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A South East garden

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: General
Forum Name: Wildlife Gardening
Forum Description: For discussion about wildlife (especially amphibian and reptile) gardening
URL: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5196
Printed Date: 15 Aug 2018 at 9:55pm
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Topic: A South East garden
Posted By: chubsta
Subject: A South East garden
Date Posted: 20 Feb 2018 at 7:38pm
Well, figured it is about time I put up some details of my own garden instead of jumping in on other peoples posts! So, with thanks to Gemma for the inspiration, here goes...

I live in a smallish village on the cliff top between Folkestone and Dover in the very South East. Because of our proximity to the Continent we often have very different weather to the rest of the Uk and I believe we are now classed as semi-arid due to the low rainfall, it is very noticeable if you go just 20 miles North West how very different most days are.

I have lived here for 20 years but for most of that time have had pretty much zero interest in maintaining the garden for wildlife but I guess as most of us get older we often discover where our true interests lie. I have always had a great number of fogs in the garden and have a decent sized pond for them, but apart from that the garden has been kept as low-maintenance as possible - just a lawn and hedges - as I just don't have time to do much, we have two houses and most of my spare time is spent at the other one.

I guess it all changed about 6 years ago when I spotted some hedgehog droppings in the garden and my partner decided to buy me one of those cheap domed hedgehog houses. I put some food in a bowl inside it, went back indoors to fill the water bowl up and when I came back out there was a hedgehog in it!

And that was me hooked - I am now far more conscious of the needs of wildlife and although most of the garden is still lawn I have a rough area of about 25 foot x 5 foot at the far end which is overgrown with logs and piles of compost and decaying vegetation. As time goes on I hope this will become more 'natural'.

Thanks to advice and inspiration from here my pond is looking the healthiest it has ever been, and last year for the first time in forever I saw a couple of newts, and I also spotted slow-worms in a rough area near the conservatory. Hedgehogs, my main passion, seem to be maintaining numbers and I look forward to helping their survival prospects by becoming more proficient in treating them (unfortunately my local rescue closed down last year).

Although I don't have much to do with my neighbours, when we do chat it is usually about the wildlife we have and it is clear that people in the immediate vicinity are very interested in helping create a good environment.

So, to the future, this year I hope to do the following:
improve the two 'rough' areas I have, making them more attractive to insects etc
plant more around the edge of the pond - last years plantings have all done really well so with the advice on new ones to add from a post on here I should be able to create a good environment for the amphibians.
I have a strip of unused ground about 25 foot x 1 foot along one edge, I am going to place pieces of corrugated sheeting along there in the hope it will be attractive to slow-worms and also for the hedgehogs to shelter and nest under.
Put more cameras in - I have recently upgraded all my cameras to 4MP and 5MP ones and the quality is far better so will add a few more to better cover some blind spots, particularly around the pond.

Unfortunately, I am rubbish at gardening and pretty much everything I have ever planted seems to die - I even tried to get ivy growing up a tree-stump and that died off as soon as I looked at it, so only time will tell how my efforts will pan out...

Species list for 2018 is as follows:
Hedgehog
fox
brown rat
wood mouse
field vole
common frog

here is a little photo of my current set-up, should be able to get an idea of what I have to work with...







Replies:
Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 21 Feb 2018 at 1:28am
Fantastic and great to hear we've all given some inspiration! Our wildlife garden is relatively tiny, but it packs a lot into a small space. Looking forward to updates and news of progress. I'm kind of a keen gardener, but have to be honest I prefer wildlife gardening as it is less of a chore. Intentionally untidy works for me and I'm much more easily motivated if I know my efforts will benefit wildlife. Just one tip, for many years I cut down a lot of the 'wild flowers' (weeds to my neighbours) because I thought it looked kind of grim over the winter months. Last year I didn't as I thought it might give the pond some protection from chemicals sprayed on the adjoining field. What I really noticed though by keeping all the standing vegetation is just how much it is used by birds as a food source when there is very little else available. Often had blue tits eating the left over seeds of the purple loosestrife during the winter and they are still enjoying them now! I was told a few years back by an entomologist how important leaving standing vegetation is for many bugs which hibernate in dead vegetation. So now I think we will always keep at least some of the old vegetation standing over the winter.



Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 12:43pm
Always enjoy reading about/seeing other folks gardens - thanks for posting and good luck!

Agree with Gemma. What other people might describe as untidy, to me looks natural and beautiful.


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 1:43pm
As far as plants go, you could endeavour to find out what type of soil/ph you have so you can make better informed choices. Simply noting which plants are commonly observed growing around your area will also help. I suspect those which favour dry conditions and light soil will suit best.
Another option might be to simply turn the soil and let whatever's in your 'seed bank' come up.
It's the same with ponds, some plants will 'like' the conds while others won't take. It's best to use native plants as they are most suitable (having evolved alongside the newts etc) and happily, these days many species can often be sourced from garden centres.
Once well-established, you'll probably need to thin them out annually to prevent the pond from becoming 'choked'. This is best done in autumn or you'll 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. IE lose newt larvae etc.


