Wednesday 16/6/10 - A exciting forty five minutes

It was a glorious evening in Gloucester, clear skies, slight breeze and the setting sun shedding that gorgeous richness across the landscape. I initially set off towards the orchard near the sett to see if there was any activity there, collecting bedding or feeding, which I have witnessed here lately. It was still quite light and no activity here. I watched for five or ten minutes then headed off down to the hide. As I was walking along one of the mowed pathways which wind around the farm, a sudden movement caught my eye. On one of the grass piles, where the cuttings go when Vince mows the pathways, a vixen and her cub who were resting on one of the piles jumped up and the vixen disappeared. I just stood still and the cub who had its back to me just stood and watched where his mum had gone. He was no more than thirty feet from me and was tilting his head from one side to the other as though saying "come on, mum, stop playing around". He obviously hadn't seen me. After a good thirty or forty seconds, he started sniffing around and that was when he turned, saw me and vanished into the long grass. I was really pleased to see at least one cub around. I'd seen foxes from time to time, but no cubs so far this year.

I wandered over to the area the cub had disappeared, which was right next to one of the dry ditches that run around and through the farm. I could hear movement in the ditch so lowered myself behind the long grass a little and waited for the cub to appear. What actually appeared was a badger! Now this area in early spring looked like badgers were using it as an additional sett, but I hadn't seen, or heard any activity for a couple of months. Well the badger moved up the opposite bank of the ditch and started collecting bedding by clawing at the grass and gathering it into a ball and walking backwards, rolling it along, and disappeared back towards what must be an active sett! He repeated this three times, which is great news as this sett is only about forty metres from the hide.

I then wandered onto the hide and put nuts out as usual, waited for a few mminutes, but had to get back so didn't stay long. I thought I'd check out the orchard on my way back. En route I heard something in the wild flower meadow, so crept closer. The grass and flowers are quite tall here and although I got quite close to what was obviously a badger from the noises it was making, maybe four feet, I couldn't actually see it. It was sniffing loudly, then a pause as it noisily ate something, then more sniffing. I left it alone and carried onto the orchard, but still nothing there. Although it was getting dark now, a cuckoo was still calling and the light was fantastic. All in all, a great way to spend 45 minutes!

First Visitor of the Year

As mentioned in the previous entry, Chris was coming to visit tonight in the hope of seeing a badger. Things are still pretty erratic at present, so not overly confident, although with Monday's viewing fresh in my memory, a lot more confident than I was.

Chris and myself turned up at the Barn Owl Centre at about 9.30. I filled my pockets with peanuts and as it was overcast and had been raining, light was fading fast, we went straight out into the gloom. First target area was the gate near to the sett which is normally pretty good for seeing something. I put a few nuts out and we settled down into the wet grass at the side of the footpath. It was about now the rain started falling again! It wasn't just drizzle either, but we stayed put for about twenty minutes, but no sign of any badgers. As the light was now almost gone, plus the fact we were getting wet, we set off for the hide. On the way down, we did hear a badger in one of the dry ditches, but it never materialised. Into the hide at about 10.15 with peanuts out in front, some quite close. I was even optimistic enough to put some on the door step of the hide! We waited for three quarters of an hour and nothing had shown. I had heard a badger moving behind the hide along the hedge, but it never came into the feeding area. At 11.20 I checked with Chris if he was OK for a bit longer. He said he was, but another ten minutes and I would call it a day. With a badger turning up at 11.30, if it stuck around for forty minutes, it would be well gone midnight and with work in the morning...

Just after 11.30, we called it a day in the hide and I just hoped we would see something on the way back up. We didn't, so I suggested going back to the gate near the sett where we had started the evening. We arrived there, and nothing. Feeling a little disappointed, I scanned the newly mown orchard area, but nothing out there, not even eyeshine. I literally gave the orchard one last scan with the torch and this time saw some eyeshine! I kept the beam on the animal and it was a badger. Not only a badger, but one of this years, it was tiny! It was about 20m away and had its head up and was sniffing wildly, but it stayed put for thirty seconds or more before heading for the long grass. It certainly wasn't the best view of a badger I've had, but it was first for Chris and I think he was really pleased. We went back up to the farm with a bit more of a bounce in our step than we'd had earlier. All in all, a slightly disappointed evening, but we did see one and that's what it's all about! Gone midnight by now so home to bed.

