Clearing out the shed at the weekend I found lots of evidence of things living there past and present! Right in the back corner buried beneath a mountain of old flowerpots was this scrappy ball of detritus. I assume it must be a mouse nest as it has clearly been constructed by some animal, having very clear circles of dead grass in its base (not visible above), bits of old string and even nylon line of some sort.

I couldn't discern any actual 'entrance' to the nest as such or any definite evidence of mice – e.g. droppings in the shed, but I can't see what else it could be. I did once see a small sandy coloured mouse sprinting down the side of the shed, so I know they have been present. Perhaps a harvest mouse?

24. March 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Mammals

I crept up to this tiger as it slept and took a close-up photo. Either that or it was behind two layers of mesh fence at Whipsnade zoo, I can't remember…

Feeding time for the otters at Whipsnade Zoo. As if I could get a picture like that in the wild!

A recent visit to Whipsnade Zoo offered an opportunity to see exotic creatures not usually spotted in the UK. But amidst the elephants, tigers and giraffes, smaller less assuming animals roam free in their 600 acres. One of these is the Mara, which at first glance looks like a big rabbit. Or a very small deer. It's actually the fourth largest rodent in the world and quite interesting to read up on courtesy of Wikipedia or Whipsnade's own page.

It looks especially rabbity when sat as above, though when stood up you can see the long legs and hoof-life feet at the back. As far as I can tell these haven't escaped into the wild and become established, though they're clearly happy enough roaming the Dunstable Downs fairly freely, but within the confines of the zoo.


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?



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.


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!

Norfolk Wildlife Trust have a great website with resources to help in surveying many different kinds of wildlife, from ponds to fungi. The forms are designed to be sent back to report on wildlife in Norfolk, but there's so much great information and guidance that they should be of interest to anybody.