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 2:52pm
Whilst I agree with Ben on most of this, I would say that I have newt larvae overwintering in the pond and so find it hard to choose a clear out time.

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Suz


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 5:41pm
Well there's no perfectly ideal time i guess, but by autumn the larvae should be bigger and more easy to see. So you could painstakingly remove weed bit by bit by first swishing it in a bucket under good light and sift them out.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 12:04am
Well, although temperatures were very low we didn't get the bad snow like the rest of the country, even 10 miles away inland they had up to a foot but we just had a light dusting and freezing rain.

As expected frogs have been a bit thin on the ground this last week but as I type this at midnight I can see at least a dozen pairs of eyes in the pond so they are starting to be active again - luckily no spawn was laid but with night temperatures around the 7-8degerees mark for the next week or so I guess it won't be long now.

Released a hedgehog last night, and plenty of activity from the mice and voles so I would say Spring is just around the corner...


Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 11:38am
Fingers crossed for a good spawning! 
We had about 8-9" snow which froze, but has all gone now. It was bitterly cold.
My frogs must have been sitting cross legged somewhere waiting for the thaw (see my today spawn post).


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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 12 Mar 2018 at 8:43pm
Still very quiet here - about a dozen frogs in the pond each day but no pairs and certainly no spawn although the weed is getting a bit torn up where they are moving about actively at night.

No signs of my newts or slow-worms, plenty of wood mice and my lone hedgehog visiting about three times a night, have to de-tick her every few days as she is like sugar to them, took 13 off her face and ears last night! Apart from the ticks she seems happy enough and is getting through at least 150grms of dog food a night, not bad for something not much bigger than a grapefruit...

Weather is till pretty poor, very wet and cold, which is a bit annoying as I am working nights outdoors at the moment. A positive of working nights though is that I get to see what happens over my cameras in the garden, always a nice thing to see foxes and other wildlife rooting about.

If anyone is looking to get cameras set up I have upgraded mine to Reolink 4MP and 5MP ones, the picture quality is fantastic, so can definitely recommend them.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 15 Mar 2018 at 12:46pm
Still no spawn and only about a dozen frogs in the pond, no couplings at all. Very strange given how warm it has been during the day this last week. I had a record number of fogs in the garden last year so doubt they have all succumbed to the cold weather a few weeks back.

Perhaps with another cold snap on the way they know to keep their heads down. Only my one 'regular' hog who has been coming on and off since New Year - she seems firmly out of hibernation and actually has looked tick-free this past couple of nights so that is a bonus.

One thing that has always puzzled me is the lack of birds in my garden - I have a wren, a regular Robin and a couple of blackbirds and wood pigeons. Any food I put out just sits there for weeks. I am in a smallish village surrounded by countryside on 3 sides and the sea on the other but we hardly get any birds at all. Our other house is in a small town, albeit near the large 'wild area' of an Army shooting range, and we have loads of birds of all different types, the feeders get mobbed as soon as we put them out. I have plenty of hedge cover, as do all my neighbours, who also have a number of large trees of different types, yet if you do the one-hour Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB you may not see a bird at all, very odd!


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 15 Mar 2018 at 4:56pm
We don't get a huge number of birds in the garden now we don't feed them anymore (neighbour's cat put an end to that). We get wren, robin, blackbird, etc pop in and out and we use to have sparrows nest in the ivy at the front of the house. In the summer pigeons will often drink from the pond in the early evening. I think we could easily not see a bird for an hour too. The flip side is that we have the blue tits thinking of nesting in their box now, so having the garden less busy with visiting birds probably suits them. 



Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 16 Mar 2018 at 12:22am
It doesn't bother me as they aren't a big interest, but we only get a few bird species too.
Lesser black-backed and a few Herring gulls, plus pigeons are probably the most conspicuous.
What with their loud, piercing screeching (quite often continuing throughout the night), i wouldn't blame anyone for hating the gulls. They can torture like toothache. But they're also charismatic, fascinating and even entertaining birds.
I've seen one repeatedly dive-bomb a cat, sending it terrified under a bush for all of it's lives, then land on a nearby roof and watch until Tiddles dared poke it's nose out again, then repeat the attack - over and over.
You'd have loved it Gemma!

There's always looking up instead. I've spotted loads more species flying or circling over my garden (though i don't always know what they are), including ravens and buzzards on occasion.

Here you go Chubsta. Chuffed to find this in the garden earlier....

       




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 16 Mar 2018 at 3:31pm
Ben, think I will get one of those gulls and train it, sounds like the best cat deterrent ever!

One I forgot to mention is the pied-wagtails, fairly regular visitor and common locally (we are not far from the Blackwater Estuary). Such funny little things the way they bob and literally wag their tails, always a pleasure to see one. Was one in this morning which reminded me I had not mentioned them.

