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Hurcheons

15. Falderals (ii)

These clips are all best seen full screen and preferably on a decent-sized desk-top monitor. Much of the detail is too small to be seen easily on a phone or tablet. Press ESC to exit full screen.

7. The Worm That Got Away.

There is a juicy, fat worm in front of the midden lintel. It escapes like a piece of spaghetti being hoovered up by an infant. Best viewed full-screen and preferably on a computer monitor or you probably won’t see the worm.

8. The PROOF…

… that I smell worse than a tomcat. Apologies for the casual attire but three-thirty in the morning is too early for a tie and pin-stripe suit.

9. Baby Steps

As a pommel-horse dismount that would have been greeted with rapturous applause. The first and second halves were recorded about 5 minutes apart. In the second part, what I take to be mother is at ‘ground level’ while the baby is up aloft checking the vegetable midden (in the metal casserole) for juicy worms, slugs, beetles and such-like delectable morsels.

The baby continued to practise climbing, generally with more circumspection than in the above, until a week later…

The L plates should be coming off soon.

10. Nynehead Crimewave

Shocking theft of bedding from homeless refuge caught on CCTV

With the onset of somewhat cooler temperatures a refuge was opened equipped with basic amenities for the homeless. Yet within 24 hours it was targeted by a juvenile offender who made off at some speed with as much property as could be taken away in one callous, opportunistic raid. The current whereabouts of the perp. are unknown but one line of enquiry being pursued is that the notorious Tiggy-winkle Gang is attempting to establish a county line in order to launder proceeds of their criminal activities further north. The public are advised not to approach the suspect who is known to the authorities and prickly. Be vigilant. Watch this space. Report suspicious behaviour.

Special Officer Sally Henny-penny

[The camera time is BST; 06:25 hrs. was logged for GMT time of incident.]

11. Uninvited Guests

Here’s one gorgeous creature. Never seen before and not seen since.

I’m told this is probably a Bengal cat.

Here’s another visitor who has made several appearances recently.

At first I took it to be a cat holding something in its mouth. No harm befell any hurcheon.

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Hurcheons

14. Falderals (i)

These clips are all best seen full screen and preferably on a decent-sized desk-top monitor. Much of the detail is too small to be seen easily on a phone or tablet. Press ESC to exit full screen.

1. Land Speed Record = 2.3011 m.p.h.

Or 2 miles, 529 yards, 2 feet and 91116 inches in one hour. Roughly.

The paving slabs measure 18″ square. From the starting block to the finish-line [the joint nearest the camera in the clip] the hedgehog traversed 9 tiles in all = 13½ feet. Time taken approx. 4 seconds according to the official time-keeper who can be seen in the shadows on the left.

2. The Fall

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk! (Finnegans Wake)

Gravity sucks. On this occasion the fall seems to have been carelessness rather than the result of a helping hand from another urchin. The faller wandered off apparently none the worse for wear. A hedgehog’s prickles must act as pretty efficient shock-absorbers. [The irritating vegetation blocking a clear view of the steps has since been lopped.]

3. Hedgehog Snowball

The ‘snow’ is composed of petals from a mock orange.

4. Stairway to Heaven

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow don’t be alarmed…

… because it’s probably just courting hedgehogs. The only noise I have ever heard a hedgehog emit is snorting and snuffling. They seem to fight in stoic silence. This video shows typical courtship behaviour, although it is not usually performed on steps. The male will circle round the female presumably with the ultimate intention of getting behind her. She, on the other hand, counters his manoeuvrings by turning to face him. The whole thing evokes a slightly edgy courtly dance which can last from a few minutes to half and hour or more. The place where I generally witness this behaviour is on the path shown above, where there is both food and water. I have never witnessed consummation which must occur at some stage or there would be no hedgehogs. What generally happens when I am watching is the male seems to have a momentary lapse of concentration from the job in hand to drink or have a quick bite to eat. Having satisfied hunger or thirst he returns to the fray only to find that the female has done a runner. He will generally charge off in hot pursuit. Males meeting other males will almost invariably fight. This ranges from a bit of pushing and shoving to vicious conflict worthy the name of dog-fight. See next.

