When the drought finally broke here, I realised that the hedgehog food was getting waterlogged and needed to be under cover. A small ramshackle structure was made, with little doorways suitable for hedgehogs to go in and out and they took to it right away. They did make a mess in there, as they tend to wherever they are, but at least their food stayed dry. It didn’t take long for the birds to find this box and the blackbirds, especially the female, began spending large parts of their day in or around it. They had the food the hedgehogs hadn’t eaten, shelter and a large tray of fresh water just outside the door, so they made the most of it. That the box was so near to the front door didn’t seem to bother them at all and I was able to take a few photographs of the female in her new roost.
The female blackbird in her new roost
The weather is still fairly mild and the hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) have yet to hibernate – indeed some are still working to put on the weight they need to see them through till spring – so we are following their lead and still putting food out. I am no longer giving cat food, but crushed suet balls as advised by someone I spoke to from the Wildlife Trusts, who told me that suet balls provide a good fatty boost for hogs needing to gain weight in autumn. Conveniently for the birds, hedgehogs don’t seem to clear the dish and leave a lot of crumbs which the birds then finish up during the day. All that needs doing is to wash the dish and reload it. I’m glad that the box is being used during daylight hours by birds, it makes me smile to see them roosting in there and taking daytime naps.
Something I’ve realised in the last few months of watching hedgehogs is that they aren’t very bright. One night, we surprised one of the juveniles which has been visiting and rather than run away or curl into a ball, it just stuck its head into the gap in a broken chimney pot and stood there looking silly.
Coming to butterflies. One surprised me the other day and in a rather distasteful manner (if you’re eating, stop reading now). I was sitting in the sunshine in a wildish area of a large garden, enjoying my lunchtime sandwiches, when a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) alighted in the long grass a couple of metres away, its proboscis uncurling and curling up again. How lovely, I thought, and wondered what it could have found. Late flowering daisies, perhaps? Some remaining dew drops? It was certainly working away at something. Thankfully, by the time had I finished eating and got up to see what it had been doing it had flown away, otherwise I might have been sick there and then. Not a late daisy, nor a drop of dew, but fresh dog shit. Now that I know of this habit, delicious as it may be from their point of view, I can never see Red Admirals as I did previously, nor other butterflies for that matter. They are no longer innocent and beautiful sippers of nectar, they eat faeces.