Looking up is getting more and more interesting here in the past few years, buzzard sightings are much more common than 10 years ago, certainly made a come back in a big way locally and a pair nest at the local farm. Red-kites too occasionally, that's a bird I never saw in all the years of growing up in East Anglia.



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 16 Mar 2018 at 8:48pm
buzzards have really increased on numbers over the last few years, we started to notice them towards maidstone in north kent and then recently over ashford and the last couple of years at hythe and folkestone, now they are very common and see them wherever we go.

have only seen one red kite a couple of years ago near canterbury, guess they will expand like the buzzards have.

being on the coast we get s lot of the continental birds, great white egrets are very common here whereas they are rare in the rest of the uk


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 17 Mar 2018 at 11:10am
Well, I guess the snow has put paid to any hopes of spawn in the next couple of days - temperatures have dropped through the floor overnight and we have more snow than at any point this Winter. There were about 20 frogs in the pond at the start of the night but they all disappeared as the temperature dropped, only my one faithful hog who are three times and seems determined to be the fattest one around.

This time last year I had a pond full of spawn and at least five different hogs each night so I'm not too worried about the lack of number as it seems all wildlife is very slow to get going around here at the moment.


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 17 Mar 2018 at 12:52pm

Chubsta,

Good to read about your garden and wildlife. We all have different passions for wildlife, some just herps I know. I had badgers here for over twenty years – lots of them. They didn’t have setts here but I think came from the grounds of a large house nearby. In fact we are in a dense badger area so they probably come from all over. They brought their cubs along and I got to recognise different ones. As I watched over so many years there must have been several generations I guess. They would feed on peanuts next to hedgehogs too, no aggro but a bit of pushing and hissing at times.

Birds are a long time passion and we get a good selection here. However several neighbours started feeding gulls (herring) some years ago and they are a prefect pest now (4am summer mornings for example). So to discourage gulls I’ve had to start feeding ground food inside a metal dog cage. This allows up to thrush/blackbird size but nothing bigger. I have hanging feeders too. It sometimes seems to me that birds all disappear in cold weather, but if it is prolonged they will come back. That is the time for redwings and fieldfares to be brave and go into the cage. A neighbour who feeds all sorts – gulls, crows, jackdaws, rooks included – had a large flock of bramblings in the snow the other week, which never came here. I did have a black redstart which was great. I have lots of goldfinch, chaffinch and various tits. Siskins come to feeders and breed in the gardens here too. Blackcaps we get summer and winter. I put out peanuts in a feeder and generally have to throw them away eventually. Tits and great spotted woodpecker go on them, but not enough to make much impression. I put up a fat slab for blackcaps in the cold snap and that too is hardly touched. These latter are a long way from the house so are not disturbed by us. I think maybe so many others feed birds and they are spoilt for choice. Certainly when my brother fed birds in the Yorkshire Dales, I was amazed at how much food they got through in a day, no other people feeding where he lived.

I have a lot of flower beds and lawns but have enlarged wild areas over recent years. One thing that seems a common thread on here is that you will still get various herps if your garden is pristine, but you will get more/they will stay if you put in a pond or two and ease back on the mowing. In the early years of having grass snakes in my compost heaps they were certainly crossing mown grass to get there – it didn’t dissuade them.

 



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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2018 at 3:02pm
Well, with two inches of snow on the ground and temperatures in the minuses the frogs couldn't cross their legs any longer so made a hole in the ice last night and decided to spawn, most is just under the surface so will hopefully be ok for the next few days until the weather warms up...




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2018 at 4:19pm
Oh wow! Our frogs have been noticeably absent this weekend, think they went back to the depths, amazing to see fresh spawn in the freezing cold!


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2018 at 5:54pm
Great news Chubsta!
I've now gone down the route of decanting my bucket of spawn into various shallow trays in the greenhouse. I had to have all the windows open today as it was sunny and would have been too hot for them. I vowed not to do this in 2018, but here I am! The intention is to tip them back in the pond when they are free swimming.
We got down to minus three last night and we had 7-9 inches of lying snow by this morning (it put down a few more inches after dark yesterday). The ponds had a kind of Slush Puppy look, but weren't actually frozen. Hope the spawn that is toughing it out does OK.


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Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2018 at 10:24am
I was trying to convince myself I would not be raising taddies this year too Suz. Totally different though when it arrives and we start thinking about all the things that could happen to it.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2018 at 4:28pm
Driving home today I saw that a house in the village that recently sold has had all of its lovely old hedge ripped up, and replaced with the usual concrete based fence panels. Apart from looking awful I can only imagine the wildlife that was killed or displaced just so someone didn't have the hassle of getting someone in once or twice a year to cut the hedges back.

And then I come to this website and people have trays of tadpoles all over the houses - you really can't get a clearer picture to the gulf between those who love our native wildlife and those who don't...


