FoxInGarden
Our recent Hedgehog feeding turned up a surprise this evening. Just an hour after the Hedgehog had been seen chowing down at 9pm as per usual, a rather mangy looking Fox turned up! That was rather a shock, though we had suspected a Fox uses the garden since we'd seen what I was fairly sure were Fox paw-prints in the snow. Actually that paw-print post is one of the most popular on this blog with lots of incoming search hits whenever it snows somewhere in the UK, so I assume that plenty of people have foxes in their garden that only become apparent when the white stuff betrays their presence.

You can see in the rather poor photo that it's lacking fur on its rear and the base of the tail (and an extremely long tail it is) and the rear legs look a bit shaky too. I looked up "Fox mange" and apparently it is fairly classic for this parasitic infection to begin around that area, however moulting foxes in the Spring can be confused as having mange. I'm really not sure which would be the case here. Would anybody out there care to venture an opinion?

 

HedgehogVsCat

The saga of the Hedgehog continues in our garden! It seems that anytime between 9-11pm there's a fair likelihood that if we turn on the garden floodlight we'll see Hedgey either wandering around the lawn or at the food bowl. Late yesterday next door's cat prowled on up to take a look and I watched motionless to see what would happen. Nothing. This cat, which chases down everything from bees to birds and squirrels, simply had a cautious sniff. Didn't even bat it with a paw. I suspect it's been burned before! The Hedgehog didn't give the slightest indication that it even knew the cat was there. I rather expected it to at least run away or curl up into a spiky ball.

I think this hedgehog probably lives under our decking as there's a gap at the side and tonight Hedgey beetled off to that same corner. I've seen the cat poking around there before, in that manner that they do when they're trying to get at another animal, like a mouse behind the sofa. That's probably where it had a previous run in and decided it didn't like Hedgehogs. Which set me thinking – I wonder if the great decking boom of the 90s, fuelled by TV garden makeover shows has handily provided a load of great Hedgehog homes? That said, I suspect people prefer to plug any gaps for fear of vermin, so maybe not.

HedgehogFeeding

It's not very often that I get to tick the "Mammals" category when filing a blog post. They're just that much harder to find compared to birds and insects! But special efforts bring special rewards. I mentioned in my last post a couple of days ago that we were going to put out some food to see if we can lure the hedgehogs that we're fairly sure use our garden, having regularly seen droppings on the lawn. This tactic paid dividends immediately, with the food disappearing the first night (but it could have been next door's cat) then proof positive when we observed the little ball of spines above feeding on the next two nights. It's been bang on 9pm on both occasions, though I think that turning the outside light on scared it off before it finished so we'll leave it be from here on.

The food itself is special Hedgehog food sourced from a local garden centre. Feeding them the 'traditional' bread and milk is actually not a good idea as it gives them diarrhoea. Their usual intake is beetles, worms, slugs and snails, so they are very much carnivorous. I hope it breeds as I still have a surplus of slugs and snails eating my plants!

This past few weeks I have been noticing:

  • Not much at all, owing to grey days and endless drizzle.
  • Ladybirds in the flowerbeds and in miscellaneous places – perhaps just being disturbed from their overwintering.
  • A fresh wave of spiders in the house, maybe due to weather going cold again, or maybe it's the fresh youngsters?
  • Just as many birds on the feeders as at any time in the winter, including larger birds such as Starling and Great spotted woodpecker, but also lots of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, House sparrows amongst the usual suspects.
  • Evidence of hedgehogs on the lawn (poo). We'll try some Hedgehog food in a dish to see what happens.
  • Most plants in the garden already thrusting up shoots from the ground. Will they be caught out by more frosts to come?

GreenLacewing
A close up of a Common green lacewing, showing the dark red eyes that are usually only noticeable if you look very closely. I assume it's a Common green lacewing, as apparently "green lacewings" covers about 2000 species.

Fun facts about Green lacewings:

  • The adults often overwinter in houses so you might see them at this time of year, though they are out and about all through the year.
  • They often turn brown whilst hibernating. I always assumed those ones were dead or close to it so I've learned something new here.
  • Their larvae are voracious predators of insect pests – apparently among the very best and are used commercially to keep aphids at bay.

Blackcap
Many weeks ago, amid the snows I noticed a new visitor to my garden bird feeders. At first it was extremely furtive and hardly ever broke cover so it took me a little while to figure out that it was a Blackcap. You may recall my picture of it peeking out from amongst the foliage. Now it seems to spend most of each day guzzling at the fat balls brazenly. It's only taken me this long to get a half decent picture of it because the light has been so terribly dingy and grey recently.

Apparently they're primarily a summer migrant but increasingly staying over the winter. This remains the only one I've ever seen.