Thanks to Chris for being so patient and I hope he and his family enjoy the rest of their stay.

Here we go again!

It's been over five months since I last posted. There are several reasons for this, the main one being there has been little to report! I have been feeding the badgers, or baiting the feeding area about five nights a week. Only once in that time, until very recently, have I seen a badger near the hide. During my feeding visits, I quite often have a walk around the farm, mostly in the dark or heavy dusk, but sometimes earlier. On odd occasions I have seen badgers, especially up near the sett, so I guess the badgers are staying close to home.

This has not been very reassuring with regard to getting people down to see the badgers. Over the last week, or so, things have been improving, but my, are they out late! I've been staying 'til 10.30ish and not seeing anything at the hide, but I have been seeing more and more on the way back up. That is, an odd badger, or if I'm lucky two. On Sunday, Chris, who is from Australia and returning there on Saturday, paid a visit to the Barn Owl Centre and saw our Badger Watching signs. Although it was explained to him that chances were slim, he really wanted to try and see one whilst he was here. As I'm down there anyway, I thought why not? It's a part of this badger watching I really enjoy, being able to show someone a badger who may never have seen one before.

On Monday evening I decided to have a trial run of what we would do, albeit on my own. I went down to the gateway near the sett and waited for fifteen or twenty minutes and although I did hear some movement and chattering, I didn't see anything. I then moved to another "hotspot", but nothing there. Down to the hide and put peanuts out, near the hide and sit and wait. At 22.30, a single badger appeared from my left madly sniffing the air. He sussed me out in no time and trotted off. 22.50 and a badger appears from the main path in front of the hide, walks straight down to the hide and begins feeding about six or eight feet out. It was a lovely warm evening and sat there watching the badger feed brought back all those experiences I had last year. It was great! During the time the badger was feeding, another badger appeared, but stayed away from the hide. At one point, the feeding badger seemed to get intimidated by the newcomers presence and ran off. He was back a minute or so later. What wasn't so great was the amount of time he spent noisily sniffing around the feeding area. He must have covered every square inch! It was 23.40 when he disappeared and I could come out of the hide and go home. During the session, I firstly put a torch on the animal at quite a low level without problem. I also took two photos when it was very close to the hide, again without reaction. I'm sure due to this, and other mannerisms, that it was the small badger from last year that used to feed regularly.

I'll take my guest down to the hide tonight with a little more confidence now. Watch this space and I'll tell you how it goes.

5/1/10 - Happy New Year!

Well, hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. Back to the routine way of life of work, sleep and get out when I can, which hasn't been much lately. Since my last post in early December I have continued to feed the badgers most nights, but have not seen one during that time. I was talking to Kev Lewis down at the Barn Owl Centre the other night. He was out taking star trail pictures (which you can see on his web site). This process took him about three hours and he was in what was a "hot spot" for badgers. During his stay he saw no sign of badgers moving around, which isn't great. That is only one night, but during the time spent there, I would have hoped, he might have seen or heard something.

The tracks they use around the farm seem to be as cleary defined as ever so they are being used regularly, but I'm guessing late at night or early hours. Hopefully, with the food still going down regularly, they will return to a more sociable hour at some point, but that now may not happen until Spring.

I have been out and about a little with visits to Ham Wall RSPB site near Glastonbury, mainly to see the starlings, but whilst there I was lucky enough to see Marsh Harrier and a Bittern in flight. I've also been for some walks around Frampton on Severn and Slimbridge WWT.

I will post again, especially if there are any badgers sighted, in the not too distant future. Watch this space!