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2018 at 5:19pm
Sadly I think that many people feel wildlife is only for the countryside. Either that's where it should be or best not to encourage it in gardens. As you say Chubsta folk on this website doing their best...and the other side of the coin. Gemma and I have both discovered GCNs in our gardens - others probably have too. Many of us find herps in our gardens so it is a shame that more emphasis is not put on encouraging people with gardens to do their bit for nature. Sure bee houses, bird and bat boxes are good, but again it seems hard for much enthusiasm for herps. 

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Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2018 at 7:43pm
I've heard people remark that frogs are 'dirty'. Both neighbours generally mention frogs in their gardens as an 'inconvenience' and we have to go through the whole thing of them passing frogs over the fence, even though they only spend a few weeks in our  pond every year and were probably quite happy under a plant pot or wherever they found them. Then there is the 'tidyness' obsession. Out clipping hedges once a week, mowing twice a week. Comments  that we should tidy up our 'weeds' (native wild flowers). When I look back to growing up in the 70's it seemed like people did not have time to be so fussy about everything and did not have every mechanised garden tool imaginable. I'm sure it benefited wildlife in gardens. Village councilor came round today with a note saying the council are no longer mowing the verges outside peoples houses. It doesn't actually affect us at all, but my first thought was 'good' maybe some residents will just let the grass grow instead of mowing it death all summer. Once again this year local farmer has hit many of the roadside hedgerows really hard. Been published advice for years that it would benefit them to cut them only every other year (cost) and so many species like Hawthorn produces flowers and berries on second year growth. Really rare to see a hawthorn flower here as it is either cut by the householders or the farmers over and over throughout the year.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 21 Mar 2018 at 11:57pm
Plenty of frog action now it has warmed up a little, although for some reason they are only in one end of the pond even though the other is just as shallow.

A few more clumps of spawn today, and looking at them on the camera I guess a few more tomorrow morning too...




Still only one hog, who manages to eat a whole tin of dog food on her own each night, but who unfortunately is still acting as a tick magnet. Im a bit of a softy so put a hot water bottle in the feeder for her the other night so she could warm up a little...




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 22 Mar 2018 at 12:33am
Love it, a Hog water bottle Smile (Just thought I would get that one in before Will did)


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 22 Mar 2018 at 8:17am
I can't believe I didn't think of that one!



Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 22 Mar 2018 at 10:21am
What a lucky spoilt hedgehog! It saddens me that so many end up squashed on the roads. Still you do your best for them and hope for same.
Going back to 'tidiness'...my elderly neighbours almost kill themselves mowing and weeding. She (80) said to me last year that they never used to be so fussy about weeds. They are afraid it reflects badly on them if it isn't all pristine. They do now have some paid help, but still fuss about themselves. The hilarious thing is they watch TV progs and say to me things like, 'Rough areas like you have are good for hedgehogs.' They would never dream of creating the same themselves! Many years ago all the gardens had rough patches near the boundary stream as the land was almost too much to manage so it kind of petered out into rough grass and brambles. Apparently there were grass snakes seen regularly. Most neighbours consider slow worms as snakes and will watch a cat kill one quite unconcerned. 
Strimmers are used by some here and are bad news for slow worms. Like Gemma says mechanised tools are so prevalent. Would there be so much hedge cutting and suchlike if it all had to be done laboriously by hand tools? OK I have an electric mower as I have so much lawn but I never mow into long grass just the already short stuff. 
Good news spawn wise Chubsta.


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Suz


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 23 Mar 2018 at 2:52pm
Was same for me growing up Suz. We had about 150ft long garden, twice what we have here now. Dad really just couldn't manage all of it so the top end was left kind of rough. We had frogs and hedgehogs and even skylarks nesting in there. It struck me after posting that what we had then was a garden with wildlife, rather than what I do now where I actively have a wildlife garden. All I'm really doing is just recreating what happened naturally without all the hedge cutters, strimmers, leaf blowers, council compost collection and stuff that is the norm now. It seems many people treat their gardens as extensions of the house, all has to be neat a pristine. Glad some of us care enough about wildlife to leave at least some to go a bit wilder. It doesn't take much and it doesn't have to be the whole garden, just a bit of it. Will put up with the negative comments from neighbours for that.



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 23 Mar 2018 at 8:27pm
i love having a nice neat lawn and find mowing it very relaxing, but i also love my pond and the fact i have mainly hedges instead of fencing. i have allowed two quite large strips to go wild and now have loads of wood mice, and last year had slow worms too, so hopefully it will only improve as the years go on. the best thing is it involves me doing less work on the garden!


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 23 Mar 2018 at 10:07pm
Totally agree, less time on garden maintenance, more time watching the wildlife! We keep the front of the house pretty neat and tidy. Only top third of the garden is messy by design and effort. Must admit though I've started to let things like dead nettles grow round the edges more now in the rest of the garden instead of strimming. I almost hit a frog with the strimmer last year and has put me right off using the thing in the garden.