5. Dogfight

Fights can be short and not-so-sweet (as above) or prolonged bouts of pretty harmless pushing and shoving. Generally one hedgehog will submit early on, by digging in their feet while presenting their back to their opponent before gradually adopting the ultimate defensive posture of balling. Having done the latter, the aggressor will generally wander off only to return a few times to deliver a further kicking. The victims tend to remain stationary for several minutes until well after the final attack to ensure that their opponent has withdrawn. They then uncurl, seemingly none the worse for wear, and resume hedgehoggy business.

6. Problem Drinker

Advice to hedgehogs; don’t put your foot in it.

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Hurcheons

13. Raised By Hand

Hedgehogs are nocturnal. This young lady has clearly not read the manual. The date and time are accurate, so a fortnight or so off midsummer’s day when there are roughly six hours fewer of darkness in which to be nocturnal compared with midwinter.

But by and large the rule is true and hedgehogs out during daylight are often a sign that something is amiss; stress due to illness, injury or disturbance. Manic strimming and mowing are particularly likely to be culprits in summer. Take care if you are afflicted by either urge.


This individual showed signs of being new to the location by climbing onto the roof of the ‘diner’ rather than entering it at street level to feed. I intervened to give it food rather than leave it roaming about in daylight. It appeared not to mind but I do not delude myself; rather than associating the encounter with a human as beneficial, resulting in a free lunch – hedgehogs, after all, know there is no such thing – what the hedgehog probably learned was to follow its instinct and avoid contact with humans.

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Hurcheons

12. How To Make A Hedgehog

As the stushie shown in the video below reminded me of an unfortunate encounter between Henry Wilt and a rose bush in Tom Sharpe’s ‘Wilt’, the suitor is Henry and the lady, who is neither for turning nor lying back and thinking of Ingerland, is Eva.

The sequence of 28 clips spans some 20 minutes of ‘real’ time action [the video lasts c. 9¾ minutes] during which Henry ‘courted’ Eva who seemed not the slightest bit interested and on a couple of occasions can be seen to ‘bark’. [This only looks like a bark; there is no accompanying sound emitted. In fact the only sound I have ever heard emitted by a hurcheon is loud snuffling and snorting. This is loud enough to be heard in a room through closed double-glazed windows, but you have to be attuned to it.] Take no notice of the recorded temperature which if anything reflects Henry’s ardour rather than prevailing meteorological conditions. Another hedgehog is in the feeder during the opening part of the sequence. Apart from the occasional baleful glance towards the love-nest, the onlooker seems more interested in food than anything else – followed by making a discrete and speedy getaway without atrracting Henry’s attention. To view ‘full screen’ click the 4-arrow symbol at lower right – next to ‘vimeo’.

I deleted the audio as it consisted mostly of an annoying hum caused by running the camera off mains electricity. The quality of the previously uploaded video was poor because controlled by google – who can’t even spell their name correctly. The version above is hosted on Vimeo who do a slightly better job than yootoob. The blue colour is what Vimeo considers appropriate – so on a par with utube. See also this Teenage Romp

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Hurcheons

11. The Missing Piece Of The Jigsaw

Since posting ‘Bloodshed In Nynehead’ I found some clips which downloaded to the wrong folder. The camera I use is unreliable at the best of times; thus in the clips that follow ignore the date which should be April 19/20, not March 19/20 – which is how I came to miss them first time around. To view full screen click the 4-arrow sybol at lower right.

There are 5 consecutive relevant clips. Each clip is numbered on the ‘data’ strip and the time noted. The first clip [0017] shows a hedgehog entering the feeder uninjured at 23:24.

