Hedgehogs & Hibernation

Hamworthy Hedgehog rescue are back to give you some autumn advice on all things “hedgehog”.

Hibernating or just sleeping? 

Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. Hibernation is a complicated and often perilous energy conservation strategy. It is not just ‘going to sleep’. In sleep, all bodily functions remain nearly normal. But in hibernation, the metabolism is almost at a standstill.

During hibernation, hedgehogs drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.

Building up fat reserves

Those hedgehogs visiting your garden over the next month will be trying to get as much body fat built up as possible. This is so that they can be ready to hibernate – so please do keep providing food and water for your visiting hedgehogs.

Please note that hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and ordinarily will not be out and about during daylight hours. If you do see one, there is every likelihood that it is in some kind of difficulty. It may require professional assistance. As with every rule, there are always exceptions; if the hog that you’ve spotted looks very active and busy please try to observe before intervening. Don’t forget that we are dealing with live, wild creatures and each case will be different.

How do I know if a hedgehog needs help? 

It is generally considered that hedgehogs who are less than 600 – 650 grams by the end of October are too small to hibernate, and are unlikely to survive the winter. However, here in the South, if it remains mild this can be stretched on into November. Once we have a frost, any hogs under 600g will be in trouble.

Any small hedgehog that you see out after October is in serious trouble, and will be desperately looking for food to increase its weight in order to hibernate. This will be difficult because its natural food is declining.

How to help a hedgehog in trouble

These hedgehogs must be rescued and over-wintered by a suitably equipped hedgehog rescue/carer. If you should find such a hedgehog pick it up and place it into a high sided, escape-proof box. Fill a hot water bottle or a pop bottle with hot water and wrap it in a towel. Place the towel-wrapped hot water bottle or pop bottle in the bottom of the box and pop the hedgehog in next to it. Place another towel over the hedgehog and close the box – be aware, hedgehogs can climb out of boxes!

Then phone us (Hamworthy Hedgehog Rescue) on 07587 925476, or alternatively call the BHPS on 01584 890 801 for details of your local hedgehog rescue.

If you are ever worried about the health or welfare of a hedgehog, please call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801. They will be able to give you advice, and put you in touch with a local rescue centre if necessary.

News from the park – May

Watching the seasons

It was still the month of April when our first rose, pictured here, burst into life. It was very early in the season, but a welcome sight. And hopefully there are many more to come.

flowers hamworthy park
The roses must like what we feed them

A few days later it is now into May and as you can see quite a number of our spring flowering bulbs are still providing a bit of colour in the park.

These have lasted really well.

Another welcome visitor

Last week we had another of our occasional park visitors – a Little White Egret.

For some time now their numbers in this area have been on the increase since they first arrived from France and started breeding in the mid-nineties.

Little Egrets are easily recognised by their long black beak and legs with yellow webbed feet and upright stance.  This one was seen socialising with the resident seagulls at the eastern end of the park.

The power of the sea

The waters within Poole Harbour are generally considered to be relatively safe and not normally known for rough conditions.

Nevertheless, it must have taken some waves of considerable strength to wash up an item as heavy as this. A cast iron engine block complete with crankshaft that has recently appeared on the shoreline within the park.

Youngest Wednesday volunteer

Pictured here is Chloe – a regular member of our Wednesday volunteers. When it comes to litter picking, a four-year-old certainly has an advantage over most of her elderly colleagues.

She can get into places the others have no chance of reaching. Evidence of this is when she pulled out this old bicycle basket from the hedge bordering the railway, it must have been there some considerable time.

She also comes into her own when litter picking the shrubberies at the Branksea Avenue end.  At her low level she can spot litter others cannot see and she won’t give up until the offending bottle or can is in the firm grasp of her litter picker.

Get involved

If you would like to get some fresh air, meet people and make a difference, then come and join one of our volunteering groups.

Wednesday Volunteers – meet every Wednesday in Hamworthy Park, 10.00am outside the park cafe. Just turn up!

Saturday Volunteers – we run a programme of Saturday volunteer events roughly once a month.

See our website or Facebook for further details. Or get in contact.

Wildflower update

Wildflower watch

It is only sixteen days since the wildflower turf was laid yet the first of the flowers believed to be red campion are now in bloom ( according to our wild flower book red campion is supposed to be pink). So let’s hope they are the first of many!

Wildflower care

We have been constantly watering this area as it is essential to keep the turf damp until the flowers become established.

Watch this space for more updates as we have them.

Wild flower area – Hamworthy Park

FOHP, together with a local school and Dorset Wildlife Trust,  have recently put in a new wild flower area in Hamworthy Park.

