly exploring my garden I guess that the female must have used a natural nesting site quite close by. Luckily several of my neighbours leave lots of untidy leaf material in their gardens there is lots of potential in the immediate vicinity.

Mother and hoglets have also happily been eating the cat biscuits left out in the feed station, here she is heading in with one of the brood, another good example of the size difference between them.

The visits to the feed station also generated an interesting moment with a different adult hedgehog. In the video below Mother and one of the hoglets were feeding when an ‘intruding’ adult entered.

Initially the Mother defended the hoglet but I was surprised to see her leave the little one on it’s own in the face of the intruder. I thought that her defence would be a lot stouter.

In this case no harm came to the little hoglet. It balled itself up in the corner for a while before successfully making a quick exit.

I think that the family grouping will stay together for a few weeks. Hopefully they’ll keep using the garden and I would really like to get some footage of the extended family group, Mother and several hoglets together.

Sunday 24/05/21

Weather : Another wet week. Lots of rain with low temperatures.

Notes : The hedgehog has unfortunately moved on from the house and is no longer using it. The last day he stayed was the 13th May, so in total resident for nearly a month and a half from his arrival on the 2nd April.

I waited a week but I decided that it would be best to clean the house out. I felt fairly sure that one of the main reasons why the hedgehog left was the problem with ticks in the nest and if I wanted to encourage a new hedgehog to move in, it would be a good idea to start from scratch.

I was quite interested to see the inside of the house and the nest construction. I had to remove a lot of leaf material but in the photo below the nest chamber is visible.

I also found lots of ticks, many of them big and white, gorged on the blood of my ex resident hedgehog. I’ve circled a couple of them in the photo and there were many more. I cleaned out the box with very hot water, to kill any remaining bugs and it is now back in position in the garden.

The other bonus is that the camera inside the house is no longer blocked and I will be able again to see what is going on inside.

With the departure of the resident and also the lack of food in the garden, I stopped putting out hedgehog food whilst the rat was around, the amount of hedgehog activity in the garden really dropped off in the last week.

Only a few visits a night have been recorded compared to 10’s of visits during March and April.

This is perhaps normal, there is a post hibernation surge of activity, a real competition to find food and eat it quickly which has now finished. We are also currently in the season where females will be getting ready to give birth, or perhaps are already nursing hoglets, during when they are much less active.

So even though the hedgehog house is nice and clean and available it is probably unlikely that it will get another permanent resident this year. Hopefully it may provide an occasional resting place for a passing hedgehog.

Sunday 16/05/21

Weather : Generally cool and wet week, plenty of showers, some heavy.

Notes : The same male hedgehog has continued to use the hedgehog house over the last two weeks but there has been a little development. He is getting a ‘tick’ problem, little insects which show up as white spots on skins on the night time camera.

Hedgehogs are bothered in this way by a specific type of tick, unsurprisingly called a ‘Hedgehog tick’. They are very common, tiny parasitic insects which look rather fierce close up.

The ticks attach themselves to the skin of the hedgehogs as they pass through the undergrowth and then gorge themselves on its blood. They start off the size of a seed but then get bigger as the feed on the blood, eventually dropping off.

It doesn’t look very nice but the hedgehog can support quite a few ticks without too much inconvenience. However it there are too many feeding on it’s blood and it might develop a problem with anemia, but there needs to be a lot of ticks to get to this stage.

I imagine that the warming weather and the dense leaf stuffing in the hedgehog house is providing an ideal environment for the ticks and I have seen an increasing number on the hedgehog. He seems to be getting more irritated by their presence and has been spending more time outside of the nest trying to scratch them off.

The hedgehog has been using the house as a nest site since the start of April but if it becomes a hot-spot for ticks he might decide to move on. I think I would. Perhaps then I may need to clean out the house and start again to attract another resident.

Another event of the last week has been the arrival of a rat in the garden, also showing an interest in the hedgehog house.

Now there are obviously lots of rats around. They do very well in human habitats and the famous saying is that you are never more than 6 feet from a rat. Although famous I don’t think it is exactly true, but it is true that creating a friendly space for nature means that it may attract rats and I need to be zen with that.

However I don’t want to encourage them to stay too long so I’m going to stop leaving out bird and hedgehog food for a few days. If it becomes a problem over time I will try and trap the rat, obviously in a very humane way, and relocate him.

In full disclosure I have already done this once last year when I trapped a rat in the hedgehog house which I took, rat inside, a couple of kilometres away to release down by the river Seine.

I would be very impressed indeed if it’s the same rat, if it was I’d let him stay.

Sunday 09/05/21

Weather : Mixed week of sunshine and showers.

Notes : Key hedgehog incident of the week was that Rachel Reziot, a friend, found a rather poorly looking small hedgehog in the road which she brought round to us.