Two minutes later the next clip [0018] shows what I assume is the same animal emerging at 23:26 with an injured back, right leg. There is no clue on either video or audio [removed because of hum] as to what happened. No other animal is seen at this stage. Careful scrutiny of this video shows the hedgehog leaving a trail of faint footprints where none existed previously. [In reality, i.e. next morning, they were very obvious and clear.]

Six minutes later at 23:32 frame 0019 shows another hedgehog descending the steps recently mounted by the injured animal. They may well have passed eachother. This animal appears to inspect the bloodied footprints along the lintel before passing the large spillage of blood obscured by the water dish before entering the feeder which must have resembled a charnel house. It did next morning when I noticed it.

One minute later in frame 0020 the hedgehog emerges uninjured and passes out of shot at about 23:33.

The next two frames, not included here, were recorded about 2¼ hours later and show a male, in frame 0021, going up to the feeder, which it may briefly have entered, before turning around and, in frame 0022, exiting up the steps.

About half an hour after frame 0022 a possible culprit is recorded very briefly in frame 0023 at 02:15. It moves very fast and in two spectacular bounds vanishes up the steps. Blink and you’ll miss it. It was probably a weasel or a stoat. Both can kill bigger animals than hedgehogs e.g. rabbits, but whether they would tackle a hedgehog I don’t know. Whatever the animal was, it cannot have materialised out of thin air as suggested by the sluggish response of the camera, which only just captured its flight up the steps. In case you miss it first time round I have reversed its movement and replayed it.

Given the time-lag, i.e. about 2¾ hours after the initial blood letting, whatever the animal was it might have been attracted by the smell of blood rather than the cause of its shedding, as blood was still present in copious quantities several hours later. There are mice that live under and around the feeder which would be natural quarry for mustelids. Generally mice are seen to avoid hedgehogs, but had one been caught shortly before the arrival of the hedgehog in frame 0017 who knows what sort of bad tempered exchange might have taken place.

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Hurcheons

10. Bloodshed In Nynehead

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. (Sherlock Holmes)

At about 10 a.m. on 20th April 2021 I went out of the back door and noticed a trail of blood  from the hedgehog feeder, up some steps and onto the rear lawn. Further investigation revealed the following. [A £1 coin is included in the images for size comparison.]

A bloodied area c. 8” x 4” inside the feeder with confused footprints leading to/from the entrance. The entrance to the feeder, to the right of the image below, is restricted to 5” wide x 4” high. Inside the feeder is about 12” wide x 4” high.

Tracks went from the feeder towards a drinker where there was a large pool of uncongealed blood c. 4” x 3” and more foot prints. Distance from the feeder to the drinker is c. 4 feet. [The drinker has been cleaned!]

From the drinker the footprints followed a route taken regularly by hedgehogs, but whether the bloody footprints were those of a hedgehog is unclear to me. [The footprints subsequently turned out to be those of a hedgehog – see The Missing Piece Of The Jigsaw.] Passing the drinker the tracks went towards a vegetable midden [* see foot note] contained within concrete lintels – a distance of another 4 feet. The footsteps mounted the 2 foot long lintel. Hedgehogs often take a short-cut along the lintel, to go through the midden before mounting the steps. On this occasion the footprints went straight along the whole length of the lintel without entering the midden.

The footprints were not very clear in outline, but here is a close-up of one of the clearer ones from the lintel.

Descending from the end of the lintel onto the path another clearish footprint was photographed.

Mounting the steps the footprints ascended to the upper lawned area of the garden. From the midden to the foot of the steps is c. 2 feet. In the next image the bottom step is to the right. From bottom to top of the steps is about 4 feet. Adult hedgehogs ascend quite easily and rapidly, juveniles less so. Descent is a more hesitant affair, often with dithering at the lip of each step. The progress of bloody imprints suggests ascent. [As before – The Missing Piece Of The Jigsaw.]

After ascending the steps bloodied imprints were left on a couple of inset paving stones before leaving a trail over recently mowed grass, then followed the right hand edge of a circular patio, with a further clear trail of prints on the stones, and crossed more grass towards a shed. Turning westward the trail continued over a tin tray lying in the path of whatever was on the move.