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 11:21am
About 20 clumps of spawn now, with more fresh clumps each day, still only at one side of the pond which is odd but I guess they know what they are doing.

At least 3 hogs now, although only one goes in the feeder, the others just mooch around the lawn and annoy the foxes.





Plenty of woodmice everywhere, unfortunately I also have a rat which lives in the rough patch near the hog-feeder and keeps going in there, as far as I can tell it is a single juvenile so hopefully it won't be a problem, I have tried a humane trap on him but he is too bright for that, don't want to have to go down the line of using a lethal one as I couldn't bear to kill a wood mouse. I am ok with one rat being there but unfortunately I don't want to have a 'rat problem'...

I do love woodmice, they are so sweet!




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 2:52pm
Love wood mice, they are really cute! Sounds like a good haul of spawn. What we have left in the pond isn't looking great, some is still developing, think a lot got ice damaged in the second freeze, so glad I got some inside. Rats, hmmm .22 rifle, quick clean kill and nothing else gets harmed. Seems some people now are classing rats as 'wildlife' obviously never had the problems we have had with them in the past. Not a good thing around other wildlife or houses.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 4:46pm
I feel sorry for the rat and his prospects, I unfortunately had to use a lethal trap on one a few weeks back, he was huge, this one is much smaller and like everyone else in the garden just trying to get along and survive. If I could keep it to just him it wouldn't be a problem but I doubt it would stay as one.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 5:47pm
That's the problem with them, if you see one there is a good chance there are others or soon will be. Been a lot happier without them, don't feed the birds artificially anymore and now more careful with what goes on the compost. Been a good opportunity to concentrate more on having nesting birds in the garden, just built a new robin/wren box this afternoon.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 6:46pm
I would be interested in encouraging wrens, I often hear them but rarely see them, saw one catch a butterfly that was nearly as big as him last summer. I often hear they are our most common bird but have never thought of them as being particularly numerous, I guess they must spend mot of their lives out of sight.



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 7:53pm
We see our wrens most days. On top of our log piles we put brash (younger cut tree branches). Wrens hop in and out of that most days. Think that is what they like, interesting piles of sticks and things they can hop about in while hunting for bugs which is their main diet.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 25 Mar 2018 at 8:50pm
its a shame the resolution seems poor on this, don't know why as the original file is 4k...



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 02 Apr 2018 at 2:48pm
It finally seems like Spring is here - temperatures have been steadily rising and now don't go below about 6 degrees at night, with highs during the day of around 11-12degrees. Still very wet but not windy, so ideal conditions for the frogs to be moving around.

Numbers of frogs in the pond have fallen to around 10 as far as I can tell, but I see quite large numbers on the grass and borders at night - the spawn was certainly down on last year despite a bumper crop of froglets surviving through the Autumn so not sure if there will be a second wave of spawning as temperatures rise. The spawn all looks viable to my untrained eyes but is not developing very quickly, hopefully just a legacy of the cold temperatures and the water still being cold.

No sign of any newts but I guess I very rarely saw them anyway so hopefully they are on their way.

Hogs are starting to appear in greater numbers, as well as my 'pet' female littleHeidi who has been around since New Year, and who is now very fat, there are at least two very large males, and probably 3 smaller females. I am waiting a week or so for them to get some weight on and get used to the feeder before I bring them in for a quick health check and deticking - when I do this I will put a tag on each and will therefore have a better idea on numbers.

There seems a lot more fox activity, not sure how many individuals, but most nights there will be around 6 or 7 'visits' so there are probably a few different animals involved.

Woodmice are everywhere, lots of little ones too so that is sweet, I see a rat about once of twice a week but they never seem to stay around, which I find odd considering there is a ready supply of food 24 hours a day in the feeder. Something has chewed through the wires for both pond pumps so that was a little annoying but at least they weren't plugged into power at the time...

Here is a little footage of littleHeidi meeting 'Reggie' - he is a very big hog who I thought may be the top-hog in the garden this year, but a far bigger one has since turned up who tends to roll poor Reggie around the garden most nights.




Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 02 Apr 2018 at 3:09pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

We see our wrens most days. On top of our log piles we put brash (younger cut tree branches). Wrens hop in and out of that most days. Think that is what they like, interesting piles of sticks and things they can hop about in while hunting for bugs which is their main diet.

Step-son is a tree surgeon so I have put in an order for logs and branches so hopefully will be able to make the 'rough areas' more attractive to the wrens, I quite like the idea have having large areas of the garden borders covered in such stuff, hopefully the hogs would find it good to nest in too.


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 02 Apr 2018 at 3:29pm
Neat images. How fortunate you are with all your hedgehogs. Are roads not a problem for them? Here they all seem to end up flattened, despite the rural nature of our town in this area.
We have had cold days and heaps of rain. I've been out three times in waterproofs baling out the pond to stop the taddies washing away over the edge. 