Thursday 2/12/09 - Nothing to report...

No updates for over a week, but unfortunately, nothing to update you on. The badgers have not been out when I've been at the hide for nearly three weeks. I had a good walk around the BOC last week and all three ditches that the badgers use to move around are all flooded. They can still walk down the field, but aren't doing that whilst I'm about. Over the weekend I found a log in the hedge and put it in front of the hide. I then put some peanuts under the log. I've been worried the badgers aren't turning up at all and I'm just feeding the local pheasants, so thought I'd put a little test out to see if the log is moved. Next day confirmed there were badgers accessing the area as they had dug under the log to get the nuts! Luckily it wasn't too deep or messy and proved that there are badgers still around. I wish I knew when!

I've been feeding most nights and watching occasionally, so as and when they return I will let you know.

Saturday 21/11/09 - Rain is an understatment!

Having not managed to feed or watch last night due to being busy on other things, I am hoping to visit the hide this evening and maybe see some badgers. The weather today has been atrocious. When it rains like it has been yesterday and today, I am concerned about flooding. Our house flooded in 2007 and we had to move out for six months. It was't much fun and my heart goes out to the people in Cumbria and Southern Scotland who have unfortunately flooded during the last day, or so.

I've already walked the dog this afternoon in torrential rain. It must have been bad as he wanted to come home after only a short time! I was fully kitted up and, as I've mentioned before, I like a bit of weather so made him do the "normal" walk. I think he enjoyed it by time we got back home. Whilst out I was walking along the brook behind our house checking the levels, but things were looking OK. I came in and it was almost straight back out to visit the Barn Owl Centre. When I got there Vince was there on his own as the others had all gone out fund raising. We had a quick chat and I set off down to the hide. The rain seemed to be easing a little and the wind seemed less than it had been earlier. It was just about dark and I put the feed out, including a few for the mouse, and sat there listening to the wind and rain. The mouse did eventually show up, but not the badgers. That is a week now without seeing any at the hide. I'm sure they must be feeding still as it's not cold enough to keep them underground yet, although I wouldn't blame them for staying underground today!

After about an hour I call it a day, disappointed not to have seen any badgers. I see nothing on the way back up and, as the rain has now stopped, I consider walking around the farm trying to see if any badgers are out and about. However, I'm cold and it's getting close to dinner time! I end up back at the farm just as the fund raisers get back from Oxford. They've had a good day and I have a quick coffee whilst they tell us all about it. Off home for dinner then. I'm glad the rain has stopped.-

Thursday 19/11/09 - Another windy session

I don't leave work until six tonight and I get down to the hide at about 6.30. I'm still feeding peanuts and Fruit and Fibre, but I've now run out of the fox/badger food. The food I put out every night is being eaten by something and I'm guessing the badgers are still visiting, just not when I'm about! The wind is really gusting again tonight, but at least it's dry. Due to the recent inactivity, I've dropped the net down tonight to hopefully give some confidence to any badgers that do turn up. The mouse is out and about soon after I arrive and is getting bolder than ever. He doesn't bother about me too much now, unless I make a loud noise or movement. I sit there in the dark waiting and listening, but the wind masks a lot of the noises I can normally hear. I don't mind the traffic noise being muffled somewhat, but I haven't been hearing any wild owls lately. Ironically I can hear a Little Owl calling in the night somewhere, but I'm not even sure which direction it's in. I glance at the time and half an hour has gone by already and no badgers still. I spend another half an hour waiting, but nothing appears outside the hide. This is the longest spell I've had without seeing a badger at the hide and I guess I was sort of expecting it at some point. I just didn't expect it whilst the temperature was still quite mild. As I clear the peanuts from the doorstep, the mouse is out and only about eighteen inches away. I move my hand close to the little guy and he doesn't seem worried at all. I get my hand within about four inches of the little animal before he drops behind the mesh on the front of the hide. He doesn't run even then, just waits there. That is the highlight of the evening and I make my way back to the farm. On the way back up I pick up some eyeshine in the torch beam. It's on teh main path and coming towards me and it's a badger. I stand still and wait as he approaches me, but about fifteen yards away he suddenly turns off the path and goes to the hedge. I can hear him moving throught the hedge and quietly follow him up towards the farm. When he gets to the gateway between the top and bottom field, he appears out of the hedge and trots across the path in front of me. So, they are still about, but not where I would like to see them; outside the hide! Vince is busy when I get back to the farm as they have a group of Girl Guides in the indoor flying area watching some owls being flown. I leave them to it and make my way home hoping for better luck over the weekend. I can't watch tomorrow, so Saturday is my next opportunity. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 17/11/09 - A badger at last!

