6. Camera Woes

I bought a Spypoint Force 20 for the specific purpose of recording hedgehogs at night. I have had it set up for 2 nights and find the results unacceptable for the following reasons. The camera settings used were:

      • Night: Boost
      • Mode: Video
      • Delay: Instant
      • Quality: HD
      • Length: 60″
      • Detect: High

NIGHT 1 The centre of focus is the entrance to a food station about 18 feet from the camera which is mounted 3 feet off the ground and connected to 12v DC. The camera was switched on at about 21:00hrs by which time it is more-or-less dark here. Nothing was recorded till I replenished the food supply around 03:00 [caught on camera] i.e. all the food that had been there was gone but nothing captured on camera. About 1 hour later a hedgehog was recorded entering the station where it remained till the end of the 60″ clip. It was not recorded leaving. After about another hour another hedgehog was captured in an almost identical sequence and not recoded leaving. No other events were captured; no cats were recorded in spite of there being at least 3 cats that patrol regularly every night.

NIGHT 2 Camera etc all as before. About 22:30 a hedgehog was recorded but only walking away from food station, not walking towards it or entering. 01:00 replenishing recorded; all the food that had been there was gone. 01:15 a cat, centre field, was recorded walking away from food station. [They are unable to enter.] 01:30 another cat also walking away, centre field. Neither cat was shown approaching the food station. 05:00 a hedgehog was briefly caught moving away from the food station but not shown approaching or entering. And that was the sum total for the second night.

On a more general note I find the Spypoint optics unsatisfactory. Video is unclear even at infinity and poor compared to cheaper cameras I have had. Also the focal length of the lens is too long for my purposes, a wider angle being better suited, something admittedly I might have discovered before buying although the information provided on the Spypoint website is highly misleading. For example they claim the images are 20mp but these are interpolated pixels i.e. inflated artificially by software to produce the headline figure and in no way achieved optically. The only advantage of a longer focal length is that theoretically more detail is captured at the centre of the field of view [always assuming the camera captures anything at all!] but conversely less peripheral action is captured. As peripheral action tends to be the bulk of what happens when an animal is on the move, a narrow angle lens will inevitably misses most of the action. The screenshots below show the first frames from 2 sequences from two separate cameras set up in exactly the same location. The lower image is the Spypoint, whose effective field of view is barely 45º.

Cheap camera – make unknown!

In the first image a hedgehog can be seen in the process of climbing the steps at the right of the image. This sequence would have been entirely missed by the Spypoint. Note also the position of the hedgehog in the second i.e. Spypoint image. Again, this is the first frame of the sequence yet where had the hedgehog come from? It had almost certainly emerged from the food station in the centre of the image but you’d never know from the Spypoint which has the hedgehog miraculously materializing centre-frame out of thin air. According to Spypoint the ‘trigger speed’ for this camera is 0.7″ There is no starting point in the above image from which the hedgehog can have sped to the position in which it is shown in 0.7″ This claim would be risible were it no so preposterous.

The image resolution of the Spypoint Force 20 is poor compared to the much cheaper cameras I have used. The latter typically produce images 1920 x 1080 px, in the jargon Full HD, whereas the Spypoint’s are only 1280 x 720 px or HD. The difference is noticeable as can be seen in the 2 images above, where the first 1920 x 1080 image is much sharper and more detailed than the Spypoint’s.

I also had to buy another card reader as the one supplied by Spypoint was so poor or flimsy that the pins collapsed on the first use. It is also a minor irritation that no direct connection is possible between the camera and a computer e.g. via USB. All the other cameras I have used can be connected thus. This camera has no audio which I knew about before buying it. As I am not interested in audio that did not bother me, but if you want audio then the lack of it might be another reason not to buy this camera.

5. Accommodation

On 18th August I decided to convert an under-used corner of the garden into 5 star hurcheon accommodation. As all the necessary building materials were in situ, all that was required was a little rearrangement. This image shows the floor plan before roofing over.

2 separate en-suite dwellings.

The internal dimensions are roughly 18″ x 9″ The entrances (one at lower left, one at upper right) are about 4″ wide. Further blocks were added flat along the right hand side and at the front to deter digging by predators.

