I didn't get much sleep last night. This isn't unusual, but for once I'm absolutely not complaining.
I was just getting myself nicely tucked into bed, a little while after midnight, when I heard a strange noise which seemed to be coming from outside. It sounded like some very tiny pigs having an argument.
I was tired, and I may have consumed some cider during the evening, so it took me a while to make sense of what I was hearing. Then it dawned on me, maybe they were tiny pigs? Suddenly I wasn't so tired, suddenly I was bounding downstairs, wrapping my dressing gown about myself as I went, and slowly peeking out of the front window.
Now we don't have a wonderful big wildlife garden, we live in an end terrace house, although luckily on the edge of a little town surrounded by farmland and moors. We have a woodland at one end of our road which was planted in the Millenium, and a beck at the other end. We see dippers and grey wagtails, the occasional heron, and we once saw a kingfisher. We see buzzards soaring, and kestrels hovering, and barely a night goes by that we don't hear the tawny owls calling. We are about as close to the wild as you can get living in a town. But we still live in an end terrace without a garden, so of course we are very limited in what habitat we can provide for our local wildlife.
Always a lover of tiny things, I decided that we would simply have to make a tiny wildlife garden in the space we have. So we have a wildflower pot, a bird feeder that is constantly stocked, a bucket pond that I recently planted with some native pond plants, a bug house, a butterfly feeder, and a pile of sticks, stones and soil for little creepies and critters to live in. It isn't much but it is the best we can provide.
A few weeks ago I looked out of the window to find a little pile of hedgehog poo next to our wildlife area, so we knew that we'd had a visitor. Of course this absolutely made my day. But to get the chance to actually see them coming into our yard, well that is something else.
So, last night when I peeked out I saw two hedgehogs circling each other right in the gateway and having a good old swearing match I was about as excited as a girl can get. They seemed quite pre-occupied with each other, so I thought I'd grab my camera and chance opening the door to get a better view. They didn't even seem to notice me as they decided between themselves who should have the rights to our messy starlings' leftovers. Eventually the smallest hedgehog reluctantly headed out of the gate and trotted off to the flats over the road (where they also get fed each night, so it didn't lose out too much).
The winner of the feeding rights to our little nature garden then wandered in to snuffle under the bushes and bird feeders to see what woodlice it could find, and what the starlings had dropped. I slowly crept after it and sat just a few feet away. Apparently it was provided for well because for an hour I watched it, and heard it, munching, crunching and slurping on the goodies it found down there. It didn't seem at all bothered by me being there, and walked within a foot or so of me a couple of times. Tired as I was, it was a truly magical experience and one I won't forget.
So, it just goes to show that you don't need to have a big wild garden to give nature a home, a four foot by three foot patch with a bird feeder, some twigs and a bucket provided enough to for this little piggy to think it worth defending. Everybody can do their bit, and be lucky enough to have their own unforgettable wild encounters.
I'd love to hear what you do to provide for your local wildlife. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me all about it, and if you like I'd love share your stories on this blog and on social media too.