Previous attempts

After months of trying to get written permission from the council, it was finally agreed about six weeks ago that the Friends could experiment with a wildflower area located behind the Western end flood bank. A wildflower area had been tried by the council some years ago. This was behind the Eastern flood bank but it failed.

A new approach

In an effort to be more successful, we decided to consult the experts. So contact was made with Kew Gardens, Dorset Wildlife Trust and some specialist wildflower seed suppliers.  The main reason for the previous failure, apparently, was inadequate preparation and the location.  It is essential that all existing turf is removed and the patch dug over – removing as many weed roots as possible.  The soil level is then restored using poor quality top soil. Wildflowers grow best in poor soil and it is important not to apply any fertilizer. This is because in fertile soils, grasses and weeds tend to swamp the less competitive wildflowers.

The previous location was adjacent to a hedgerow. This was attractive to nesting birds and sowing seeds there was just like setting up a picnic table for them, so the experts said.

Pre-sown turf

Although it is more expensive, experts advised that the best chance of success would be to use a pre-sown turf of perennial flowers – but sow annual wildflower seed around the perimeter.  A suitable turf was ordered from a specialist nursery near Basingstoke and collection arranged for the 1st April.  The landscape turf we ordered contains up to 31 different perennial wildflower species and two non-invasive grasses.

Getting started

A few weeks ago, as many park users have noticed, an area was marked out and the FOHP volunteers got stuck in removing the turf. This turf was made use of to infill numerous holes in the grass throughout the park -probably the most strenuous bit of the project – pushing well laden wheelbarrows as far as the Eastern end! The area was dug over and bucket after bucket load of poor garden soil was delivered to the park by ‘the Paddling Pool Van’.

Twin sails help

Laura Clark, who runs the gardening club at Twin Sails Infant School, had previously asked if there was anything the children could help with in the park – we thought this would be an ideal project to involve them with.

The soil must be watered to saturation point two days before laying. But as we had had no appreciable rainfall for the previous three weeks, many gallons of water were transported to the park over the weekend and the turf was collected on the Monday.

The big day

On Tuesday morning another watering was carried out and in the afternoon the children, Molly, Adam and Max, accompanied by Laura Clark and Mrs Henstridge, met us in the park – after a quick rake over, laying commenced.  Katie Wilkinson from Dorset Wildlife Trust  also joined us as this project fits in well with their ‘Get Dorset Buzzing’ campaign which is aimed at saving pollinating insects.  The FOHP volunteers were almost made redundant as the children got stuck in rolling out the turf and bedding it in.  It then received another thorough watering. I think Max thought my shoes were a bit grubby so he watered them as well!  Attention was then turned to the surrounds.  These were raked over then, using homemade applicators (a small plant pot with most of its drain holes blanked off), wildflower seed premixed with fine sand so we could see where it was going was applied to the remaining exposed soil.

They then gently raked that area over. The accompanying photos show the children hard at work and what a good job they did – Thank you Molly, Adam and Max.

Great Black-backed Gulls

New park residents 

For the last week or so we have had some new winter residents on the shoreline, the latest visitors being a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls.

They are often seen in Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay but not usually along the park shoreline. The picture does not do them justice, but they are very impressive and very large!

Giant seagulls

This gull is the worlds largest and it becomes most noticeable when it spreads its wings for take off, it has a wingspan of just over five feet.

It is also quite long-lived at least one being recorded as 27 years old.

Hamworthy Hedgehogs – how to tempt hedgehogs into your garden

Now that Spring has finally arrived, Hamworthy hedgehogs are stirring. We’ve never seen any hedgehogs in Hamworthy park. But if you have, let us know!

Here are 8 top tips from our friends at Hamworthy Hedgehog Rescue to make your garden a hedgehog haven.

1. Water

To encourage hedgehogs to stay in or near your garden ensure they have a fresh supply of water available. Put some shallow dishes at different points in the garden and keep them topped up – especially in very hot weather. It’s great for other wildlife too.

2. Food

Yes please – leave a dish of hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food or cat biscuits, in a place where the hedgehog can get it, but not the local cats (see pic for ideas to keep the cats out).

No thank you – Mealworms, sunflower hearts or peanuts are bad for hedgehogs.  As is cows milk and bread.

Hamworthy hedgehogs

3. Fences

Hedgehogs need a gap or hole in your fence to be able to get into your garden in the first place. Leave a hole in fences or newly constructed walls so the hedgehogs can come and go.

4. Hedgehog houses

You can buy hedgehog houses from garden centres or online, but it’s just as easy to make your own with a pile of logs and leaves…and saves a trip to the tip with that garden waste.