It really apeared to be struggling, we put it in the garden for a bit but it didn’t move. We also couldn’t really find a local hedgehog rescue contact. In the end she took it back to hers with some food to look after. As I write this it is still doing OK so hopefully it’ll pull through.

The resident hedgehog carried on as per normal in the hedgehog house and he is still there. Still making his nightly sorties and nearly always returning in the early hours, he still seems to have the occasional day away. I’m assiduously recording in the log the movements, when he stays, leaving and returning times but it doesn’t seem to be showing any significant patterns. I’m also still recording on most nights the overall hedgehog activity and although it has dropped from ‘Peak Hedgehog’ which I seemed to hit around early to mid April, it is still pretty busy. I continue to often see at least two hedgehogs in the garden at a time, I would say that the house resident does seem to be the dominant male when confronted.

Here he is from earlier in the week heading off for the nights fun.

Sunday 02/05/21

Weather : Becoming colder and wetter as the week progressed. Some much needed rain.

Notes : The same hedgehog is still in the house, he’s now been there a month, and after several very clear pictures and videos, I have the evidence, I’m 100% sure that it is definitely a ‘he’.

I’m now becoming quite familiar with his movements and activities, which are quite surprisingly regular.

A daily activity, perhaps the highest priority for the hedgehog is nest maintenance.

Every day fresh mouthfuls of leaves are taken in to refresh the bedding, although as I’ve previously noted nothing ever seems to come out. Somedays this is just a few mouthfuls but occasionally a good 10-15 minutes is spent on the job.

Then there is scratching, which the hedgehog does several times a day, he often spends quite a bit of time just outside the entrance of the house having a good scratch.

I assume this is essential for pest control. Hedgehogs are susceptible to ticks and fleas which can become quite a problem if left unchecked.

In general the hedgehog spends quite a bit of time just outside the entrance. Another typical behaviour is to sniff the air, and here is a pretty intense session, which ends, as most other activities do, with a bit of scratching.

And sometimes the hedgehog just comes out for some air, and maybe a think.

I really don’t know how long the hedgehog will stay. Is he now set for the summer or is he likely to move off at some point? I have seen that he tends to be outside scratching more often and I guess a typical problem might be that as the weather hots up the number of pests and insects might increase. If this happens it might provoke my resident to move on. I shall see but hopefully not.

Last word of the week is not Hedgehog related but goes to the swifts who have indeed returned with my first group being spotted high up above the house on the 28th April. So summer is now semi-officially starting.

Sunday 25/04/21

Weather : Dry and clear, very warm in the afternoons, no rain.

Notes : The same hedgehog is still staying in the house, and again has stayed everyday of the week with only one exception.

I’ve managed to keep the activity log up to date and I haven’t decrypted any particular pattern to the movements. What I did manage to get was a video which seems to close the debate on the sex of the resident hedgehog.

It seems to me from this that the resident is actually a Male, which is a little bit of a shame, I was hoping for a female which I thought may have opened the possibility of a litter of hoglets.

Assuming that it is a male I’m quite surprised that the hedgehog has stayed so long and so often in the same nest, he has been present in the house since the start of April. I thought that the males in particular roamed much further and used a nest for only a few days before moving on.

It will be interesting to see if the same hedgehog stays in the house and for how long.

The other note from the week is that I’ve started to see a definite decrease in the general hedgehog activity level in the garden. During March the activity level was very high, much higher than anything I’d recorded in the late Summer and autumn last year, since records began! As the activity level is now coming down it may indicate that there is a post hibernation burst in the first weeks of the year but that this doesn’t last.

Monday 19/04/21

Weather : General dry and clear, cold during the nights but warming in the afternoons.

Notes : Another great week. The hedgehog is still nesting in the hedgehog house, it’s still the same one, and I’m still able, via the trail camera, to watch the comings and goings.

The hedgehog, which has been in-situ since the start of April is now staying basically everyday. Unfortunately I can’t see into the nest but from external camera I’m able to record much of the activity.

I’ve seen that the nest requires very regular maintenance. On a daily basis fresh bedding material is being gathered and brought into the nest. A typical example is shown below.

Interesting I never see anything come out, I guess the leaves are just getting more and more compacted inside.

There are still many other hedgehogs visiting the garden and this could present a problem for the house as a place to raise a litter. Hedgehogs really don’t like to be disturbed, they may abandon their young or even kill them if they are. But in my small and rather busy garden such a level of privacy is going to be difficult to achieve.

I captured this video from earlier in the week of an intruder thoroughly inspecting the house.

During this ‘intrusion’ the resident hedgehog was present and I imagine that such a disturbance might be enough to spook a hedgehog with baby hoglets.

