Saturday, 5 September 2015

Noisy visitors...

This summer a wonderful surprise has been to have had at least 2 hedgehogs visiting the garden. I had wondered if this might be the case from the occasional dropping left in the garden but not being confident in poo ID (!) we hadn’t been certain until one night when I went out into the garden at nearly midnight to bring in some washing that had been long forgotten. Noticing a small dark patch on the lawn I went to have a closer look and was delighted to realise that this was in fact a hedgehog going about his or her business in the garden. I did some research on the internet for what foods were suitable to put out for them (knowing that milk and bread should not be given as they find milk hard to digest and it can actually make them quite ill), and that whilst they can be given dog or [non-fish based] cat food, I was also keen to not attract every cat in the neighbourhood as we try to keep the garden as bird-friendly as possible. As well as food specifically designed for hedgehogs, they can also be given foods you might buy for garden birds such as sunflower hearts, kibbled peanuts and mealworms. I experimented with combinations of these and so far our experience has been that the mealworms seem to be their favourites by far, disappearing first (I watched one night as an individual crunched through all of these first, ignoring the other treats!), then the sunflower hearts and dry hedgehog food.  

We also bought a Hogitat which has been placed tucked out of the way under some garden shrubs and part filled with hay (shelters can be easily made of course with lots of ideas and designs on various internet sites). Having placed it close to where I’d first seen a hedgehog, I was pleased in the following nights to hear the noises coming from the direction of it, and also watching a hedgehog scuttle off towards it. Hopefully it will be of some use to them to rest and/or shelter.

The below is an audio recording was taken at about 10.30 at night - I went into the back garden and could hear a racket coming from the shrub borders, at first I wondered if a neighbour's dog was on the loose! I couldn’t see the hedgehog(s) responsible so had assumed that there was only one present, though a couple of nights later did we see two hedgehogs, so I’m not sure if the sounds are just of one snuffling around in search of food, or if there were two present and maybe some hedgehog flirting is going on! They are known to be noisy animals, though this is the first time I've heard this! 

Below is my first attempt to photograph this entirely nocturnal animal. I was rather loathe to use the flash and risk frightening them away, so the below grainy photo was taken using the available light from the house and a high ISO – hopefully I will have more opportunities to photograph them, maybe even with better results, but regardless, with their critical decline in the UK – numbers are estimated to have fallen to less than 1 million currently from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s, we're just delighted to have had them visiting our garden this year.

I also signed up to Hedgehog street – the site has lots of useful information and resources for encouraging hedgehogs and making garden habitats as welcoming and safe to them as possible. Simple adjustments such as making gaps in garden borders so that hedgehogs can move between gardens and ensuring garden ponds have a shallow edge to avoid the risk of them drowning in them can make a real difference to these loveable mammals. Other dangers posed to hedgehogs, such as use of slug pellets, garden equipment such as mowers and strimmers and bonfires could be largely eradicated with a little more care and attention and some minor changes on behalf of their human neighbours. 

I also recently received a link to a petition which is asking DEFRA to increase the legal protections for hedgehogs.


  1. What a heart warming story! Well done for doing your bit for our spiky friends.
    Between their 5 star accommodation and first class menu I wouldn't expect them to leave anytime soon :-)

  2. Thanks Dougie - most activity seemed to be in July and August, it's all gone quieter now so I hope they're still doing ok! Wonderful to know they're around here though. :)