5. Hog proof your pond and garden

Hedgehogs love water but can easily fall into a garden pond or paddling pool. Make sure there is a ramp or some plastic coated wire to help them get out. Similarly, make sure any garden netting is raised off the ground so hedgehogs don’t get caught. Holes are another hedgehog no-no as they can easily fall in. Fill in any holes or cover them over.

6. Check and double check

Hedgehogs love piles of leaves, compost heaps and long grass -they all make comfy hog homes. So before you get your fork or strimmer out, check the area for hedgehogs. The same goes for bonfires -check the pile or, even better, use a garden incinerator instead.

Hamworthy hedgehogs

7. Dogs and hogs

Dogs are inquisitive and soon learn the hard way to keep their noses away from hedgehogs! But it can still be stressful for the hedgehog. Try turning on an outside light a few minutes before letting the dog out to give any hedgehogs time to get out of the way. Or if your hog has a set routine, make sure to keep the dog in when it’s hedgehog time.

8. What should I do if I disturb a hedgehog nest?

If you do accidentally disturb a nest with a single adult hedgehog in it, replace the nesting material. The hedgehog can then either repair the nest or build another elsewhere. If the disturbed hedgehog is hibernating and wakes up, a dish of dog food and some water each night until it starts hibernating again would be helpful. If there are babies in the nest, replace the nesting material, handling the nest as little as possible so as not to leave your smell on it. Keep an eye on the nest to see if mum returns. If there is no sign of her by the next morning telephone Hamworthy hedgehog rescue for advice on 07587 925476.

Tempting as it may be, do not allow friends, children etc to uncover the nest for a peep.

 

So there you have it. The above are ways to help visiting hedgehogs as they pass through your garden. But the best way to actively encourage them into your garden is to provide easy access,  good food, and cosy nesting sites.

If you find an injured hedgehog, you can contact Hamworthy Hedgehog Rescue on 07587 925476, or catch them on Facebook to see all the great work they do.

Happy hogging!

Wildlife in the park – black swans and wagtails

Wagtails

The wagtail is the most common small bird found in the park and has a year-round presence. We were talking to a lady in the Coop last week about the birds in the park, and she had some photos of this cheeky little wagtail.

Photo by Joyce Cox
Photo by Joyce Cox

There are two kinds – a grey wagtail and a yellow wagtail. Slightly confusingly, the grey wagtail can have some yellow in its feathers as can be seen below. But, the yellow wagtail is much more yellow than that!

As you can see, they are tiny and easily startled. So well done for getting close enough for a picture!

Black swans

On the same day, we had reports that a pair of black swans were visiting Hamworthy park – we couldn’t run down with our cameras because we were tied down at Coop. But luckily, the wonderful park users came to the rescue with these amazing photos.

black swans hamworthy park
Photos by Denise Winwood
black swans hamworthy park
Photos by Denise Winwood

 

Winter Wildlife in Hamworthy Park

It may be deepest, darkest winter but there is still plenty of wildlife in Hamworthy Park.

The Turnstones are still turning stones – we reckon there are 25 in the photo below, but they naturally camouflage themselves against the rocks, so there could be more.

We had a flock of 18 visiting Brent Geese just recently but when we returned with camera in hand a few days later only one remained. This is rather unusual as normally they stay together.  This solitary one remained with us for two weeks before disappearing – hopefully going off to join the rest in Holes Bay.

Here is some wildlife that is a bit more controversial.  If only the gulls could find somewhere else to roost as they make such a mess on the children’s swings.

And finally, don’t panic! It’s not what you may think at first glance. Luckily,  this turned out not to be a snake, but just part of a child’s stuffed toy.

Wednesday Volunteers – The wetter the better

Despite the atrocious weather today we had four volunteers. Although two of us did have to return home for a change of dry clothing before returning for another soaking!

Despite the weather, a limited amount of litter picking was achieved between the heavy rain and hail showers and another batch of miniature daffodils were planted.
As can be seen in the picture, the oystercatchers had given up on the oysters and taken to the grass – are there more lucrative pickings to be had when the grass is saturated?

Wildlife in the Park – a new arrival

We mentioned the Turnstones in a previous post, and by now many of you will have seen them scurrying along the foreshore in the park. Well, over the past couple of weeks the number of resident Turnstones has increased and in the picture, you can see a few on the shoreline doing their signature move – turning stones.

They have been joined just offshore by a number of other winter migrants, possibly greylag geese? If you can identify these lovely birds, then let us know!

This gaggle of them, eighteen in number, were seen busily swimming around in circles occasionally dipping their heads in the water to grab a tasty morsel.

We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled over the winter for more rare visitors to our beautiful park.