I’m still keeping the nest record of all movements and the hedgehog is progressively leaving later in the evening and returning earlier in the morning, spending more time actually inside the nest. This may be perfectly normal, obviously daylight hours are increasing and I do leave out a really easily available food source in the garden, feeding is simple for this Hedgehog. But still I find this an interesting aspect and I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

The skin markings on the hedgehogs continue to vary but this week I read of a possible explanation. Apparently organic matter, for example cut grass, will appear as dark markings on a hedgehog skin when viewed on an infra-red, night-time, camera, whilst dry mud will appear as pale marks. This seems to me a very plausible and probable explanation of the often very sudden variations I’ve seen.

Hoping for another good hedgehog week ahead. I’ll keep the blog updated with any news and don’t forget to check out the live webcam, no guarantees but peak Hedgehog feed time is now around 21:30 French time.

Sunday 11/04/21

Weather : Very cold, a few hard overnight frost, and then a lot of rain at the end of the week.

Notes : There is still a hedgehog in the house and I think, but I’m not 100% sure, that it is still the same one. And again I’m not sure but I do tend to think that it is a female.

I’ve been keeping a log of all the comings and goings in the hedgehog house, which is a little laborious but it’s all part of the record keeping mantra.

What the records show is that after a few days break at the start of the week the hedgehog has been spending every day in the house since Wednesday 7th. Assuming that it’s the same hedgehog, more on that below, it has been occupying the house since the 2nd April. The first tenant, which was a male, only stayed for 5 days between the first and last visit. So this one is much more loyal to the house.

I’ve also seen the current tenant on the other garden cameras during the night, and on some nights it is barely leaving the garden. It has not been roaming far. On several nights, which have been admittedly very cold and sometimes wet, it has come back to the house frequently for a quick rest, spending quite a bit of time hunched down in the entrance chamber rather than the main part of the nest.

As mentioned before I believe it is the same hedgehog but I do have a doubt. This is because during the week its appearance has changed, with several black spots suddenly appearing on the skin. This happened very quickly, in the video below they are not present when the hedgehog left the house in the evening but they are when it came back in the early hours of the following morning.

It’s quite a dramatic change but as the facial markings are identical, the moustache, I think it’s the same hedgehog.

I’ve seen in the past that the skin markings on a hedgehog will vary quite often. This is why the recommended identification method is by facial rather than skin markings, the facial areas tend to be constant.

What I conclude is that a hedgehog which stays loyal to its nest and doesn’t roam far is more than likely a female.  Hence I’m staying with the guess that it’s the same hedgehog that moved into the house on the 2nd April and that it’s a young(ish) female.

Away from the nest I’m still often seeing two hedgehogs together in the garden but no longer three or four, but there is still lots of activity every night.

The graph shows the number of sightings during the night, which I don’t manage to record every night but enough to get some useful results. The Blue line is last year starting from around September and the red line is the start of this year. It’s clear that there has been much more activity in the first months of this year compared to the end of last year.

I don’t want to jump to any premature conclusions based on this information, it may be normal that the start of the year is busier than the end of the year. I need to have the data for the same periods across different years, more laborious record keeping is required, but I will hopefully have a better idea towards the end of the year.

But right now I’ll keep watching and filming the nest in the hedgehog house, I’d just be happy for now to see it stay in use.

Saturday 03/04/21

Weather : Sunny all week, Very warm in the afternoons.

Notes : A new hedgehog has moved into the house, and here he/she is.

I can’t be 100% sure, I’m afraid I didn’t have quite so much time this week to monitor the nest activity in complete detail, but I think that the last time the big adult male stayed in the house was last Saturday, 27th March.

In total it had stayed for around a week before moving on, remember they roam over quite a big area.

My main concern was that because the nest had already been used other hedgehogs would be put off. I saw lots and lots of hedgehogs poking their nose it but then running off.

Then yesterday morning the new hedgehog moved it. It stayed all day yesterday, and then came back again this morning after spending the night out and about.

When it came back this morning it spent some time bringing in lots of fresh leaf bedding material before again bedding down for the day. This time I had a camera on the entrance of the nest to capture the nest building activity. The whole process took 20 minutes, a bit too long to sit through, but a short 1 minute sequence is shown below.

You can see that the hedgehog gathered lots of leaf material in it’s mouth from the surroundings. These are leaves which I gather up and dump in the garden during the autumn. I do it because it’s good for the garden and a great resource for the hedgehogs, don’t tidy up those leaves, nature loves a mess.

This new hedgehog is a little smaller than the last one, maybe 1 year old, but it does handily have a very distinctive mark, a kind of moustache, on it’s nose, so fairly easy to identify. I’m not sure but I think it might be a female this time, which would be a nice change.

Will it stay and if so for how long? The last occupant stayed on alternate days for around a week before moving on. It will be interesting to compare with this hedgehog, especially if it is a female.

I’m still trying to keep the live cameras active and as ever they can be found here. With the change of the clocks the peak time in the hedgehog feed station is now around 21:00 French time, and I guess it will get gradually later as the we head towards June.