The distance from the top of the steps to the patio is c. 8 feet; the tracks across the patio another 4 feet, and from there to the tin tray above a further 12 feet. Thereafter the route lay over grass. Progress seems to have paused briefly judging by a somewhat scattered area of uncongealed blood from which the trail continued to its terminus.

A close-up [below] of the blood at this point shows ants feeding on it. No ants were observed feeding on the more plentiful supply of blood some 4 feet away at the end of the trail. My assumption at the time was that if the blood had only been recently shed, the ants had not yet discovered it all which would tend to support a ‘late’ time for whatever happened. [This turned out to be incorrect. The injury almost certainly ocurred between 23:24 and 23:26 on the 19th April.]

The distance to this point from the tray is c. 9 feet and from here a final distance of 4 feet led to the end of the trail under a garden seat by a wall where there was a another considerable amount of blood covering an area of about 6 square inches. Rich pickings for ants but none were yet in evidence.

There was no other trail of blood leading away from the garden seat. No indication was found as to the source of the blood. No fur, feathers, prickles, bones or other remains were seen, either along the trail or elsewhere in the garden. The footprints were noticeably bloody throughout and seemed not to ‘fade’ as would happen if they were the result of stepping in blood. On close inspection there was sufficient blood or active bleeding to leave a visible trail of footprints across the grass, which had all been recently mowed.

Each individual footprint measured about 1¼” long by about ¾” wide but their outline was far from clear or distinct. The distance between prints was some 4” to 5” and the span of the steps i.e. between left and right feet was c. 1”. This would seem to be at variance with images on the internet of hedgehog footrints. [Muddled thinking. The bloodied footprints were only half the story because hedgehogs are quadrupeds not bipeds! Half the footprints were not bloody and thus did not leave a trail. ]

The steps were regularly spaced and appeared controlled e.g. in a straight line along the length of the lintel. The footprints were consistently spaced and suggested steady progress walking rather than running or hopping.

I have assumed the direction of travel was from the feeder to the bench but this may not be correct. [The assumption was correct.] The feeder and the bench represent the only two observed termini. No blood or other remains were found elsewhere and the direction of travel was unidirectional, with no evidence of an animal having been, say, attacked in the open before retreating into the feeder then ‘bolting’ along the route outlined above. [Whatever the cause of injury, it appears to have happened in the feeder between the recorded times of 23:24 and 23:26]

No broken glass or other sharp object was found that could have caused a serious (or any!) injury. If the cause of the bleeding was an attack of some sort the lack of other evidence such as fur or feathers seems inexplicable unless the victim had neither e.g. a toad. I have occasionally seen toads here. Does anything or anyone eat toads? other than those in holes by humans. [The toad was a red herring – or possibly a wild goose. The victim was sadly a hedgehog.]

A trail camera was in operation throughout the preceding night [19/20 April] and appeared to be functioning correctly with 32 short video sequences of hedgehogs and cats. No spilt blood or the shedding thereof was recorded. [It was – almost – but the vital clips were incorrectly dated and downloaded to the directory for March. They can be seen The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw.] Having spotted the blood a test recording from the same viewpoint was made at 11:00 to establish whether the blood that was clearly visible to the naked eye would be visible on video. It was not. [See ‘Jigsaw’.] However it seems unlikely that the blood could have been there at the time the last cat was recorded at 03:40, because the animal’s olfactory investigation did not include those areas where blood was later observed. [This cat is well known to me because it has impaired sight in its left eye. Had there been fresh blood in the quantity later observed it would almost certainly have lapped it up.] Similarly the last hedgehog, recorded at 05:30, showed no interest or curiosity in the areas subsequently observed to be bloodied. [Wrong; both hedgehog and cat were seen to be interested in the trail of blood. See The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw.] This 05:30 hedgehog in fact took the ‘regular’ direction previously referred to, i.e. up the steps and across the lawn following much the same track as the bloody footprints. From previous observation it is most likely to have crossed the grass and patio before turning westwards past the bench where the bloody trail finished and continued wetwards across a lawn, before creeping under a fence onto a neighbouring property.

