HOGLOG (Hedgehog and other wild sightings.)
Not counting foxes or grey squirrels
Friday 18th April. Otter Spraint, positioned on a tussock of couch grass, Great Moss Cumbria. Contained bright blue beetle wing cases and fine fishbone. Inspired by Miriam Darlington, we'd sought in vain for traces of the Lakeland otters around Crummock Water, but we're having this.
Friday 22nd August, walking in the Mardens, West Sussex. Any amount of rabbits & blackberries, a feast of chicken in the woods pulled from a yew tree, and once a hare calmly loping across a cornfield, where the big glittery golden straw rolls made black shadows.
Monday April 8th & Saturday April 13th, a pair of peregrine falcons on the snowy crags above Tarn Beck Falls, Cumbria. I saw them on the 8th, and was convinced they weren't buzzards, didn't get a chance to return with binocs until the morning we were leaving and never thought they'd turn up again, but there they were & I was well pleased. I suppose I should relegate peregrines to the same status as buzzards, foxes, rabbits, grey squirrels etc, since they've become so urbanized. But just this once. The photo is from the wildlife photographers' blogspot
Thursday July 18th Penduline Tits, and also European Muskrats, while kayaking through the Acheron Delta. Praying Mantis on the Korykion Cave path above the Sanctuary at Delphi, Wednesday July 31st. I love Praying Mantises, I've wondered why and decided it's because they have necks (or something like) = they can turn their heads, and point that little heart-shaped face at you. Makes them different from your average bug. Our tour around Roumeli wasn't prolific in wildlife sightings, but nesting storks and the little grebe swimming underwater in the lake at Ioannina (looking very Jurassic), deserve honourable mention.
Friday 17th August, seals at Blakeney Point, also the mackerel that we were trolling for from a pram boat called Auntie Pam, courtesy of Hidden Norfolk. I even caught one, to my amazement. Seals are too like slugs, giant slugs with big teeth, I don't really like them. I'd probably feel differently if I met them in the water (scared). The goshawks that quartered the treetops above the little wood attached to the Old Schoolhouse, the voles and shrews that thrilled our domestic predators. It was like taking the kids to Disneyland, can't say we really enjoyed the carnage, but Milo and Ginger were having such fun it wd have been a shame not to act enthusiastic. At least there were no queues. Bats outside our back door, the natterjack toad that crept by the wall, a hare that leapt out in front of a car (not ours, we were on bicycles) and got away with it & last but not least what I had been hoping for, when I suggested we come to North Norfolk. Sunday 19th August, on the way to Holkham, just past the Slow Peacocks sign, near Binham Priory, Peter suddenly yelled out "Hedgehog!", he pulled in and I hurried back and he was right, a hedgehog, nosing along the grassy verge in broad daylight. I picked her up and put her out of harm's way, for which I bet she wasn't grateful. She'd barely begun to curl up before I put her down again so I didn't get prickled. How lovely to see her, and the soft fringe of fine hair around the skirt of her spiny mantle, & her bright small eyes and little dark turned up nose. Irresistible privilege. I hope I didn't make too much of a mess of her busy morning. She's up at the top of this page.
9th July Aiguilles Du Midi. First, from the skilift, Ibex. Two brown backs speeding below us through the trees. Later, as we walked down from the Plan Du Midi, marmottes! One of them running in the rocks right beside us, and still there, peering cautiously, when we caught up. Known as the beaver of the mountain tops, richly furry with fine, long-fingered paws like gloved hands, spread on the stone: looking at me aimiably with sleepy, narrow eyes. Zig-zag, all the way down, I saw firecrests in the fir trees and heard them piping all around us, and when we got down to the big trees once a black squirrel. darting away. But the best, and most extraordinary, was close to the foot of the descent, when Peter suddenly squealed (quietly) & there was a mole, a panicking scrap of charcoal velvet, so soft and low we couldn't see its feet., only the the flurry of its deperate hurry to get into the leaf litter, and then no further, still perfectly visible but apparently feeling safe. Lucky we weren't predators (though Peter later confessed he had longed to pick it up).