Saturday 27/03/21

Weather : Sunny, chilly at nights and some heavy rain showers.

Notes : Lots of activity this week in the Hedgehog house and it seems I have an active nest site.

Following from the log last week I assumed that the Hedgehog had left the house on the evening of 19th March, after having built a pretty good nest and staying all day. Maybe it had, I’m still not sure, but in the early hours of the 22nd March there was a burst of activity. In the process of 13 minutes the Hedgehog completed the nest. It brought in more leaf bedding material, until the house box was completely full. Unfortunately I was only recording on one of the small side panels of the video feed but I do have the full nest building, 13 minutes of extreme hedgehog activity, recorded for posterity.

Taking a few photos during the process we can see the before, during and after. The shot taken during the activity gives a good view into the circular bedding chamber.

Unfortunately the camera inside is now completely blocked and nothing can be seen. I have set up a trail camera at the entrance of the house and from this I’ve got some nice views of the occupant. A great one below of the Hedgehog coming up for some air and a general good sniff around.

Since the 22nd the hedgehog has been staying but not permanently. I’m trying to track the movements from the trail camera.

The Hedgehog has stayed in the house every other daytime following the nest completion. It has stayed on the 22nd, 24th and 26th. It must mean that this hedgehog has at least one other nest site that it is using on alternate days.

However I know that it is the same hedgehog that built the nest that is using it. Handily the current occupant has a couple of easy identifying features. The easiest one is that on it’s rump there is a kind of inverted pale ‘V’ marking.

My absolute favourite footage from the last days is below.

This was the hedgehog leaving at around 19:00 in the evening so it was still daylight and therefore the video came out in colour. Obviously nearly all my footage of the hedgehogs is taken at night, using infra-red, so only in black and white. It’s really nice to get a colour video.

During the week I’ve seen lots of other hedgehogs in the house entrance. They often enter, some further than others, they sniff around and then they leave. There are lots of these events and generally they happen when the resident hedgehog is not in. But I did see an example of what happens when the occupant is present.

A pretty aggressive defence of the nest.

Typically the males are more aggressive that females and I have seen other clues to make me think that the individual using the house is a male.

I caught this video of the hedgehog house resident arriving at the water dish with two other hedgehogs present. It’s first thought was to give one of the others a bit of a biff.

The other noticeable point is that the resident hedgehog is quite big compared to the others. Therefore it’s probably a mature adult, maybe 2 years old.

Obviously the final tell tale sign for the sex of a hedgehog is to have a look for a penis, which is found half-way up the abdomen. I’m pretty sure that the video below is of ‘my’ hedgehog and a penis seems to be visible.

So I think that it’s a mature adult male that has built a nest in the hedgehog house. It’s a shame that it’s not a female as I think they tend to use the nest sites for longer, their territories are much smaller, and also there might be a possibility of the house being used as a site to raise a litter.

However I may have got the ‘sexing’ of my hedgehog wrong, I am not a hedgehog ‘sexing’ expert by any means, so I’ll keep watching, hoping for more action and clues.

Sunday 21/03/21

Weather: Cold week, some heavy showers.

Notes: It took a while but the hedgehog house is finally getting some use. I had a few quick visits but my first proper hedgehog stay, lasting 2 ½ hours, was on the 17th night.

Then on the evening of the 18th a hedgehog moved in. It brought on lots of extra leaves for bedding materials and completely buried itself.

It stayed for the next day and only left at 19:33 the following evening 19th.

The nest building was a bit different from last year. Last year when the hedgehog stayed it was only generally for a couple of hours and it didn’t really bring in any nesting material. It was just more of a case of taking a nap on a few leaves.

This may means that a more consequent nest is being built, rather than the type of day nest or only a few leaves. We shall see.

My other highlight from the week has been a video of four hedgehogs visiting the Feed Station.

I’ve never seen so many Hedgehogs in the garden before, which must mean that there is a really healthy local population. I’m getting lots of footage of two, three or four hedgehogs together, often in the feed station and sometimes out and about in the garden. This used to be quite rare, I remember in previous years being really excited, well quite excited, when I saw two together on the camera. This year it’s a daily occurrence, perhaps the local population is burgeoning or my feed station and food supplies are becoming known in the area and attracting more visitors.

Sunday 14/03/21

Weather: Cold and Clear and then turning windy with some heavy rain showers.

Notes: The Highlights of the week have been the first visits to the hedgehog house.

They were only very quick visits, on a few consecutive nights but at least the hedgehogs have found the house and had a quick look around.

By looking at the footage I’ve also managed to identify a few of the different hedgehogs which are showing up regularly. I’ve seen a one-eyed hedgehogs, an individual with only one reflective eye, but I forgot to keep recordings.

I have seen my friend with the Black Spot.