I turned the camera off at about 06:30 on the morning of the 20th to download the night’s recorded video. I also checked the feeder for signs of feeding and, finding some food remaining, opened the feeder to remove the dish and food. I am not always very observant but think it unlikely I would have missed the blood [must have done – see ‘Jigsaw’] had it been there at that stage [i.e. 06:30] when it was already full daylight. After all, I noticed blood immediately I went out of the back door 3½ hours later which suggests that whatever sanguinary event took place most probably occurred between 06:30 and 10:00 i.e. in broad daylight – but, in deference to Mr Holmes, it is not impossible it happened earlier. [It did; between 23:24 and 23:26. As before, see ‘Jigsaw’.]

On the following night of the 20th the bloodied areas appeared equally uninteresting to either hedgehogs or cats. The inside of the feeder and main spillage of blood by the drinker etc were not cleaned up till the following day, the 21st April.

The camera is not normally on during the day. It is there primarily to record hedgehogs, which it does on a nightly basis in varying numbers. The only other animals recorded at night are up to five or six neighbourhood cats and some mice. Very occasionally the odd rat is recorded but the latter generally only in winter and when it is wet. On even fewer occasions the camera has recorded an occasional rabbit in summer on the path where the feeder is located. After considerable experimentation cats have been excluded from the feeder itself by obstructing and reducing the entrance to 5″ x 4″. [This has not deterred cats from patrolling in seemingly undiminished numbers. If nothing else they know there will be mice.] The food placed in the feeder is meat; usually raw minced beef and cat biscuit, sometimes supplemented with cooked scraps of other meat – but never pork. There was nothing placed in the feeder containing uncoagulated blood.

Post Script. On the night of the 20th April, hedgehogs and cats appeared to go about their normal business without batting and eyelid at the recent carnage, traces of which had not been cleaned up and were still evident the following morning. On the 21st April I left the camera switched on till 10:00 in the hope the malefactor might revisit the scene of the crime, but no such luck, so I’m none the wiser. [But see ‘Jigsaw’.] The site was cleaned up after that.

* MIDDENS. In earlier posts an upright, lidded, plastic waste bin can be seen, generally just to the left of the steps. I noticed that hedgehogs would often spend a considerable amount of time around this bin. I assumed they were attracted by the smell, on occasions even stench, of rotting vegetable matter, which presumably the hedgehogs associate with the presence of insects and invertebrates who lay their eggs in or actively consume such stuff, gradually turning it into compost. As insects and invertebrates form the bulk of a hedgehog’s diet I decided to experiment with an open waste-pit or midden which would allow hedgehogs free access to whatever animals might be in the vegetable waste. This seems to be entirely successful if a little unsightly and the smell is vastly reduced and improved compared to that emanating from the plastic bin. Plus I have no stinking bin to clean, but I do turn the heap once a week and deposit half the midden heap into compost bins. Hedgehogs almost invariably enter the midden when passing, and disturbed flying insects can be seen on camera. Hedgehogs seem not to be great diggers but will scratch about diligently and are not infrequently rewarded with something which they eat with evident relish. Blackbirds (Turdus merula) are equally happy with the midden.

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Hurcheons

9. Stalking Hurcheons

16 June 2020. I awoke around 4 a.m. to see to the admin. The dawn chorus was cranking up in full 5.1. surround sound. Most respectable hedgehogs would normally be safely tucked up in bed but I decided to check the back feeder in case there was a late reveller. The bowl I put the food in is a small stainless steel dish somewhat under 6″ in diameter. While humans may like to get their feet under the table, hedgehogs like to assert themselves by getting their feet in the dish. This makes quite a lot of clattering noise and acts as a useful audio signal that feeding is in progress. The noise seems not to deter hurcheons to any noticeable degree nor did it this morning. On lifting the popin lid it was light enough to see there was a diner – or possibly breakfaster.