16th October. Out foraging in Patching
Woods. The sweet chestnuts were ready, even picked-over, we collected
about a kilo. No funghi except some decaying puffballs, as it's been
so dry. Later after an unplanned lunch at the Hammerpot we went to investigate
a wall of white, a cliff in the woods, and found a small disused quarry.
There or thereabouts I found the 2nd four-leaved clover of my career,
and shortly after that Peter spotted a white red deer hind, looking
like a stripped and twisted little tree. She ran away into the bracken.
Made us realise we'd seen a quiet man with a very fancy rifle, earlier.
I hope he wasn't after her, but he probably was. The photo, obviously
not Patching Woods, is from a
very interesting article about the "white" hind phenomenon.
. . On the way home, in the meadow, we picked a box full of sloes; just
because they were there.
Wednesday 26th October. Peter and Gabriel had been working hard all day, decorating Gabriel's room. 4.30pm: a hawk! A sparrowhawk, pluming a collared dove on the bathroom roof, right under my window. Peter ran upstairs to tell me. How she glared! With the most amazing arrogant marigold eyes.A sparrowhawk! Right there! Female by the size, old by the orange eyes. They live in King Death's Garden, across the valley, in the tall trees. We sometimes see them passing by, cruising stealthily along the Crescent Gardens, but never before up close.
Two newts walking slowly in the fishpool. The (common) newts are now regulars, this was their first recorded visit.
Weds July 28th: Morrocan Macaques (aka Barbary Apes) in the cedar forest above Azrou. A long walk to reach the remains of the forest, a fledgling sparrow by the road, fruit bats sleeping in the giant new Arab Emirates caravanserai; gardens of lavender and rosemary, sage and honeysuckle. Can only hope the rich will come and enjoy the cedars enough to preserve them. We took no pictures of the endangered "apes" but you can reach an interesting site by clicking the photo. The rabble hanging around the hotspot had a horribly corrupt relationship with the trippers, foreign and Moroccan, the macaques who avoided this experience deserved the respect they got from us, when we met them among the trees and just walked on by. The cedars are wonderful.
Thursday December 9th Eeek! A mouse! In the house! About 4.00am, two cats were going berserk. I finally got up for them, they were very interested in something behind the laundry basket. It was a little field mouse, but it got away and Peter refused to believe me. So, cats banished, mouse vanished, but I knew I'd seen it. Later, when Peter had gone to work and I was lazing in bed reading New Scientist, I saw its shadow through the cut-out pelmet above the window curtains. It had escaped up the curtains, jumped to the pelmet and found itself a safe perch. I gave it some sunflower seeds (it had evidently been in some biological distress: bricking it, as my brother David elegantly remarked when he arrived later). I didn't try to catch it. I left it where it was, to vindicate me against charges of waking people up in the middle of the night for nothing. We let it go, out in the garden.
Friday 29th May Momentous day. (I won't usually do butterflies but this was extraordinary) On my way to Manchester about 10am, just before the Brighton line runs into East Croydon station, on the bank where the red valerian flowers, a crowd, a host of painted lady butterflies, fluttering and dancing. Hundreds of them. Amazing sight. I wish it would happen again
Sunday May 31st, Another beautiful day, we got up early and took the train to Berwick. Crossing a lane near the Yew Tree, Arlington, we met a lizard, also crossing the lane, and there was a cuckoo singing in Abbot's Wood. A lizard and a cuckoo's song! Not often you get that combination.
When we first moved to Roundhill Crescent, I would hear a male cuckoo calling, over the valley, across a gulf of air, in King Death's Garden, all day long at this time of year. There was also a colony of lizards (now very wrongly named "common") on the sandy path by the chapel in the upper cemetery. No longer, neither of them.