Also a hog with lots of white patches.

This last one keeps showing up in the garden and is perhaps one of the most regular visitors at the moment.

Sunday 07/03/21

Weather: Colder week. Very little rain.

Notes: Strangely there was a drop in hedgehog activity this week. Last week I was often seeing three hedgehogs in the feed station at the same time, this week it has been a maximum of two but more often just one. Perhaps there was a post hibernation food frenzy and now they are beginning to disperse over a slightly wider area.

I captured a nice sequence of two hedgehogs using the feed station. The first video below shows the first and then the second entering, taken from outside.

And then the moment when the second hedgehog arrived taken from the inside.

The other nice video I took was of what I assume is a male sniffing the air.

Potentially what this animal is displaying is the Flehmen response. This is done by many animals where they sniff the air through their mouths. They have a special sensor and it allows the males to detect females in heat, ready for breeding. I get lots of females pass through and it looks like this male is on the scent of one.

Females will mate with different males. Once they’ve had sex the Male departs and nest building, birth, weening, the whole process, is done by the females alone. Add your own punchline to this.

It would be beautiful for a female to use my hedgehog house for a nest site although I don’t know if it’s suitable, it may be too small.

No Use of the hedgehog house yet this year.

Sunday 28/02/21

Weather: Sunny and warm. Getting slightly colder as the week went on. Very little rain.

Notes: Straight away following the end of hibernation last week there has been a fantastic amount of Hedgehog activity in the garden during the week. In the feed station I’ve seen 2 hedgehogs present on most nights and on a few I had 3.

With 2 hedgehogs they seemed quite happy to share the food but the arrival of a 3rd always provoked some quite aggressive behaviour.

I’ve also noticed on another occasion one of the visiting hedgehogs had a clear black identifying mark, which is always handy.

I didn’t see this mark on any of the three individuals in the earlier video so this would indicate that I’ve had at least 4 different individuals visiting this week. A reasonable community.

Unfortunately my trail camera finally gave up this week so I have no shots outside of the Feed station. I would like to have photos of the different individuals to start trying to tell them apart when they around the garden.

Also as yet there have been no visits to the Hedgehog house, hopefully that will be the next step.

Sunday 21/02/21

Weather: Warm week, sunny with little rain. Spring!

Notes: At times it has felt like a long time, but this week it seems that hibernation is over and the Hedgehogs are back. And the first visitor seems to be quite a small one.

By it’s nature hibernation is a difficult period to record but this year I have made a particular effort and I do have some results to share.

As an exercise it rather tested my commitment to record keeping, for several months I’m mainly recording the absence of activity. However I missed only a couple of nights and the results of my semi scientific efforts are shown in the graph below.

The blue line in the graph shows the hedgehog activity in the garden, the number of visits recorded during each night. This gives the period of hibernation, shown with the big green line.

It shows that this year, for the hedgehogs visiting my garden, the hibernation started on 15th November and ended on 15th February, giving a rather pleasing duration of 3 months exactly. The period is largely driven by the weather so this rather precise timing must be a coincidence.

As discussed in one of the previous blogs hedgehogs are not completely dormant during hibernation, they remain occasionally active. In the graph there are a few blue peaks during the 3 months representing these short periods of activity. As one of the factors provoking this occasional activity is temperature I also recorded the lowest overnight temperature each night. This is the red line on the graph which is measured against the axes on the right-hand side.

6 nights of hedgehog activity where recorded during the hibernation period. On these nights the lowest nightime temperature was above 0oC, in fact no hedgehog activity was recorded when the temperature was below 0oC. My ground-breaking science seems to confirm that when it gets really cold, the hedgehogs, rather sensibly, don’t go out.

It is also worth remembering that it is only mid-February, we may still get more cold weather. If this is prolonged it may provoke the hedgehogs back into hibernation so I’ll keep taking the records for a little while yet.

However for the time being the hedgehogs are out and about and at this point they have 2 thoughts, food and mating. Mating I can’t help with but food I can cover and this week has seen the return of the hedgehog feed station to the garden. It is now camera equiped and the hedgehogs have been quick to find it.

I’m using special hedgehog food which is like dry biscuits or pellets. They’re very similar to dry cat food and apparently this works equally as well.

Sunday 14/02/21

Weather: Very Cold all week. Snow on the ground and freezing temperatures at night.

Notes: No sightings this week which is not surprising given the weather conditions. Typical nightime temperatures were -5oC.

The weather is predicted to be warmer and wetter next week so it may be the moment for the hedgehogs to start coming out of hibernation. I plan to re-install the feed station next week so I’ll start to put food out as soon as they are active.

Sunday 07/02/21

Weather: Very wet again this week lots of rain.

Notes: I’ve had a couple of Hedgehog sightings since the last log update. Firstly on 01st February and then again on the morning of the 6th, caught on camera below.