The bill of fare had been cat’s biscuits, minced beef and chicken scraps served up about 10 the previous evening. By this time, some six hours later, there was probably nothing left apart from the biscuit which is always last to go. Because the hurcheon had his or her feet in the trough there was little room to deposit the extra rations but I chucked them in anyway assuming that any hog of average intelligence would know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. This one did not ball up but pretended not to be there while I showered it with biscuit and chicken scraps before lowering the lid and retreating a safe distance to observe.

Eating noises soon resumed and continued for a good ten or fifteen minutes before the hedgehog emerged and took a long drink. It then returned to the feeder for ‘afters’ and finally emerged about 4:20 with thoughts of bed. I followed.

In pursuit

I am pretty sure the hedgehog was aware of my presence, but it headed off in a resolute fashion none the less. Given its destination, it took a rather curious route except that it was almost identical to one taken by an animal I followed about this time last year. Whether one and the same creature I have no idea. In the image above, the hurcheon can be seen passing some steps on its left. Some hedgehogs go up and down them easily; others, such as this one, seem to ignore them. During the first week in May this year I made their ascent considerably easier by adding intermediate steps. Without the intermediate steps, only large mature hedgehogs could successfully ascend the rises of 8″. They are now all 4″ rises apart from the bottom step which is split into 3″ and 5″ rises.

This hedgehog, while big enough to manage the steps easily, chose not to, but continued in the same direction shown in the image above before rounding a corner to its left, and ascended some steps which, while shallower than the pre-adjusted steps, are now steeper than the others, with rises of 5½”, 6″, 6½”, and 5½”. Both flights of steps land on the upper level of garden. In other words, the hedgehog missed a short-cut with a less arduous ascent. Its destination then lay due west, but in stead of going direct it made a small diversion to go under a shed, not in its direct path, only to emerge the other side of the shed and then continue westward – a quirk identical to one displayed by the animal I followed last year. It spent no time under the shed.

Hedgehog Route
Hedgehog Route

I took care to remain about a dozen paces behind the hog which now rounded a bush that concealed its retreating prickly posteriors. I sped forward to maintain visual contact. Rounding the same bush, there it was – gone. A few minutes later I heard it rustling about in the undergrowth by a boundary fence, some ten paces beyond the bush, where I assume it has its den. I left it undisturbed to digest it’s considerable intake of breakfast, all that remained being a few biscuits. And the memories.

(1 is roughly the position of the popin; 2 is the position of the ‘steeper’ steps shown in the first two images. When/if I can get a better aerial image I will replace the one above, but don’t hold your breath.)

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Hurcheons

8. Some Unintended Consequences of Feeding Hedgehogs

Here’s one – but you have to admire the style.

Why it didn’t use the steps just to the right is beyond me. And of course where you have one, you’ll have another.

I am no expert but these are most likely Rattus norvegicus – the common-or-garden brown rat – in this case a garden rat. They have only recently [second half of November] started to appear on camera. They are much less frequently recorded than hedgehogs or cats but that could be because their smaller size is less readily detected by the camera’s useless motion sensors. Where the hell the cats are when they are wanted is another unanswered question, and the same goes for the tawny owl audible in the background in some of the videos. The rats seem to be out and about most when the weather is wet – as in the above videos.

Rats are a fact of life. They have certainly been in my garden as long as I have and have not just arrived with the resurgent hedgehogs, but they normally avoid propinquity to humans, in spite of their being commensal with us, unless they have good reason not to – in this case the presence of a rat’s equivalent of a free lunch served up every night to urchins.

Also recorded are the rats’ more endearing cousins, the wood or field mouse Apodemus sylvaticus. There are three in the next video – none of them blind and not a clock in sight.