I cannot watch the badgers tonight as I need to pick my daughter up at 7.00, but I go down there to feed at least. I like staying in touch with the place and go to feed when I can. Anyway, it's just gone six and I'm off down there in the dark to put some food out. Whilst walking down I see a badger working its way along a path. I stand and watch for a few seconds as he slowly disappears into the longer grass. Nice to see one outside of the feeding area. I continue down to the hide, feed and come back up without any more badgers. As I approach the farm, a Barn Owl flies through the hedge I'm walking along and I get a great view as he banks away from me and disappears back over the hedge. I always enjoy seeing owls, wild or otherwise and it makes up for not seeing the badgers so much lately.

I am only feeding again tomorrow, so no entry for then and hopefully back for watching on Thursday.

Monday 16/11/09 - An unsettled and unsettling night

I have a visitor booked in this evening but I'm not feeling overly confident about seeing any badgers after the last couple of nights. Anyway, when I arrive at the BOC, I find out the visit has been cancelled. I'm slightly relieved if I'm honest, but decide to go and give it a good go on my own. It's been wet and windy again today, the reason for the cancellation I guess. I'm in the hide for 6.30 and have added some Fruit and Fibre cereal which has been in our cupboard for a while. You never know what might bring the badgers in! The mouse is out soon after I settle down and I enjoy watching him in the torchlight. I haven't seen any sign of a badger after half an hour, then an hour. I don't give up and give it an hour and a half, but to no avail. Fruit and Fibre doesn't draw the badgers in after all. I see nothing walking back up to the farm either, and I wonder what has happened to the badgers. It's not cold as yet and I think if I was a badger I would still be out feeding up for winter on whatever I could find. Maybe they are out and about, but not visiting the hide? Who knows, but I'll keep trying to track them down for now.

Sunday 15/11/09 - Another change in the weather

I had been meaning to get to the BOC earlier this afternoon for a bit of a walk with the camcorder as you never know what you might see. By time I get there it is 4.20 and getting dark. I still go for a wander at the opposite end of the farm to where the hide is. I'm hoping to see a badger out and about. After a nice start this morning we've had a spell of rain this afternoon, but suddenly the wind has dropped to nothing, the sky is pretty clear and the temperature has dropped dramatically. As I wander around a heavy dew is forming and mist is rising from the ground in sheltered areas. I spend an hour wandering and although I stand and watch a well worn badger path for half an hour of that time, I see no badgers. I disturb a lot of Redwing, though. I go back up to the farm to collect some nuts and set off down to the hide. In the torchlight it looks like a frost is forming, but it is just the light shining on the heavy dew. It is quite misty as I approach the hide. Food out and I'm in the hide for 5.45. I see the mouse, but no badgers again. After an hour and a half I call it a night and make my way back up to the farm. Is this the start of the badgers not coming out every night? Not sure, but two no shows plus the inconsitencies of the last week, or so, is not a good sign.