On both occasions there were only a couple of sightings, so still only a very low level of activity. The coming week is likely to be very cold, maybe with snow, so I think I will need to wait a bit longer yet for something more substantive.

Sunday 31/01/21

Weather: Warmer but much wetter again this week. Lots of Rain.

Notes: Nothing. No signs of activity. I thought maybe the trail camera was not working so one night I left out some food which attracted some cats. It proved that the camera is working and that the hedgehogs are just sleeping.

Sunday 24/01/21

Weather: Cold and week all week. A couple of snow flurries.

Notes: No activity and nothing to report this week. It is still cold and wet although temperatures are forecast to go up a little next week, if only temporarily. It will still be wet though.

Looking back at my notes from 2020 the first recorded hedgehog visit was mid February. Obviously it is all very weather dependent but I may have a few weeks to wait yet before the years activity starts.

Sunday 17/01/21

Weather: Cold and Wet. We also had one day of snow. The snow was cleared by rain the following day.

Notes: No hedgehog activity in the garden this week. I did re-install the hedgehog box after giving it a reasonable stuffing of lime leaves.

Sunday 10/01/21

Weather: Cold all week. Daytime temperatures between 1-4oC. A very little rain. No snow 

Notes: I was ready to write ‘No activity this week’ but actually there were two Hedgehog sighting on the night of 5th-6th January.

That was it during a generally cold week which I imagine rathered favoured hibernation.

The other hedgehog news of the week was that I took the nest box in for a clean. I thought it was the moment to do it as it’s certainly not in use and I want it to be in good condition for the Spring. I hesitated about whether to put any nesting material into the box. Typically I have only put in a few leaves but I was considering really stuffing it with hay or straw. In the end I think I will put it back next week quite stuffed but with leaves. Actually I read that Lime tree leaves are favoured by hedgehogs for their nesting material and this is lucky as they are all over my garden. I bring them in from the trees that line our roads.

So to keep things natural I’ll provide a good stuffing of these in the box. I’ll re-install it next week a take a snap shot of the inside. It will be less ‘open’ than before but the stuffing will hopefully encourage it’s use. The other info I read is that Hedgehogs like a good distance between their food source and nest, therefore it is not a good idea to put any food in the nest box. I’ve actually done this from time to time, putting food in the entrance of the box, to draw the attention of the hedgehogs. I’ll avoid this in the future.

Sunday 03/01/21

Weather: Weather: First cold snap of the year started from Friday. Temperatures regularly below 0oC at night. Plenty of rain.  

Notes: Following it’s first outing last week there was a little more activity from the hedgehog. I recorded activity on the night of 27th-28th and then again on the 30-31st. I did leave out some food on night of 28th-29th but it was not taken. So clearly the hedgehog was not active on all nights.

The current cold snap really started from the 1st January so I imagine that the hedgehogs are now back hibernating and I don’t really expect to record any further sightings during this period.

It may be possible that during this cold snap that we get some snow on the ground something which is great for recording animal tracks. So if it does happen I’ll be keeping an eye on the ground around the typical areas of hedgehog activity.

Sunday 27/12/20

Weather: Generally cold and wet with a short warm peak before Christmas. Arrival of Storm Bella on 27th with strong winds and heavy rain.

Notes: A first hedgehog sighting this week, the first since the 15th November. Caught for the sake of posterity on the video below.

The hedgehogs have been hibernating since Mid-November although they do break hibernation periodically during winter. This week, just before Christmas we had a little 2 day warm patch with nightime temperatures up to 12-13oC. I thought it may be a trigger but no hedgehog activity was recorded.

Then on the night of 26th-27th December we had the arrival of Storm Bella over Paris. It was not a very severe winter storm but it did bring very high winds and lots of rain with a nightime temperature around 3oC. It was actually on this night that the video was taken.

It may be a coincidence but it seems that it was the storm rather than the temperature which triggered the hedgehog activity. It will now be interesting to see for how long the hedgehog remains active. We are forecast a generally cold spell, potentially with some snow, so I imagine this would rather encourage the hedgehog quickly back into hibernation. I may leave out food on a couple of nights as this could provide a real boost to the hedgehog as it tries to maintain condition through winter.

Sunday 06/12/20

Weather: Generally cold with a few more rain showers. Nightime temperatures between 2-5oC.

Notes: No sign of the hedgehogs. The last recording sighting was 17/11 so they are hibernating well. Over the last week or so the temperatures have come down and been quite low. Typical for the time of year and without any remarkable lows but generally cold. However towards the end of next week the temperatures are forecast to increase. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough for the hedgehogs to break from their hibernation and come out for food.

Other point to note is that I have now removed the feed station from the garden for the winter. It isn’t going to be in use during the winter so I’ll clean it up and re-install it for the spring.

Sunday 22/11/20

Weather: Weather progressively colder during the week. Temperatures now in single figures. Some rain.