Equally as talented at climbing as rats, the mice make nothing of the overhang at the top of the climb. Watch out for similar human skills in the 2020 Olympics, when climbing walls will feature for the first time.

The mouse made a dozen or so such trips; into the feeder then out with a cat biscuit – about the size of a split pea – before legging it up the wall presumably to where it lived. As for controlling these uninvited visitors I shall let nature take its course with the mice but the rats are something else and need discouraging. Poison is of course out of the question and anything other than live trapping could be hazardous to the very critters I wish to encourage. So I plan to install this.

trap

Hedgehogs are by nature inquisitive. Give them a hole and they are sure to poke their head in, so the entrance to the rat trap will have to be reduced in size to admit rats but not hedgehogs.

rat trap

The finished structure has a roof on it. Rats are waur, canny craiters so the trap has been put in position unbaited and unset for a few days to ‘weather’. Any rats caught will be marked before being taken about two miles away and released. It will be interesting to see if any reappear.

Of more concern is possible disruption of the hedgehogs’ natural behaviour. Hibernation is not the same as sleep. It seems to be a more-or-less conscious decision along the lines of the Micawber Principle*; a cost benefit calculation based on energy expended for reward gained. As the temperature cools, with the onset of winter the abundance of available food declines to a point where its nutritional benefit is outweighed by the effort to find it. At this point a well-nourished hedgehog hits the sack. A ‘well-nourished’ hurcheon is apparently one weighing about 1¼ lbs or more. A hedgehog weighing less than that is unlikely to survive hibernation as it will simply run out of fuel. If found, they need adopting, housing, keeping warm and feeding. See the internet e.g. Hedgehog Street

Hedgehogs of the species Erinaceus europaeus do not invariably hibernate. Those introduced to New Zealand from Britain for example rarely do so as food remains sufficiently plentiful during their winters. But I live in Somerset, G.B. By ensuring a regular supply of food, might I be interfering with hedgehogs’ natural hibernation behaviour? Were there to be snow lasting, say, a fortnight, by no means unheard of, albeit something of a rarity these days, the hedgehogs that currently visit my garden to feed may not have established a safe and secure place in which to hibernate, let alone made the necessary physiological adjustments. And as Peter’s grumpy grandfather (cf. ‘Peter and the Wolf’) might ask querulously, “what then?” This is a problem for which I do not at present have any answer.

* Because, were Mr Micawber a hedgehog he might have said; Nightly intake of food one hundred calories, nightly expenditure of effort ninety-nine point five calories, result happiness. Nightly intake of food ninety-nine point five calories, nightly expenditure of effort one hundred calories, result misery. Or death from starvation.

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Hurcheons

7. Tantrum

The video above is composed of 5 consecutive scenes recorded on 22 Oct 2019. It shows an attack by a fully grown young adult hedgehog on a juvenile. The low structures at left and right are food shelters accessible to hurcheons but not to the various neighbourhood cats. The clattering noise heard after about 15″ is the adult aggressor shoving a metal feeding dish about before it re-emerges to continue his or her tantrum, including the hurcheon equivalent of kicking the waste-paper basket across the room. There is a tawny owl (Strix aluco) audible in the background.

The juvenile lived to fight another day and had another encounter with the same aggressor across the drinking bowl (at right) a couple of nights later, in which there was no aggressive behaviour, so it must just have been something he or she said on the 22nd.

The camera used to record these shots is unsatisfactory. Like all the others I have tried it is VERY unreliable in what it records. In this particular instance, with two hedgehogs centre shot at the end of the sequence, it failed to record either animal leaving, thus missing the ‘end of the story’. It is also incapable of recording videos longer than 20″ at night. Many much cheaper cameras [a third of the price!] will record for up to 2 minutes at night.

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Hurcheons

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!
Spypoint

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.

Since posting the above I bought something called a Browning Recon Force Advantage which is no better than any of the other cameras I have tried and considerably worse in that it cost about three times as much. Not recommended!