Highland Hedgehogs

At the end of August I blogged about hedgehogs – an iconic species that is in serious decline throughout Britain. This was mainly a comment on the sad situation where a population of hedgehogs in South Uist is being relocated in order to protect their important population of ground nesting birds. It is often the case that introduced species cause problems.  The solutions are frequently expensive and draconian. Or impossible. In my other home, in Alderney, we have a population of introduced hedgehogs that do no great harm. This is because the damage to the Alderney ecosystem was done a long time ago by introduced rats. Thus the hedgehogs cause little or no additional harm.

But back to the Highland Titles Nature Reserve at Duror. Despite ten years of work we have not yet seen any sight of a hedgehog at Duror. This is very disappointing and there does not appear to be any reason for it. It undoubtedly reflects the greatly reduced population of many mammals in Britain – and hedgehogs are high on that list. I saw them frequently as a child – all too often flat on the road – and now I have seen only one wild hedgehog in the last 20 years.

So in September we created a massive hedgehog sanctuary, which is simply a low fence which surrounds an acre of old mixed woodland. It has good leaf litter and a small stream running through it. We have purchased a dozen “hedgehog houses”, which are available commercially so that our new residents will have somewhere to bed down and keep snug.

It is not our intention to create a zoo, but instead we plan to offer a forever home to the wonderful hedgehog charities that take in injured and underweight hedgehogs. Our offer is to rehome in our sanctuary any animal that is too badly injured to release and to provide a release site for any animals which are ready to be given their freedom.  We have a large area of woodland where they will be free of road hazard and where we can offer some supplemental feeding whilst they become established. It is our hope that the injured hedgehogs will successfully breed and the offspring can then be released either locally or at other suitable release sites.

Last week we received a visit from Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue who brought us four very special new residents! The first of many we hope.

Hessilhead do an amazing job of rescuing hundreds of animals every year (around 500 hedgehogs alone!!) and you can find out more about them, or donate if you are interested in helping them with their work here: http://www.hessilhead.org.uk

Here’s to the first of many Highland Hedgehogs 

Great bit of press coverage in The Oban Times & The Lochaber Times November 21, 2019… all we need is for a National paper to pick it up now 🙂
All publicity is good publicity for the hedgehogs!




Borth Wild Animal Kingdom

By Bernard Landgraf (User:Baerni) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=217822

It would be hard not to be angry about this failed zoo.  The publication yesterday, in the Times, of yet more reports of animal neglect, simply raise our blood pressure, over and above the status that the annual celebration of animal cruelty that is Eid al-Adha. Superstitions have a lot to answer for.

You may recall that this sorry tale began with the escape of a lynx named Lillith.  She managed tor evade capture over several days but was finally shot by a local marksman.

Another lynx died at the “Kingdom” shortly afterwards, amply demonstrating the inexperience of the zoo’s owners, the Tweedy’s (no, not from “Chicken Run”) who are a psychotherapist and a street artist. Quite why anyone would trust them to care for wild animals beggars belief.

That they are still operating is a disgrace. That they are almost bankrupt is unsurprising. That animals continue to die is desperately sad. I wish I could do something to help. Something to think about….



Winter Bird Feeding

The snow has finally arrived here in Scotland and our thoughts turn to the welfare of the birds that decided not to fly south. Feeding birds in winter is both rewarding and enjoyable.

In winter the temperatures drop and the natural food supply dries up. You can now expect to see more of your garden birds at a well stocked table. As well as food, they need fresh, unfrozen water for drinking and bathing.  They need fatty foods such as fat balls as well as seeds. Also why not leave some hedges and ivy for shelter.  Plant berry bearing trees such as hawthorne and rowan and you may be lucky enough to see waxwings and other winter migrants.

To attract the greatest number of species in the winter, it is important to have a number of different bird feeders available. The feeders you use during the winter should have several characteristics in common.

Your bird table should be covered so seed does not get buried during snowfalls or blown away in storms. The cover should extend several inches over the edge of the table to ensure protection from all but the most serious storms.

Ideally, winter bird feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of the wind. Placing feeders closer to the house will be effective and will help keep the birds visible for indoor birdwatching.

Most birds that visit gardens in snowy weather feed on seeds, since insects and fruit are harder to find naturally during the winter. The best foods to offer birds in colder weather have a high fat or oil content that will provide abundant energy for winter survival. Nutritious winter foods for birds include:

Sunflower seed
Thistle seed
Peanut butter
White millet seed
When choosing birdseed and other foods for winter feeding, take into consideration which bird species are present in the winter and what foods they prefer to avoid excess wasted seed.

Meal worms are also appreciated by most garden birds, especially robins and blackbirds.  Fat balls  are a great energy boost and tend to be made of lard/suet, nuts, cereals and sunflower seeds, so are densely packed with essential energy and fats for birds.  Tits love fat balls as do  sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and black caps.

Often neglected, is household food waste, which can often be a great wildlife boost.  Soft fruits,  uncooked porridge oats, grated cheese, cooked pasta and rice, soaked currants, raisins and sultanas, biscuit crumbs and pastry crumbs are all great foods to feed to birds with in the winter.  Finely chopped unsalted bacon, and fats from other unsalted meats are all fine.  Potatoes, mashed, baked or roasted are also welcomed by birds.  Anything salted should be avoided on your bird table, as should any margarine or soft fats. Never offer food which is moldy or rancid. Remember that food scraps should always be placed on a bird-table as sprinkling on the ground can attract rats

Final bit of advice.  Once you start feeding birds, please continue to feed them throughout the winter, as they will come to rely on your offerings.