Garry Kilworth 8.12.98
By the way, it's not always necessary to bake a hedgehog in a fire. You can stick it in the middle of a haystack where the combustion cooks it. The prickles come off when you peel away the hard clay. But are we talking about hedgehogs to kill and cook, or hedgehogs we love and cherish? Ahem.
A whole haystack? Well, certainly Garry. Or we could target the hog with a scud missile, that wd do the trick. The question of loving and cherishing vs eating is a debate we don't need to get into as long as we are only cooking hypothetical hedgehog… in other words, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Eds.
Lucy Sussex 8.12.98
As a child in New Zealand (the part I was living in was VERY English) I was sitting by the bank of a stream and saw a drowned hedgehog swept past, rolling over and over in the shallow water. I followed it past a bridge and saw it had got stuck by its bristles on a spot where a branch had snagged and created an islet. As I watched, it sneezed. Then I knew it was alive. So I waded in and rescued it. It hung around for a couple of days, ate scrambled eggs, and then wandered off.
10.12.98 Forgot to mention my mother was told by a doctor that her case of tinea was due to hedgehogs. She was walking barefoot in the early morning due, you see.
Garry Kilworth 13. 12.98
I hope you're joking about the burning haystack. But in case you're not, I'll take it you're not a 'country boy' like me. A natural heat builds up inside a damp haystack (indeed even a dry one, but a wet one's better) which can reach oven baking degrees. You don't burn anything, you simply stick it inside the haystack and the natural heat cooks the hedgehog. This is why haystacks often catch fire on their own accord. Here endeth the lesson.
Hedgehog by Gabriel.
Sunday, Aug 29th, walking along Grim's Ditch, Oxfordshire (three days along the Ridgeway, aka the Didcot Power Station path). Cool morning, no one about, the Ditch here grown with beeches, hedge on one side of us, the earthwork bank across the ditch on the other, a furry animal slipped out from under hedge and belted off, ochreish tawny coloured, low on the ground and sturdy, much bigger than stoat. A polecat. They are 'increasingly common' in W. England. On the same part of the path, clear signs of a badger sett.
Thursday, December 18th, about seven thirty pm,driving over the hill to the Marina to see TLOR III, a well-grown young badger went scooting across the road
Sunday June 29th, early evening, walking up out of Angmering onto the downs, three stoats, a mother and half grown kits at a guess, went gambolling up the lane ahead of us, like giant looper caterpillars, v. sleek and happy looking.
19th July 2003 Tongdean
"Everybody but me and Ross
had gone, we were sitting outside at a small table
14th June 2003 Lewes
Full moon night. We walk to Lewes
across the downs by the Jugg's road
Darko Suvin 11/12/98
TO A HEDGEHOG
(COUNTER-PROJECT TO CHU CHEN PO)
You nose about, circumspect &
[from the book THE LONG MARCH, Willowdale ON 1987]
February 8th 2008, wake of the storm, I went for a walk by the sea, most of the really interesting wrack had gone already, but I took a photo of this curious little barbed dogfish (left upper quadrant), which intrigued our friend Tarquin, who dives a lot around this coast. Nope, he couldn't identify it. Can you?
Feb 25th, Milo brought in a mouse: sic transit. June 2nd, Ginger, all excited, brought in a slowworm. It was hurt, but I thought it might recover. Slowworms are different from mice, we have none to spare, certainly not living in the centre of Brighton, so I hid it in my room in the old fish tank, but Ginger found out where it was somehow, and I didn't keep my door closed, somehow, and sad to say the poor little worm (they're really legless lizards you kno
Sunnday 3th August, the campsite at Bonnieux, Haute Provence. Possibly the most drop dead gorgeous camping opportunity we have ever encountered, in what used to be the park of the local stately home; or so we gathered. Our choice of a pitch, under a lovely Black Maple, was made for us by an amazing character, already resident, see left. This magnificent psychedelic monster is the caterpillar (we later discovered) of the Peacock Moth, Europe's largest moth. Per was the most laid back chenille geant. Sometimes I'd find per crawling on the ground, per'd take to my hand without fuss, and let perself be returned to the leaves. We were sorry to leave per, so splendid and such quiet company.