Saturday 14/11/09 - A stormy day

I fed the badgers last night but didn't stay and watch. It was pretty stormy when I walked down last night; dry at the time but very windy. Walking down there in the dark on my own I made sure I stayed out from under the large oaks, just in case! It was much the same walking down tonight. The wind had abated slightly, but still pretty rough. I had already been to the Barn Owl Centre today having bought 25kg of peanuts and 20kg of wild bird seed. I dropped them off and had a look at a computer issue they had. I came over a little earlier tonight, about 5.30, to see if any badgers were out early. They weren't. I stayed until about 7.10 and no sign of anything. Perhaps they don't like the wind?? Hopefully better luck tomorrow!

Thursday 12/11/09 - Two badgers and lots of rain

It's been quite wet today and it doesn't look like stopping as I'm driving from work to the Barn Owl Centre. As I've got my work trousers on I have to put on waterproofs to keep the heavy drizzle and rain off them. Wellies as well as the grass will be soaking. Hat and fleece on the top half and I'm quite looking forward to setting off down the field in the rain. A quick chat with Vince, top up with peanuts and off into the wild night. I do quite enjoy the walk down and arrive at the hide warm and dry. Usual pattern of food out and I'm into the hide and apart from not putting my torch, camera and phone on the ledge at the front of the hide, due to the rain blowing in, and I settle in to see what will happen.

The mouse is out and about not long after I've stopped moving around and gathering the nuts I've left out for him. My favourite "game" is to put five nuts on the edge of the wood that surrounds the mulch floor of the hide. I then sit there in the dark listening for movement. When I think I've heard the mouse, I put a torch on and see how many nuts are left. Some nights he can get three or four before I even hear him. I know it sounds sad, but it can pass the time and it's nice to see him when I catch him out in the open. One time I put the torch on and there's not one, but two mice out! I didn't realise there were two on one side. I thought there was maybe one on each side. As I'm thinking this and watching, one mouse sets off and runs right around the perimeter of the floor and disappears out of the opposite corner to his mate! Perhaps they are separate and he's just helping out with the eating of the food.

In amongst all this excitement, a badger has appeared. He came from the left rear of the hide and he looks very wet! Badgers seem to look soaked to the skin when it's raining, but their thickening coat keeps them warm and dry. Before this badger is in the main area just in front of the hide, another approaches from the main path ahead of the hide looking equally wet. As they are not yet close, it's difficult to identify them, but they are now getting quite close. It turns out to be my usual pair, Margo and the Little One. As you can see from the picture, they are quite happy eating side by side and until I throw some additional nuts out there is no sign of agression. When I do throw some food out, a bit of argy bargy takes place, but only for a second or two. Margo loses this particular bout and starts sniffing around where the badgers have already been. As you know, I have been feeding some fox/badger food, like little dog biscuits, and it has been obvious that peanuts are their favourite food item as they will move through the area where the food is eating all the nuts. Once the nuts are gone, they will go back and eat the fox/badger food. Quite often, and my main reason for her name, Margo will pick up one of these biscuits and with her head held high, will trot off like a horse doing dressage looking very posh. Of course Margo, from The Good Life, was very posh and hence the name. I'm showing my age now, aren't I?

    Margo showing her claws and looking wet
Anyway, back to the action. I've fed a couple of small handfuls of extras to the badgers and they are very close. They can smell the nuts on the doorstep and Margo is sniffing her way up towards them. The step is just the wrong height to eat the nuts without climbing up onto step and so she does. A great view of a wet animal and a strong waft of wet badger. I'm always amazed, and slightly unerved, at the sight of her claws as they look big and shiny. "My, what big claws you have!" She finishes the nuts and climbs down. As she moves away, the little one comes back across the front of the hide, nose to the ground as usual. It takes about ten minutes, but eventually both badgers vacate the feeding area and I can pack up, close up and walk up to the farm, in the rain.


Monday 9/11/09 - A lovely encounter

Having discovered the badgers out early last night, it dawns on me that getting here before six isn't possible due to being at work. This was always a concern as the nights drew in and I'm not sure where it leaves me, or anyone wishing to join me watching the badgers. It may restrict it to the weekends only.

