Autumn Hedgehog Workshop

November 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

For many people their first view of hedgehogs may be have been of Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggywinkle or from the road safety TV adverts teaching us to safely cross the road. Hedgehogs have an endearing reputation amongst the British public even though they are a nocturnal predator covered in spikes, they were after all named "Britain's Favourite Species" back in 2013.

For a while now I've been wanting to capture some photos of Hedgehogs, the problem with photographing Hedgehogs is they are only active at night. Nighttime wildlife photography is a difficult task unless flash is used and finding hedgehogs is also quite difficult. Earlier this year I noticed Kevin Sawford was running a Hedgehog Photography and Conservation Workshop with Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue. Having been on one of Kevin's workshops previously I quickly signed up. The workshop was being run in November, perfectly timed to take advantage of the wonderful autumn leave coverage across the woodland floor. There is something about Hedgehogs and autumn leaves that I always think of when thinking about Hedgehogs.  

The workshop was being held at a Suffolk Wildlife site. Not knowing what to expect on arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find the workshop was based at a small wooden visitors centre amongst the woods. It was the perfect base for a day of learning and photographing Hedgehogs. The day started with two presentations, one from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue and one from Kevin. The presentation from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue gave us all an insight into Hedgehogs and their current plight.

 

Some insights of the presentation

  • Hedgehogs are disappearing at the same rate as Bengal Tigers.
  • Numbers have decreased from over 36 Million in the 1950's to less than  an estimated 1 million today.
  • Hedgehogs are being slowly poisoned by our use of pesticides and slug pellets on their main food sources.
  • Our enclosed gardens are restricting their natural ranges.
  • Our tidy gardens are restricting them from finding shelter and food.
  • A Hedgehog can survive a fall of 6ft its spikes act as shock absorbers if its able to tuck itself into a ball.
  • Hedgehogs have two muscles that are very important to their survival, one allows them to curl up in a ball and the other acts as a drawstring to tightly close the ball.
  • During hibernation Hedgehogs don't actually sleep but enter a state of torpor where their body temperature drops, their heartbeat rate decreases and breathing slows.

 

What can we do to help Hedgehogs

  • Put a 13cm hole in your fences to allow Hedgehogs to roam easily
  • Put up a log pile to allow them shelter and a source of food
  • Don't use slug pellets or any pesticides in our gardens
  • Put out tinned dog food mixed with crushed dog biscuits and some water as supplementary feeding, never put out bread and milk. Stop putting food out if you attract rats as rats are a predator of Hedgehogs.

 

The Hedgehog Photography

The woodland setting with fallen autumn leaves on the ground was the perfect setting for Hedgehog photography. There was a large number of Hedgehogs brought along by Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue to ensure no one hedgehog was used too long, affected by its apperance or harmed in any way during the workshop. The hedgehogs were monitored at all times by Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue and only handled by fully trained people. You could say 'no hedgehogs were harmed during the making of my images'. The hedgehogs we placed into natural settings with everyone a suitable distance away from them as not to disturb them. That didn't stop the hedgehogs from coming to investigate us laying on the ground. At one point a hedgehog was only a few centimetres from the front of my lens, happily sniffing the air whilst I watched on. One thing I learnt long ago is the need to get eye level with wildlife. Hedgehogs are no different, and it means you are always laying on the wet woodland ground. Waterproof trousers/jacket and a right angle viewfinder are two very useful items to bring along to a workshop like this. Unfortunately I found out my 'waterproof' trousers are no longer waterproof so I did go home quite wet, every item of my clothing was soaked except my socks!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't great, it was a heavily overcast day with periods of rain. Being in a wood didn't help, it meant there was low light. I had to push the cameras ability shooting nearly wide open, with a slowish shutter speed and high ISO. Thankfully this didn't stop me from getting some images I was happy with. You can see a selection of the images I took in the slideshow below.

If you would like to join Kevin Sawford on one of his workshops you can find out more information here. You can find out more about Hedgehogs and what to do if you find a hedgehog that needs help with advice from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue here.

 

 


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