Wildlife Column: The mystery night-time visitors...
Having seen a hedgehog foraging at the bottom of my garden, I decided on three courses ofaction. The first was to set up a small hedgehog house and await developments.
The second was to put out mixed pelleted hedgehog food with a little dog-food. The third was to acquire two ‘trail-cams’ and await the outcome. I suspect the hedgehog is already well ensconced in a pile of cut bamboo stems and logs, but I thought more upmarket, purpose- built accommodation might be required. I have fed the hedgehog previously, so this was just re-starting the process with the arrival of spring. However, the idea of the cams was simply to check if it was coming to the food and maybe to the new accommodation. My brother-in-law, Peter Steward, has been recording a hedgehog both feeding and using a hedgehog house in his garden so I thought I would try the same.
Anyway, having set the system up, I left the cameras running for about a week before checking the outcomes. One is set to video and the other to still photographs. Sure enough, the hedgehog was spotted running across the scene – but only a couple of times. However, almost immediately the first and most regular visitor was a fox.
It is clearly a young vixen and as the weeks have gone by is very obviously pregnant. Well it is either that or all the food she is taking has put on a lot of weight! She seems to arrive around midnight perhaps but also sometimes in the early morning - as you can hear the birds singing.
Then, in amongst the photographs and clips of the fox, there was the unexpected appearance of a badger! Indeed, it seems that this is visiting the garden most nights and until the confirmation on camera I was unaware of it. On some nights the fox arrives after the badger has hoovered up the food and looks decidedly disconsolate. I need to figure out a way of making sure both visitors get fed, especially as I expect there will be fox-cubs soon as well!
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.