I'm fortunate tonight as I leave work early for a different reason, but it lets me get down to the Barn Owl Centre at around 5.30. I'm straight down to the hide and I'm ready to go with food out and one small torch on illuminating the area where the bulk of the food is. It seems 6.00 comes and goes in five minutes and no sign of a badger. 6.30 comes along and I've been entertained by the mouse stashing his food ready for those long winter nights when I may not be visiting. At 6.40, nearly an hour later than last night, a single badger appears from the left of the hide and he picks up a trail of nuts leading to the feeding area. At this distance, I'm not sure which badger it is, but as it draws closer I identify it as the smaller of the regulars. Not Margo. The badger is soon feeding confidently just in front of the hide and still moving closer. As he gets towards the end of the food I've put out, I whistle and throw some more nuts out to the badger. It immediately moves onto them and eats the lot! I do this again with similar results. For some reason the badger trots off to the right at this stage and it looks like he's gone for the evening. I give it a couple of minutes and then start to pack up. I'm knelt at the door sweeping the untouched nuts from the doorstep so I can close the door to the hide when I leave. I suddently realise the badger has returned coming right along the front of the hide and he reappears about two feet from me. I'm knelt in the middle of the doorway without my Buff covering my face with a badger two feet from me. I freeze. The badger comes across in front of the doorstep and begins eating the nuts I've been sweeping off the doorstep. Maybe a foot from my knees, he's happy eating peanuts. I decide to get brave and slowly move my hand into my coat pocket with a view to getting some more peanuts out. By now the badger has stopped eating and is watching me. I think he heard me first as my fleece, albeit very quietly, rustled with the movement. I whistle and move my hand towards the animal. He looks at me nervously, but only backs up a few inches. As I think he may run I drop the nuts and this seems to settle him down and he looks at the food. I withdraw my hand and he moves in right up to the doorstep. Eight inches from my knees which are resting against the inside of the doorstep. He finishes those nuts and looks up, expectantly. I whistle and this time drop the nuts on the doorstep. Again he backs up and looks like he's about to run. As soon as the nuts are down he takes an interest and moves closer. He then puts a paw tentativley onto the doorstep and lifts himself up. Here is a wild badger eating nuts off the doorstep between my knees! I can't believe how close he is and I'm grinning from ear to ear! Once he's finished the nuts he drops down and I try the same again. Unfortunately, he runs this time. I don't mind. What a fantastic thing to have experienced. This animal and Margo are real stars with the trust and bravery they show and I look forward to continuing to meeting them at every opportunity. I go back to the farm and then off home feeling pretty good. I can't watch tomorrow, only feed as I have a meeting to go to. Also, Wednesday is one of the nights I normally miss, although after tonight I could easily forget my other commitments for the next couple of nights, but that would be greedy, wouldn't it?

Sunday 8/11/09 - An early night

Having "lost" the badgers over the last week, I've been struggling to find out where they are and what time, if at all, they are arriving at the hide. I thought they may have moved later, but unless they are very late I disproved this theory last night. Tonight I decide to go early to see if they've suddenly moved their visit to the hide to around dusk. This would make sense as this is their usual behaviour, up until a month ago, at least.

