Monthly Archives: August 2018

Feeding hungry hedgehogs

At the start of August, we realised that hedgehogs ((Erinaceus europaeus) were living in the courtyard, probably under one of the woodsheds. Karl saw a young one out in the day near a dish of water and thought it must have been looking for a drink. They shouldn’t be out during the day, so action was needed. We started by putting out other sources of water as well as suitable food, cat food in this instance.

The hedgehog family have breakfast together

Please, never, ever put out milk for hedgehogs, they cannot digest it and it makes them ill. There is advice about what to feed them here.

It turned out that we had a family of hedgehogs living right here that we hadn’t known about, a mother and two young ones. Given how hot and dry it’s been this summer, they must have been having a hard time finding enough to eat. There is always water available here, but we had only been feeding birds and not mammals – that had to change.

One of the young hogs has a drink

I have little experience of caring for hedgehogs, but found useful information on The Hedgehog Preservation Society‘s website and on Hedgehog Street. We put food and water near to the house so that we could watch over our guests and check the young ones were growing and that all were getting enough to eat and drink. That started on August 2 and has continued every night since. The hedgehogs arrive one at a time, gather around the dish of food and eat for a good half hour, sometimes longer, going from food to water and back again. Once they’ve had enough, they wander off, one by one, through the flower bed and go under the gap in the gate to explore and, hopefully, find natural food.

When talking to my dad about it all he said we ought to name them, so we have. How do you choose a name for a hedgehog, though? Apart from the mother, we don’t know what sex they are and, in any case, human names didn’t seem quite right so we had to think. Eventually, we decided on descriptive names that relate to behaviours we’ve seen. I feel more comfortable with this – calling them names like George or Susan wouldn’t tell you who was being talked about.

Let’s have some introductions. The first night we saw the mother hedgehog, we inadvertently frightened her and sent her rushing for cover. Her name is Runs Fast. The smallest hedgehog has a tendency to climb into the food dish, so is called Eats in Dish. To start with, the middle hedgehog invariably arrived at the bowl last, so we called it Late for Breakfast. If they change what they’re doing we might pick new names, but we’ll probably stick with the names we chose first.

Runs Fast and Eats in Dish

The Prodigal Robin

I wrote at the end of April that we hadn’t seen the robin for two weeks, this after he had been visiting almost every day since late 2014. There was a brief gap in attendance in early summer 2015, when he lost a territory dispute, but he returned in the autumn and, apart from a few days here and there, had been in coming to us every day. Then, in mid-April he disappeared and I thought we’d see him no more.

The robin looking very smart last year

Last Sunday, the 11th, he surprised us by suddenly reappearing, flying to a favourite perch in the garage and from there to his usual spot for eating mealworms. We didn’t have any mealworms at that point, so offered mix seed which he accepted and we then went out to get supplies in. He was looking scruffy and rather thin and we wondered what had caused him to leave such a well-provisioned life. He had a secure territory, a mate, plenty of food, so why depart from that? Maybe his mate was predated and he decided to explore elsewhere. I’m amazed that no other robin took over his patch and he didn’t come back finding he needed to fight in order to regain it. It amuses me to think he took the opportunity to return to the Philosophy Robin status we imagined for him during the first two years, when he didn’t appear to have a mate.

Screen capture from video of the first mealworms after his return. Looking rather scruffy!

This time, the robin was absent for four months and we will never know what he got up to or where he went, but it’s good to see him back. He’s dropped straight back into his old routine and seems to still recognise the few phrases we’ve habitually used. Calling out ‘Mealworms!’ elicits a quick bob and on hearing the invitation ‘Come on then!’ he will fly from the woodshed into the garage and on to the day’s favoured perch.

There is no knowing the ways of a wild bird and this one continues to puzzle us.