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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 02 Apr 2018 at 4:05pm
We do lose a fair few to the roads unfortunately, last year was horrendous - due to road works the main road to Dover was shut overnight for about 3 months, traffic figures were approx 3-400 lorries per hour passing through the village in each direction each night at the time of year the hedgehogs were moving around the most. I lost at least 7 of my 'regulars' in this period which was heartbreaking, I only live about 50 yards from the road.

The one saving grace we have is that people in my little 'block' seem very hedgehog aware and there are plenty of suitable places for them to nest and breed so I guess as long as that is the case the numbers will maintain a viable level, all signs are that hibernation survival rates are quite good this year although I am still waiting on a number of known hogs to turn up. Providing plenty of food all-year round will hopefully mean they don't feel the need to roam so much, the village is pretty quiet so traffic apart from the main road is very minimal, one advantage of living in a village full of old people!

I remember going to my pond a couple of years back and wondering what the black sludge was around it, it took me a little while to realise that it was the remains of thousands of tadpoles that had been washed out. Fortunately the pond edge is not level so I have deliberately planted dense vegetation in the pond at its lowest level so the water can easily drain out but it acts like a sieve for the tadpoles.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 05 Apr 2018 at 11:00am
The sun has finally come out so I was able to see into the pond a little better and I have got a lot more spawn than I originally thought, it had just dropped into a slightly deeper area out of sight. To give it a better chance I have managed to move most of it to a shallow end that didn't have much spawn and where the water should be warmer - most looked good and the tadpoles are developing ok, I would say about 5% is white and not viable but it looks like we may be ok again this year.

Still have a number of 'regular' hogs each night, with others passing through for a quick feed before moving on - unfortunately the main Dover route is closed again at night for the next 3 weeks so I am sure that will take its toll on the poor things.

As I never get bored of showing my hogs off...




Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2018 at 10:48pm
Found this chap on the path this evening when I went to put some extra food out for the hogs, I thought the left eye was an artefact caused by the flash but when I go a torch to have a better look at him I can see he has a cloudy eye. Apart from that he looks in good condition and was very active so hopefully it won't hold him back.




Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 7:31pm
Seen a few one eyed frogs and even snakes. They generally seem to cope, they tend to become easily recognisable favourites, so I've ended up with several records of one eyed individuals that survived over many seasons. 



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 10:35pm
Pretty much all the spawn has now hatched, Ive always wondered why so much froth is produced, I can't imagine it is due to the physical movement of the tadpoles as they don't seem to do much, do they exude anything that would cause this?



Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 11:50pm
Just heard the sound of a builder's bucket being shoved around outside and put the outside light on (20 yds from house) and there was a hedgehog eating the peanuts! As some on here know I fed badgers in the garden, but they stopped coming a few years ago. In the snow I thought I saw badger prints (hard to ID as snowed over) so started to put nuts out. The nuts went, or partly went, about every other night but now going every night. I put something over them to deter rats and early birds but know that badgers and hedgehogs can shove things away. I did wonder if it was a hedgehog as not all the nuts are taken each night and there is some evidence of the papery casing of peanuts left behind. Badgers hoover everything up! I am pleased to see a hog and hope there are a few about.

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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 10 Apr 2018 at 12:12pm
Originally posted by Suzy Suzy wrote:

Just heard the sound of a builder's bucket being shoved around outside and put the outside light on (20 yds from house) and there was a hedgehog eating the peanuts! As some on here know I fed badgers in the garden, but they stopped coming a few years ago. In the snow I thought I saw badger prints (hard to ID as snowed over) so started to put nuts out. The nuts went, or partly went, about every other night but now going every night. I put something over them to deter rats and early birds but know that badgers and hedgehogs can shove things away. I did wonder if it was a hedgehog as not all the nuts are taken each night and there is some evidence of the papery casing of peanuts left behind. Badgers hoover everything up! I am pleased to see a hog and hope there are a few about.

Great news, we can always do with more hogs! Hopefully it is a sign of resurgence in your area, it seems like urban gardens are going to be essential to their survival. The hog(s) at our second house which is pretty much in the middle of a town although quite close to overgrown Army firing ranges, have now turned up so we are being eaten out of house and home.

Still waiting on slow-worms but I guess they were very rare in my garden so may not see them, the pond though is heaving with tadpoles so things are looking good.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 14 Apr 2018 at 8:14pm
Had a quick look in the pond this evening, just in time to see a couple of newts swimming about, very nice to see them.

Do newts lay their eggs at the same time as the frogs spawn or are they later?


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 19 Apr 2018 at 4:01pm
About 25degrees this afternoon, blazing sunshine and the pond just heaving with life!



And plenty of hog action last night, although the females are in short supply so the boys just end up fighting over the same one each night...




Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 20 Apr 2018 at 7:36pm
Love the videos. A good number of taddies there. My small pond is completely covered in duckweed and so I can't see any taddies. I cleared an area about the size of a tea tray this afternoon by pushing it back, so that I could see clear water. I watched for a while but only saw a newt, not to say they're not there of course. I still have hundreds of taddies in containers fattening up.
You've got an amazing number of hedgehogs there. I've got a hedgehog or several coming for peanuts each night. What happens is hedgehog first and then later a badger or badgers 


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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2018 at 2:21pm
A disaster today - the extremely heavy rain has caused the pond to over flow, a black mass of tadpoles on the grass and loads swimming around on the patio in about an inch of water.

Unfortunately I can't see how I would be able to rescue any of the patio ones so I would guess 50% at least of my tadpoles have now gone...


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2018 at 2:25pm
Oh Chubsta how upsetting. I know how you must feel. Any consolation that nature provides for natural disasters in the amount of tadpoles each frog produces. 50% isn't that bad in the scheme of things, sad nevertheless.

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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2018 at 5:12pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

I've heard people remark that frogs are 'dirty'. Both neighbours generally mention frogs in their gardens as an 'inconvenience' and we have to go through the whole thing of them passing frogs over the fence, even though they only spend a few weeks in our  pond every year and were probably quite happy under a plant pot or wherever they found them.

We have two houses, at our other one a neighbour mentioned to my partner the other day that she had found a frog in her garden, but that fortunately her son was around and he had been able to kill it quickly - she said this in a manner which was like she expected my partner to congratulate her on her swift action!

I cannot believe that some people are so divorced from wildlife that they would kill a frog as if it was a threat to them. However, I think it is fair to say that she now knows my other half's opinion on what she did and she has been keeping her head down for a bit since. We do everything we can to encourage wildlife and offer them a space - the house is quite central in Hythe in Kent - and we have loads of birds, hedgehogs and even the occasional toad in the garden so everything is welcome.

Despite not being a fan of 'social media' (I much prefer forums such as this where you can go back over old posts etc - it has been very useful for working out my new pond plants for instance) I have started a facebook group for the wildlife in my village which has already got 50 members in just a week. Hopefully we will be able to trade tips on conservation etc and encourage some of the older residents to make their gardens more accessible to animals, it was only through speaking to a neighbour last year that I found out we had slow-worms in our little 'block' of houses, which encouraged me to create a compost heap and I now have the odd individual in my garden too, and this last week someone has said they have spotted a toad, which I have never heard of here either.


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2018 at 5:15pm
Found on the doorstep last night in Hythe...




Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 30 Apr 2018 at 6:03pm
And these are the people who watch wildlife programmes! Honestly! 
When I lived in the Lake District as a youngster we had red squirrels, red deer, otters, badgers, pine martins and roe deer - to mention some. The bird life and herps were good too ( the latter not quite up to the south of England admittedly). People would be indoors where we lived watching African wildlife progs. We couldn't understand it. Even here my neighbours say my wild areas will be good for nature (they've heard so on the TV) but god forbid any of their own gardens go a bit wayward. As I've said before my neighbours will happily stand and watch a cat play with and kill a slow worm. 


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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 06 May 2018 at 8:20pm
First slow-worm of the year today, lifted a sheet of black linoleum I have over a patch of old grass clippings etc and saw him dash off. Was a very dark brown colour, nothing like the grey I normally associate with them, is their colour based upon environment or is it hereditary?


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 06 May 2018 at 9:49pm
I have all colours and shades Chubsta. Some are grey and shades thereof and some are very coppery and some are bronze in varying shades.

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Suz


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 09 May 2018 at 8:33pm
Found this little chap in a spider web when I moved a box in my conservatory, gave him a bit of a wipe and he wriggled off into the compost heap, hopefully will be ok - the spider was on his head, I don't know if a British spider would have strong enough jaws to pierce his skin (it was only a small spider)?



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 11 May 2018 at 7:37pm
This has appeared on a tree stump - about 3 inches wide, very soft and wet, about the consistency of a school rice pudding Dead

Anyone got any ideas?




Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 12 May 2018 at 1:36pm
This is a slime mould and the substrate (wood) helps narrow down the possibilities.

One candidate is False Puffball Enteridium/Reticularia lycoperdon

https://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/enteridium-lycoperdon

Otherwise, it might be the wonderfully-named Dog Vomit Slime Mould Fuligo septica.
This starts off bright egg yolk yellow but within just a few hours turns white.

https://wimastergardener.org/article/dog-vomit-slime-mold-fuligo-septica/" rel="nofollow - https://wimastergardener.org/article/dog-vomit-slime-mold-fuligo-septica/

At first i thought your find was F. septica but since that's typically more of a 'splat' (like it's common name suggests), now think it's more likely a False Puffball.   

If you keep an eye on it having read up on the descriptions of how the 2 develop and change, you'll probably have your answer.



Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 15 May 2018 at 12:40am
To me it looks more like semolina than rice pudding, so will just concur with what Ben has said. Fascination observation regarding the slowy caught in a web. Wonder if the spider just reacted to there being something caught? Would think it unlikely a small spider's fangs would penetrate a slow worm's skin, though the young are probably more vulnerable than the adults which develop osteoderms which a like flat plates in the dermis which I would guess act as pretty good armour plating.



