Country mouse spots a hedgehog

Sightings to savour.

I was lazily hoeing around the lavender, watching the bumblebees zip in for a feed, when my eye was caught by an altogether more impressive insect: a hummingbird hawk moth. This insect surpasses all others in the joy it brings, partially because it only appears on the longest, hottest days, but also for its habit of returning to a favoured plant or border day after day; it is a most welcome guest from overseas.

The brown, fluffy, golden blur hovers beside a plant before planting its long proboscis into the flower to seek out the nectar. W. H. Hudson wrote about ‘the high honour and distinction on the fortunate beholder’ and Virginia Woolf admired its ‘tremulous ecstasy’ when feeding. Known also as a merrylee-dance-a-pole, it is a summer treasure.

During the past week, I have also seen three live hedgehogs these days, even a dead one on the road is noteworthy. Their population has been devastated from about 30 million in the 1950s to fewer than a million today. They are losing out to their only predator, the badger, whose population has soared over the same period.

Forty years ago, my father stopped his car to show me a dead badger; last week, I stopped my car so that my children could see a live hedgehog. How the times have changed.


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