Bilbo, the labradoodle, and I do a last patrol of the garden at night. He needs to sniff and pee and check his territory. I need to lock up the chickens. We love the warm evenings, but there haven't been many of those recently, have there?
We look for the bats above the garden. Somerset is home to 15 of the 17 resident UK bat species. And we have seen several varieties above the garden, acrobatting around the walnut tree. A few years ago we bought a small bat detector - little more than a toy - and have had fun trying to judge who is making which noise! A tawny owl often calls from the trees on the field edge and last year there was a family of barn owls branching out in the neighbouring barns. But this year's washout summer has curtailed our night time wildlife watching. However, last week I noticed Bilbo behaving strangely on the moonlit lawn. He was dancing around the leaves and stems and I thought perhaps he was chasing moths. As I swivelled the torch I saw his prickly problem, he had found a large hedgehog. It balled up under the giant scabious, and by the time I had run in to call the (sleeping) family, it had trundled off. A couple of nights later, Bilbo found it again. I scooted him out of reach and watched quietly. Its sides heaved rhythmically and it slowly uncurled and tested the air. I saw its furry face and shiny blackberry nose. What a delight. Hedgehog numbers have declined so sharply in recent decades that they are now on our list of most endangered species. We have never seen one in the garden before but we are now on hog alert. We are quickly auditing the garden to make sure it is hedgehog friendly: now we have an excuse for all those untidy corners! It needs undisturbed places to rest and roost. We are glad that we have not used any toxic slug pellets his year. This one looked large and healthy - I hope he comes back soon.
Bilbo, the hedgehog hunter!