Notes: I think the hedgehogs are now hibernating as on several nights this week there was no activity. On one night this week I left out food in the feed station and it wasn’t taken. This is the first time that the food left out has not been eaten, a really sure sign that the hedgehogs are now hibernating.

I will keep recording the activity as they will emerge from time to time during the winter, I will try and track as and when this happens.

Sunday 15/11/20

Weather: The first cold snap of the winter, clear & cold, was followed by a period of warmer temperatures. Little rain over the last 2 weeks

Notes : Hedgehogs are still active in the garden and taking food from the feeding station whenever it is left out.

We did have 3 or 4 days of cold weather during the first week of November and it was interesting that I had 3 nights with no recorded hedgehog visits. Admittedly I did not leave any food out during these nights but it may also be true that the cold weather provoked the hedgehog into it’s hibernation.

For hedgehogs hibernation doesn’t mean a permanent sleep from November to March, they’re not bears! For hedgehogs hibernation is a period of reduced activity, or no activity, when they slow down their heart rate and breathing. However during Winter they will come out of hibernation occasionally to feed and also if the weather is mild. So perhaps during this first cold snap the Hedgehog started it’s hibernation but then re-activated itself with the much milder weather.

I should say that the temperatures really were much milder and much above the seasonal norms.

As discussed previously no sign of the hedgehog house being used or even visited and I have not seen more than one hedgehog in the garden at the same time for many months.

What I did manage to get on camera was a hedgehog poo.

They are quite indiscriminate where they poo, in this case right next to the saucer which it had been eating from. Also they are not particularly territorial, so it is not marking this spot to lay some sort of claim. However finding hedgehog poo is a good way of confirming the presence of hedgehog and also, for the brave, of having a look at what they have been eating.

I feel a future Blog Post coming on.

Sunday 01/11/20

Weather : Quite warm and wet this week. Temperatures slightly above the seasonal norm.

Notes : There continues to be plenty of hedgehog activity but the house has still not been used since the 5th October. I have however seen a hedgehog in the garden gathering nesting material.

As I can’t imagine that it is taking the material very far, coupled with the hedgehog regularly turning up in my garden as soon as it becomes dark, the conclusion seems to be that this individual is building a winter hibernation nest in my neighbours garden, just beyond the fence hole. This would be close to the food I supply in the feed station and makes use of the rather wild area at the back of the neighbours garden.

I’ve been doing additional reading on hedgehog activity and this has provided a few explanations on the nesting habits. It seems that my hedgehog house was being used as a summer/day nesting site of which the hedgehogs will have several. Apparently a male will tend to use a different site every night whilst a female will use the same location for around a week. This would make sense of the regular behaviour I’ve witnessed of the house being used for around a week and then abandoned. It would also confirm that the majority of users, and certainly the last occupant in September was indeed a female.

Despite using a variety of nest sites during the summer each hedgehog will only make and use one unique winter nest for hibernation. As we are now nearly at the point of winter hibernation, last minute nest enhancements aside, it would confirm that my hedgehog house has not been selected for use this year.

As hibernation is nearly upon us I should now start to see a reduction in hedgehog activity. I’m trying to keep a reasonable record of the night-time visits, although I’m reliant on the trail cameras which are not fool proof, however I should hopefully see this trend.

My additional hedgehog reading material, book below, has been very illuminating and I’m afraid to say that it has highlighted a few of my mistakes.

Apologies readers but I need to correct a few errors.

In a recent Blog Post I talked about hedgehog teeth and I thought that these were being used to eat snails from their shells. Sorry about that but I was wrong, it turns out that hedgehogs do not eat snails, at all. Their teeth, despite being fearsome, are not up to it.

I had also been finding acorns in the hedgehog house, which I did honestly think was a bit odd, but I considered that maybe this was forming part of the hedgehog diet. See Hedgehog Log entry for the 18th October. Wrong again.

To be very clear hedgehogs are nearly 100% carnivores, mainly eating slugs, worms and beatles.

What I now believe was happening was that the eaten out snail shells and acorns were signs of a rat. I had seen one darting around at the end of the garden, including in the hedgehog feeding station, at the end of September and early October. It looks like this rat would have been using the hedgehog feeding station as a sheltered location in which to eat and probably rest.

Rats do take snails as a regular source of food and evidently they do have the teeth to deal with the shells. In addition to the hedgehog food and shelters my garden is full or snails, so I guess of interest to this rodent.

Since early October I’ve not seen any further evidence of the rat on any of the cameras, including the one installed inside the feed station, and I’ve stopped finding snail shells.

It seems to be the logical explanation.

Certainly for me this blog is a learning curve and I apologise for the mistakes along the way. I’ll try and be as factual as possible and make corrections as I go. It certainly confirms the conclusion that with nature the more you look the more you realise how little you actually know.