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 15 May 2018 at 11:12am
Lovely slow-worms, can't believe I have so many so quickly! What are the chances they are carrying eggs, it looks pretty fat to me but I don't have much experience with them...





And the slime mould is looking even more unappetising after a couple of days... (thanks for the id!)




Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 16 May 2018 at 8:21pm
Ah yeah - it's False Puffball. I've read these are considered a delicacy in some countries - don't fancy it much myself tho'.

Well done with the slow worms. Beauties!


Posted By: Tom Omlette
Date Posted: 17 May 2018 at 9:58pm
they are females although slowworms give birth to live young. they look in lovely condition. how awesome to have them in your garden!


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2018 at 10:27am
Things are moving along nicely, summer has definitely arrived and we haven't had any rain in about a month - nice for me but I guess not very nice for the wildlife who must be struggling terribly.

It is a year since I saw my first slow-worm in the garden and the population is booming, I regularly see 4 or 5 when I lift the covers, they certainly seem fat and healthy looking.





It is nice to see a baby too, hopefully as the years go on I will get more and more. I have put aside a pretty big area which is covered in hedge clippings, branches and grass clippings, with logs and corrugated metal sheeting too, the slow worms, wood mice and hogs all seem to like it.

I still get plenty of hedgehogs each night, at least 7 which I have tagged so can identify easily, and a few that I think are regular but who seem to be more intermittent with their visits, as far as I can tell most of the 'residents' are female so I guess they don't range as much. A couple of the females are visiting the feeder up to 5 or 6 times a night so I guess they have hoglets nearby, fortunately I haven't seen any at all so the mums must be doing a good job - the availability of water and food must give them a good chance of raising their young safely.



It can get pretty chaotic in the feeder sometimes as certain hogs will only eat from a particular bowl so there is a lot of bouncing around and snorting going on each evening, but on the grass it is quite peaceful...




Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2018 at 11:34am
How wonderful to have so many hedgehogs! It must be very safe for them in your garden/their territory. 
I've not seen mine for several weeks, which isn't something in itself to worry about, but no droppings about seems to indicate no hedgehog visits. The nightly food is going but it could be a badger. I know badgers eat hedgehogs, but here they have  eaten side by side in the past. Maybe this time that's not the case. I don't have a night camera so I don't know what's going on. I keep up the nightly food and bowls and saucer of water. 
Also well done with the slow worms. If they like it there they will soon reach good numbers.


-------------
Suz


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 30 Jun 2018 at 1:41pm
Badgers and hedgehogs have an 'asymmetric intraguild predatory relationship' which basically means they are competitors for the same food resources with badgers also preying upon hedgehogs (unlike a symmetric intraguild predatory relationship where both rival species also prey upon each other). The two species evolved together and so in the past this didn't matter, but since hedgehog numbers have already declined so much owing to changes in farming practices, increased road-building, pesticide usage and habitat loss/splintering, badger predation has become more of a problem in recent times. Particularly in areas of medium to high badger density.
However, the 3rd Badger Survey of England and Wales (BSEW) which took place over two winters (2012-13 and 2013-14) showed that despite many a farmer's claim of ongoing population explosions, although they have moved into a few new areas in central England, badger numbers are now largely at carrying capacity.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 01 Jul 2018 at 8:29am
I remember this being covered on Countryfile. The farmer interviewed was convinced the badgers should be culled to increase hedgehog numbers and the ecologist pointed out that the hedgehog decline is because of loss of suitable habitat, due to farming practice. If hedgehogs had more foraging habitat with suitable cover, one would assume less likely that badgers would end up predating them and the natural balance between the two species would be restored.



Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2018 at 11:33am
We have finally had some rain which I am sure will have helped the wildlife!

Things have been very slow really, although a few new juvenile hogs have turned up some of my regulars have gone missing - I was very worried they had been injured or killed but then one turned up after a few weeks absence and was really fat so I think that someone else nearby may have started feeding them too, I guess the more people that do this the better and we stand a chance of increasing the population even further.

A real bonus this morning was that when clearing out duckweed from the pond I managed to scoop up a juvenile newt! I haven't seen any newts for a while as the pond is very overgrown now but I was hoping they had bred and this is the first concrete evidence of that.

Plenty of baby frogs hopping around, but also still have plenty of tadpoles which is surprising me, the pond has never looked healthier so I presumed there would be plenty of food for them.


Posted By: Suzy
Date Posted: 10 Aug 2018 at 4:36pm
Well done with your hedgehogs! I think mine have gone. Then I found a fresh dropping last week that looked hedgehog like, but I would expect more droppings if they were about. I've not seen any squashed on the road, but there could be other reasons they're not here now. The food goes every night - possibly badgers. I've not totally given up on them yet though...
I too have young frogs hopping about the garden, so hope all my mothering of the tadpoles came to something!


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Suz



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