(Later that same night (about 2.20am, it says here . . . & several nights following). Completely unlike our other notable non-human neighbours, the glis-glis (aka Edible Dormouse) They are nocturnal, tree-dwelling, and they don't mind letting you know it. This first night, we caught a glimpse. Other nights, irresistible, when we came glis-glis spotting we never saw anything but a little dark shape with a curling tail and awful glowing eyes. . . (exactly like the haunting in Sheridan Le Fanu's story Green Tea) peering down at us from the branches, but what a racket. If these really are the edible dormice of the Romans, I'm amazed any of them are still around.
Monday 29th May, on the lane going up to the Walna Scar road, about eleven am, I saw a weasel emerge from a clump of bluebells under the drystone wall, maybe 20 metres away. Mustela nivalis vulgaris saw me, and retreated. You want to cross the road, I thought, so I stood where I was, and out it came again, & strolled leisurely across the asphalt, its stubby tail slung low, head up, its breast primrose as butter. The weasel turned and looked straight at me, calm as you please, and disappeared under the opposite wall. A weasel and a cuckoo's song, wild parsley and bluebells, a fine May morning on the fells.
Saturday 21st July, rain between clouds, dull weather: walking over the downs to Rodmell with Gabriel and Hannah to sample the beer in the CAMRA famed Abergavenny Arms. A fine young hare on Swanborough, loping mildly along the sheep tracks on the concave turfy scarp, right under our feet. There are still hares about in Sussex, but one rarely encounters them, and never so close. What strange eyes hares have, and what amazing sinewy haunches. Caveat on the link British Mammals is a huntin' shootin' and fishin' Society & they love wildlife, but their words can be slightly weasel.
August 24th, mild evening. To Ebernoe for a magical evening picnic batspotting by Furnace Pond. Not really a wildlife spotting, as premeditated & Ebernoe is hopping with bats. The bats came out in showers, in a blue twilight, from their roost high up in the beeches, following the freeway where the powerlines run, over the heather and bracken; dipping like swallows to drink from the pond. Did not bring low-light binoculars so unfortunately unable to tell you whether best sightings were of barbastelle, Duchenne, or just ordinary pipistrelle like this.
Monday 14th August, Eguisheim, Alsace. An inauspicious campsite in the heart of the Alsace wine country, which is an open air shopping mall, ribbon development; with added snottiness. Could be I'm less than fair, as the weather was appalling. Camped on the highest terrace, up against the chainlink fence, vines on the other side, we were woken by strange minor earthquake noises, which we instantly recognised. Hedgehog by torchlight, in the dripping wet night, trying hard to burrow under the fence, why we don't know. The slugs were just as large, fat and juicy on our side. Responded to our presence as hedgehogs often do, just crouched there & waited for the annoyance to go away. Old pal! It was good to see you.
Also, on the Brest-Nantes canal (yes, we did quite a bit of driving. It passes the time when it's too wet to do anything else), 19th August, Peter saw a bittern, which I reckon is worth a mention tho' I don't usually do birds here. I missed it.
Saturday 2nd April, a russet bank vole with blunt short silky tail and blunt nose, eating pitta bread on the slate windowsill outside the kitchen window, H-H-. On Friday April 1st there was allegedly a rat in the bath, but that was an April Fool rat.
Wednesday 30th March, Blencathra Centre, Cumbria, on our way to collect our car, after a walk-up climb drowned in low cloud, occasional glimpses of the panorama from Saddleback, a fine ridge walk We declined the thrills of the Sharp Edge. Better going up, that one... a red squirrel bouncing from a larch in the Centre grounds onto the mossy top of the drystone wall, tufted ears and creamy belly, we followed it, in view for a good few metres, then it bounced off into the trees again. We left it a gift of Frusli bar.
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