The other conclusion is that if you find snail shells looking like this in your garden, you’ve probably got a rat!

Sunday 18/10/20

Weather : Drier this week although with some colder temperatures.

Notes : The hedgehog house has unfortunately again fallen out of use. The last time that a hedgehog stayed  was the 5th October.

I was also a bit concerned about the food in the feed station. It was certainly getting eaten but the trail cameras where not picking up much hedgehog action. I had also found a lot of acorns in the station and I wasn’t sure that this was a regular food for the hedgehogs. Perhaps there was a chance that the hedgehog house food was being taken by mice or maybe other rodents.

Therefore I managed to set up a camera in the feed station, the quality is not great but the results of admittedly only one night were clear.

The food, certainly on this night, was taken 100% by hedgehogs and no other visitors were recorded. If this remains the case it would indicate that it is indeed the hedgehog eating acorns. Neither I nor my immediate neighbours have any oak trees so tracking down the source of the acorns would provide a bit more information on the hedgehog range.

It was also noticeable that the hedgehog was in the house eating as soon as it became dark, which is now around 19:30. I would say that this is quite typical behaviour at the moment, the hedgehog being present early in the evening. This would indicate that even if it is not using the hedgehog house it is staying close by during the day.

I was also lucky enough to get a very interesting view directly into the mouth of the hedgehog, who was obviously thinking about eating the camera.

I’ll make a little blog article on the hedgehog teeth as I have several good shots now.

Sunday 04/10/20

Weather : Cold, wet and windy all week.

Notes : Another good solid autumnal week of cold wet weather. The hedgehog started to use the hedgehog house again starting from 27-09-20.

In total the hedgehog visited the house on:

Night of 27-09

Night of 28-09

Night of 30-09

Night of 02-10

Night of 03-10

It seems to come into the house and have a nap for around 30 minutes before heading off again. Sometimes there is only one stay and on other days several throughout the night.

I’m not very good at hedgehog identification but I believe that the hedgehog regularly using the house is a fairly small female.

I have spotted a different hedgehog, this time I would guess a male having a sniff, but then not going in to the house.

I don’t think that two different hedgehogs will share the same house so it looks like mine has been claimed by this small female, at least for now.

Famously hedgehogs are reputed to be great friends of the gardener, particularly as they eat slugs and snails of which I have no shortage, especially now that the rain has returned. In my garden I’m now finding lots of snail shells, including inside the feed station, which have been cracked upon and the snails eaten out.

This seems to confirm what I have read in that even when food  is left out the hedgehogs will still take plenty of natural food. So don’t be discourage in leaving food out for the hedgehogs, I think it just encourages them to spend longer in the garden, time they use to the detriment of the snail population.

Sunday 27/09/20

Weather : First week of Autumn. Much colder with several windy, rainy days.

Notes : Autumn has started very abruptly this week with a marked change in the weather. For hedgehogs this means preparation for the winter hibernation. They need to gain enough weight during the next weeks to survive and therefore this is a key time during which they should be very actively foraging for food. To help them along I will also be regularly putting food out, I made sure to stock up this weekend on the specialist hedgehog food.

The Hedgehogs have been active this week and every night I’m seeing more than one individual in the garden. I was also lucky enough to capture the video below again there were no obvious signs of conflict.

It seems that one of the hedgehogs has a clear pale patch on it’s right hand-side, which is a little odd. This is either a new hedgehog or the patch is new to one of the regular visitors. I have seen hedgehogs in the past with pale patches and it previously seemed to me that the markings would vary. Patches would move and then disappear. However I’m not sure if this is the case, do these patches vary on the same individual or are they permanent? If they don’t vary it means I’ve been seeing many different hedgehogs. I’ve tried to look up some info on the subject but it seems inconclusive, I need to keep watching and searching for some relevant material.

One thing I have read online is that sometimes hedgehog markings are not natural but are done by people using spray paints to ease recognition. This could explain why markings suddenly appear although I have a little difficulty to believe that my neighbours, certainly my immediate ones, would do any such thing. Perhaps this is just an Internet conspiracy theory!

There is not much interest being shown in the Hedgehog house. The only times it is being visited is if I place food in the entrance chamber. I do this from time to time, just so that they know the box is there.

I captured a very brief visit on the box camera this week.

Weather : Extremely warm and sunny week. Temperatures far exceeding the seasonal norm.

Notes : This week saw a couple of quick visits to the hedgehog house. I must admit I provoked this by placing a little food in the entrance, however at least they now know where it is.

I left out food in the feed station more or less every other night and it was always taken by the morning.

The highlight of the week was a short video showing two animals on camera. I was pretty sure that I had been seeing two different individuals in the garden most evenings but this was nice confirmation. There didn’t seem to be any agitation or signs of conflict which there often is when two get so close.

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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