For NHSN member, Moira Gray, lockdown provided an opportunity to investigate the comings and goings of Fenham's urban hedgehogs
Our home in Fenham backs onto allotments and the town moor. Years ago we would witness as many as 10 hedgehogs at once in the garden, but that has all changed. This year, we thought that we did occasionally get one hedgehog at night (deduced from the poo!) so we bought a cheap video camera.
We copied the cat-and-crow proof design of a friend and created a feeding station – photo attached of when we surprised a hog before we put the lid on for the night – and have used it since April. We soon increased the size of the feeding station by a brick on each side when we saw a hog having to come out backwards as he couldn’t turn round inside! There are at least 4 hogs, sadly easily identifiable as dragalong (3 legs), hopalong (4 legs but one is useless) and two big bruisers. Most nights they eat all the hedgehog food we put in the dish and, to our surprise, all of them drink at length from the dish of water outside the feeding station after eating. They are not friendly with each other and there are frequent squabbles when one arrives and another is already eating. Certainly, drag-along is at the bottom of the pecking order but hopalong is fairly well able to hold his own. The two who don’t have 4 functioning legs have trouble scratching and that is sad to see.
They all poo like the end of the world is coming, so we need to move the station each night and clean up accordingly. But they are great fun to see and we feel pleased to have them.
By Moira Gray, Fenham
I have always been interested in wildlife of any kind. So my second job, as a librarian in the University of Malawi, was an excellent way to broaden my horizons and led me to a lifetime obsession with elephants. And I must not overlook that I met my husband in Malawi! We have been fortunate to return to East Africa many times in the last 15 years, although not professionally for me, but always for elephants. On my return from Africa, I worked as a librarian at Newcastle University for 15 years. We have lived in Fenham for almost 40 years in a house backing onto the Town Moor. When we first moved into the house there were wild partridges on the moor, Barn owls in our trees and bats every night; all long gone. The garden has hosted many fox families. One mum gave birth under our shed and entertained our neighbours for many evenings as she taught her youngsters some rudiments. Recent years have seen the advent of ring-necked parakeets, whose visiting numbers have grown from 3 to 31 in seven years. And last year we both developed a greater interest in crows since young ‘Chris the crow’ (too young to fly) was cared for on the ground by his adoring parents for at least 8 weeks. We put out food for them to give him, which they did, but they also attacked us if we seemed to get too near. Chris successfully fledged and the family of three visited all winter. They are still there, plus this years’ family additions.
I joined the NHSN to attend a David Noble-Rollin class about 15 years ago. The nature reserve at Gosforth is our go-to local place for peace, tranquillity and the natural world. And of course, we have enjoyed many Friday lectures over the years.