All about hedgehogs!

 © Copyright - The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

© Copyright - The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Hedgehogs are our nation’s favourite mammal (it’s official – check out this RSPB report!).  They are the UK’s only spiny mammal, and are loved by so many people for their cuteness, their helpfulness as garden slug snufflers, and their uniqueness. But as Henry Johnson, hedgehog officer at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species says: ‘This is why it’s so sad to see them decline, with one in three lost since the millennium’. If our current rates of decline continue, they could be extinct within just ten years.

Threats to hedgehogs come mostly from us. In rural areas, our farmland increasingly lacks the diversity of habitats hedgehogs need and the invertebrates they feed on. In towns and cities green spaces are lost to development, paved over or increasingly fragmented. Hedgehogs are also very prone to road traffic accidents.

How Can You Help?

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, reminds us of the most important thing we can all do to help:

“Hedgehogs need to roam for up to two miles each night in search of food – imagine trying to do this when you face a garden wall or fence at every turn! You can help by giving hedgehogs access to gardens – this means building a ‘hedgehog highway’ at the bottom of garden fences and walls, and asking your friends to do the same. Simply create a little hole that a hedgehog can pass through – as simple as that. Then make sure your garden has lots of tasty grubs and bugs for hungry hogs by introducing log piles, compost heaps, ponds and nectar-rich plants like lavender and wallflowers."

There are lots of fun resources online that will help you to help our hedgehogs:

Hedgehog Street is a joint campaign run by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. It was started in 2011, to give people all the information, tools and tips they need to help our hedgehogs – starting in their own back gardens! Visit the website to find out how you can build a hedgehog house; create a hedgehog highway; or make your garden hedgehog-friendly; and lots more!

London Wildlife Trust will send you a ‘Hedgehog Detective Kit’ if you live in a London Borough, so that you can track little footprints in your garden and see if you have hedgehogs living there! They would also like you to help them in a city-wide hedgehog survey, so please tell them if you’ve spotted a hedgehog, or join them on a hedgehog survey! Find out more here.

Visit the RSPB to find out how to open a Hedgehog Café and stock it with all their favourite nibbles! The RSPB also have a lovely activity sheet for building a Hedgehog Home.

Each year, Wildlife Aid takes in many young hedgehogs, who are raised to adulthood at their specialist centre, as well as taking in sick and injured adult hogs all year round. You can support this work by adopting a hedgehog for £24.95.  You can also adopt a hedgehog from The Wildlife Trusts, who are caring for sick and injured prickly ones all across the country. A lovely gift for little ones.   

Pssst! If you live in the Berkshire area, you can apply to Hedgehog Bottom to foster rehabilitating hedgehogs over winter too!

What to do if you find a hedgehog:

Fay Vass, Chief Executive of The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, gives the following advice:

“If you have found a hedgehog you are concerned about please use gardening gloves to collect it up, bring it indoors and put it in a high sided cardboard box with an old towel or fleece in the bottom for the hedgehog to hide under.

Fill a hot water bottle so that when it is wrapped in a towel there is a nice gentle heat coming through and put that in the bottom of the box with the hedgehog, ensuring it has room to get off the bottle and making sure the bottle is kept warm (if allowed to go cold it will do more harm than good). Put the box somewhere quiet.

 Offer meaty cat or dog food and fresh water then call us as soon as possible on 01584 890 801 for further advice and the numbers of local contacts. Note that out of office hours there is an answerphone, if you have a hedgehog, please press option 1 and listen to the emergency numbers, these volunteers are not representatives of BHPS but they will give you advice and numbers of local contacts. Thank you for helping a hedgehog!”

All about parrots!

 © Copyright - Paul Allistair Collins

© Copyright - Paul Allistair Collins

How did our wild parakeets get here? Where did they come from? Why do they stay? There’s a streak and shriek of magic about these bolshy, brilliant birds, that captivate explorers young and old right across the country!

Rose-ringed parakeets are the UK’s fastest growing bird population (watch out pigeons, they’re catching you up and set for global domination!). They’re now spotted nationwide, from Scotland down to Cornwall.  And they’re also found wild in at least 65 cities around Europe, and in more than 30 countries across five continents (read the full report here).  So if you thought you saw a flash of emerald in Amsterdam, or Los Angeles, or Plymouth, the chances are your eyes weren’t playing tricks!  

Found throughout our gardens and parks, some of these emerald green interlopers are now so comfortable in their new surroundings that they’ll feed from people’s hands – try heading to Hyde Park, London and holding out a juicy apple – you will be amazed!

‘Rose-ringed’ or ‘Ring-necked’ parakeets are part of the parrot family and originally come from the Indian subcontinent and central Arfica. They get their name from the collar of black and pink feathers seen on the male of the species.  Nobody knows exactly how they have come to colonise our skies, but it is believed they were introduced into the UK in the late 1960s.  Lots of popular theories exist – some say they escaped from the film set of the African Queen; others that Jimi Hendrix deliberately released them to add a flash of colour to London’s streets! More likely is that their numbers steadily increased in the wild as the result of domesticated parakeets escaping into the wild – they have historically made popular pets due to their ability to mimic human speech. Between 1984 and 2007 a staggering 146,539 ring-necked parakeets were imported to Europe, with over 16,000 being importated into the UK alone, before an EU ban on the trade of wild birds. It is now believed that there are over 32,000 wild parakeets living in the UK, and their population is ballooning at a startling rate. 

In the UK, rose-ringed parakeets are considered a ‘non-native’ or ‘invasive’ species. There are some calls to control their numbers, due to concerns about their impact on our native ecosystems and biodiversity. Although these parakeets have been with us since the 1960s, we still don’t fully understand their potential impact, particularly the extent to which they compete with native bird species for nest holds and food; and the economic risk of potential damage they do to agricultural crops, particularly fruit. 

While these risks will be closely monitored as parakeet numbers soar, we still find their shimmer of green a magical sight, and one that brings wonder and delight to little children everywhere as they flash bright feathers across grey English skies!

Pssst! Have you found a parakeet feather or spotted a green-feathered friend? Send us your photos and we’ll upload them to our spotter’s gallery here!

your photos & creations!

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Have you drawn a parrot, found a feather, written a nature story, made a hedgehog house, created a hoggy poem of your own?  We'd love to see your creations and hear what you’ve been up to.  Send us your pictures, doodles, photos, poems and more, and together we’ll build a beautiful gallery!  Take a look here