The prodigal’s return after playing ‘poo sticks’ with a new prickly pal

Gone (for a while) but hopefully not forgotten.

Unlike the Prodigal Son I have not frittered away my time or money, I have just been taking a break from cerebral activity and spending more time on manual work in the garden.

I’ve also been making friends with a rather prickly chap who began to make his presence known in the garden in April.

To begin at the beginning.

Despite two years of the Covid crisis, and the total mismanagement of the whole thing by an incompetent government, our little household had come out the other side in reasonably good nick.

The problem is whether we HAD really come out the other side or was Covid just lurking in the background waiting to strike again when we (or rather the government) let our defences down.

Luckily for Johnson the Tsarist Putin decided to invade Ukraine.

That certainly took our mind off Covid and Partygate and Durhamgate and all the other gates opening and closing around the Palace of Westminster.

My Muse has listened to me vehemently spouting my feelings at the TV news, or news feeds on my phone or just at the world in general and expressed surprise that I hadn’t written to the Guardian or the Telegraph or Mirror expressing my anger and signing off as Frustrated of Farnborough.

As it happens I have vented my frustrations in the direction of newspaper editors but nowadays you don’t really know which newspaper belongs to which group and if the letter comes in from a Mirror website it could easily get diverted to another website of Reach plc, which owns not only the Mirror, but also North Wales Live, which includes many of the newspapers I have worked for in the last 50+ years.

Nowadays a complaint just goes round and round in ever decreasing circles until it disappears up the fundamental orifice of the daemon who has a red hot finger on the button.

That is why, rather than blow my top, I turned my attention to the wildlife in our garden.

Along with all the other residents and visitors, ranging from sparrows, robins, tits, pigeons, finches, frogs, newts and the occasional fox passing through looking for a friendly vixen, or one of the latter sitting in our front garden letting the world know she was looking for Fabulous Mr Fox, we encountered a new member of the menagerie leaving his calling card.

The calling card in question was left near the back door and was black, about an inch and a half to two inches long and the thickness of a pencil. I have no idea if it had any particular smell as, unlike many of the wildlife experts, I wasn’t going to let my nose get that close.

We ruled out fox, because we know the size of their output.

At the end of the day it could really only be one thing – hedgehog.

We had no problems with a hedgehog either living in the garden or passing through on his way to a nice nocturnal nosh – not even if he was looking for a Miss Tiggywinkle with plans for a bit of moonlight mischief.

In fact we would be quite happy if he made his home in our patch.

Last year we thought there was a hedgehog around and we even bought some proper hedgehog nibbles to feed it along with a dish of water.

Unfortunately, although we left the food and drink out each night for over a week, there was no return.

It did mean, however, that we had appropriate food in case this time our visitor decided to use our garde as a regular trail.

I put the dishes of nibbles and water out at dusk and next morning they were empty.

This went on for a few nights and, despite the emptying of the dishes, there were no more bits of poo left around the back door (more about that later).

I still couldn’t be absolutely certain it was a hedgehog eating the delightful delicacies I left out – it could have been a large family of field mice, or even their bigger ‘bad’ cousins who tend to enjoy a jolly tune from a pied piper.

Determined to satisfy my curiosity, and not wanting to go to the expense of an outdoor camera, I put a fine dusting of flour around the feed dishes to see if I could recognise the footprints.

The following morning there were very clear prints in the flour by the dishes which were quite clearly those of a hedgehog, you could even see the tiny pads and the pinprick claw marks.

In the flour further away from the dishes there were signs of disturbance but no clear prints to show where he had come from or where he had gone.

Since then we have found our nocturnal friend likes the hedgehog nibbles, suet pellets I use for feeding the birds, and even a bit of banana now and again.

There are mornings when the food remains in the bowl, sometimes even two or three nights in a row, but our prickly pal always comes back.

I have continued to lay the odd flour ‘trap’ close to the feeding station to get an idea of direction of travel and have discovered Harry (as we have named him) sometimes goes from back garden to front via a gap under the gate, and at others does a turn around the garden either before or after partaking of his supper.

We have also found another indication of his nightly trail and this is where ‘poo sticks’ comes into it. Note that is ‘poo’ with a lower case p and no h.

Yes, I am talking about his excrement.

First we noticed it on a paved area alongside a gravel path near the greenhouse. Just a couple of droppings and not every night. It did seem that he wandered away from his dining area before disposing of any waste. A very hygienic hedgehog.

A few weeks later My Muse was heading for the greenhouse when she spotted a black splat of something on the step. If it was Harry’s it did look as though his digestion had been upset. Whatever it was it certainly had not upset his appetite as the next few nights he tucked in as usual.

The odd bits of hedgehog poo turn up every now and again and, despite the odd nights he does not turn up, even though his table is always reserved, he always turns up again.

Although hedgehogs are supposed to roam across a wide area they have to make a home somewhere and come the autumn we will be making sure there are places, and material for bedding, where he can tuck himself away out of the cold if he wants to.

I must admit, concentrating on the garden and its wild occupants seems to have busted that block which seemed to be inhibiting my writing.

After my very long break I had intended to put up a new post at the beginning of the second half of the year, which initially I believed, as so many probably do, would be July the first.

Then I did my maths and realised that the year is 365 days long but July the first is the 182nd day and half way would be 182 and a half days. This would takes us to mid-day on July the third, which is today.

I may be an hour or so out but this is close enough.0%

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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