Couples welcome. No cats, dogs or badgers.

Tenants proving elusive, after a couple of days I put up a sign, scattered a bit of straw about, and scattered hedgehog faeces in the area. The image above was taken on 20th August. The ‘hotel’ is sheltered from wind and rain and only gets sun in the late afternoon and early evening. The wall against which the shelter is built is south-facing.

While waiting for the first guests to arrive I retired to the patio with a pint and ‘The New Hedgehog Book’ by Pat Morris from which I gathered a] that hedgehogs construct hibernacula in undergrowth from assemblages of dried leaves and twigs and b] quite often move house during the winter. Presumably this both helps shed parasites and enables escape from foetid quarters. Having concluded from the book that hurcheons were unlikely to be impressed with my construction, I reduced it to two adjacent, unroofed ‘chambers’ under a pile of hedge-clippings which has yet to receive a single star of approval from a hurcheon. It entertains the grandchildren if not Erinaceus europaeus.   


4. Entertaining Urchins

There is a great deal of information on the internet about wild hedgehogs generally and feeding them in particular, but one of the main things NOT to feed them is milk. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and feeding them milk harms them.

Hedgehogs are basically meat eaters, specifically insectivores. They also eat slugs, snails, worms and carrion. They do not normally eat fruit or vedge. They will eat meal worms but there is evidence that their consumption can cause metabolic bone disease. There is also plenty of information about this on the internet, but it is unwise to experiment with feeding as the results of the experiment may be hard to detect. We feed hedgehogs minced beef and cat biscuits. A ‘value’ pack of mince costs about £2.25 per lb (£5 per kilo). We feed the hedgehogs in 2 separate places to stop the early bird eating all the worms! There are currently at least 4 different hedgehogs who drop in every night. An egg-cup full of mince weighs about an ounce. I roll them into balls and freeze them. I put half a defrosted mince ball in each popin (food station) i.e. a quarter ounce of steak tartar costing 7p, with half an ounce of cat biscuits in each costing approx 3p. Some people suggest ‘meaty’ tinned cat or dog food. Our dog refused to eat the stuff and from experience hedgehogs will only eat it if there is nothing else. (Nor do they eat any of the muck labelled ‘Hedgehog Food’ that I have tried.) Dry ‘whole food’ pet biscuits are better for hedgehogs’ and your pets’ teeth. In any case, once opened tinned dog and cat food goes off quickly. Bottom line is feeding hedgehogs minced beef is cheaper and better for them than tinned food.

To ensure you are feeding hedgehogs, rather than cats and other opportunists, you need a simple ‘shelter’ in which to put the food. There are numerous examples on the internet. One simple, sturdy and cheap version is shown on my POPINA page.

The other very simple thing you can provide is safe and easy access to water. I have filmed hedgehogs ‘drinking’ for more than a minute in the recent hot weather. We have no pond or other natural water in our garden and I am not aware of any nearby. The further hedgehogs have to roam for water (or food) the greater the risk they face of being run over or predated. If you have hedgehogs coming to your garden it makes sense to provide them with water. Similarly, if you have water in your garden (pond, pool etc) try and ensure safe means of escape should any over inquisitive hedgehog tumble in. They can swim, but cannot scale a sheer sided pool. Open drains and netting (garden or tennis) are also hazardous to hedgehogs. Being inquisitive by nature but possessed of poor eyesight, hedgehogs are accident prone. Please also urge your neighbours to take care strimming! Strimmers can cause terrible injuries or a slow death to the humble urchin. Similarly bonfires should be checked for lurking hedgehogs before lighting; a hedgehog sees a bonfire or compost heap as ideal daytime shelter. I tip my bonfire onto a tarpaulin before rebuilding it and firing it. And mind how you go with that fork! Slug pellets are another no-no. If you prefer prize dahlias to live, healthy hedgehogs, (not to mention the birds), scatter the wretched things around. ‘Covering’ them or putting them under a tin is no deterrent to hedgehogs who are masters at extracting food from under an upturned dish – a skill which seems to be entirely beyond most cats.

For more information or advice here are some websites. There are others!

British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Hedgehog Street

Somerset Wildlife Trust