From Tony Thain:
It is some time since I sent in a report on the comings and goings of the Hedgehog Hilton at Achnaha. In fact I had not realised just how long it has been, until Mr Diary cornered me, last Wednesday, at the Community Centre and asked for a contribution [written not monetary!].
Over the Spring, the residents, left behind by Tonia, were checked over, weighed, marked, etc., and then released back into the wild, when they were fit enough to survive. I must admit, it was a bit of a wrench when the last one vanished overnight and I realised that from now on the Hedgehogs were mine to care for and not Tonia's. However, many revisited and even availed themselves of the "B & B" facilities in the generator shed, they certainly knew where the food was located!
For some time I have been concerned over the increasing signs of Pine Marten activity in the garden, especially around the Hedgehog feeding stations and the greenhouse [also a night feeding station]. So I have acquired an infra-red trail camera to identify the wildlife in the various parts of the garden. The main concern was that the Pine Martens may attack the Hedgehogs: after all this is the Hedgehog Hilton not the Pine Marten Premier Inn [other hotel names are available].
Initially, I was surprised at the sheer amount of activity in the garden at night: numerous Hedgehog visitations, Pine Martens, Voles and Wood Mice, all using the facilities provided. The water dishes are very popular as the animals seemed to relish the "Chateau Achnaha" provided at various locations.
But the most gratifying and definitive picture was of the Hedgehog confidently drinking from a dish whilst a Pine Marten slipped behind it into the greenhouse for food. Either the Pine Martens are being well fed or they are intelligent enough to realise that a fight with a fully defensive Hedgehog could result in serious injuries to the mouth from the spines, something that some dogs have not realised!
Every night, at dusk, I do the rounds with a tray of food, often with rustlings in the undergrowth following me, and distribute the dishes to the feeding stations. Each night there are Hedgehogs patiently waiting for their "red cross parcels". It has got to a point that, to stop fights, I pick up each customer and place them at their respective tables. It is quite magical to see a prickly bottom protruding from the shelters and the unmistakable sound of Hedgehogs enjoying their food. They have to get in quickly before the mice, who are also waiting, and the Pine Martens get at the food. Of course, this is still new to me as Tonia used to do the rounds and I always wondered why she took so much time. Now I know!
The other major acheivement has been to prepare the "Wash-up", the Hedgehog shed and the Generator shed for over-winter occupants. This was to be quite a task as all the used cardboard boxes had to be burnt to stop any cross-infection and the wooden boxes and floors had to be sterilised for the same reason. Each place had to have its own supplies of bedding, water, food etc. so that it would be easy to accept patients at short notice and to clean out and resupply if there was a sick, injured or underweight animal in residence over the winter period. The task was made more difficult as Tonia rarely kept notes of what she was feeding the various Hedgehogs, so I had to make it up as I went along, with the supplies that had been left behind. Hopefully, I can do a good job and continue Tonia's passion.
Many thanks to Tony Thain for words and pictures.