The "Stranger" on the Doorstep    

I get down to the hide for about 5.20pm and put the food out for the badgers and a few nuts for the mouse. I settle in for a bit of a wait as I have about two hours before I need to be elsewhere. The mouse is out only a few minutes later and I occasionally flick a torch on to watch him collecting the nuts I've put down for him. I must admit, I am occasionally resting my eyes. Sat there on my chair in the dark, it's quite easy to let the eyelids drop, albeit only briefly. After one of these rests, I open my eyes to find a badger out in the feeding area. I quietly glance down at my mobile phone to check the time. 5.56pm. This is the earliest I've seen the badgers out and about and I'm relieved that they are still turning up at all. The badger has moved his way close to the hide and it suddenly glances up and looks at something. I follow his gaze and see another badger is approaching. Thie first badger is the larger of the two regulars I get so I'm expecting the new arrival to be the smaller animal. It isn't. This one looks like a male as his head is noticeably broader at the back giving him a larger, more agressive look. He is slightly bigger in the body too. The two badgers are soon feeding side by side the the remaining food rapidly disappears. It's quite cold tonight, about 4 degrees, and you can clearly see the badgers breath in the cold air as they exhale. I've got the stills camera ready and start to take some pictures. It's nice to get shots of the different badgers, ideally whilst looking at the camera. This is quite difficult as they constantly have noses to the ground unless they pause to listen or sniff for threats. When they do this, it's better not to move or take pictures as it can scare them off. Consequently I have lots of pictures of badgers, head to the ground. The exception is if they are on the door step when a clearer shot can be had because they are almost level with the camera rather than looking down on the animals. It's always good for animal pictures if they are taken at the same level as the animal rather than looking down on them.

       Margo (left) and the "Stranger" (right)

I've surprised when first, my regular badger climbs onto the doorstep and begins feeding, but more so when the "stranger" approaches and also climbs onto the doorstep. This is quite exciting as two animals on the doorstep at the same time doesn't happen very often. I wait until they've cleared the doorstep and climbed down. I then whistle and throw the nuts a couple of feet landing them right in front of their noses. As expected, a bit of argy bargy takes place and the male animal wins. The other badger, who I will call Margo from now on, wanders off sniffing for food closeby. The male badger stays around and I manage, after whistling, to place some more food on the doorstep. He looks at me nervously as I do this and backs up a couple of paces, but as soon as I put the nuts down his courage returns. As I withdraw my hand he moves in and onto the step and eats the nuts. Magic! I try the same manoevre again but this time he does spook and trots off into the dark. During this little, intense exchange, I hadn't noticed Margo wandering off. So that's it for tonight, some really good views, two on the doorstep at the same time and a new badger feeding off the doorstep. I wander back up to the farm and have a quick chat with Vince and it's off home to a nice dinner and a glass of wine!

Badger Fact!
Badgers claws can be up to 1.5" long.

All Pictures Copyright

Coughs and colds and irregular badgers!

I've not managed to post for a little while as I've had a cough and cold and have been feeling a bit under the weather. From 1st November after my last post I've had a cough and the sniffles and didn't watch on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. I did feed on Monday and Tuesday, but didn't on Wednesday when Vince did the feeding. Thanks Vince! I did go over for a while on Thursday, but started coughing and as it was November 5th it was pretty noisy anyway, I didn't see anything whatever the reason. Friday I fed, but it's my night out with the lads so I didn't watch. That brings me a little more up to date. On the nights I did feed, it was about the time the badgers normally turn up, around 6.30-6.40, but I saw no animals either at the hide or whilst walking there and back. With a very late show last Sunday I was concerned that the badgers had found a new route which didn't take in the hide until much later. Thursday's watch covered their normal time again and another no show. I thought about this and on Saturday decided to go over later, around 8.30, which is the time they arrived last Sunday.

Before going over to the hide I went to photograph the fireworks at Gloucester Docks. I enjoy my photography still, I just don't seem to have time to fit too much in. Unfortunately as the fireworks started, so did the rain. I don't mind the rain, but the wind was blowing right into my face, and consequently the lens. I spent more time trying to get waterdrops off the lens than actually photographing the fireworks. Once finished I set off for the Barn Owl Centre, a mile or so down the road.

I arrive at the hide at 8.20 and settle in. One dim light on, net partially down and food placed appropriately. I've brought a right feast for them tonight. I have a double helping of dog food mixed in with the small bits at the end of a box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (I don't like the small bits in the bottom of the box!). This, along with the usual helping of nuts and fox/badger food should entice them out, if there are any badgers about. I sit there expectantly with the distant sound of fireworks still going off all around. I also hear a pair of Little Owls calling, but they aren't close. I sit there until 9.30 and decide to call it a day. Another no show. I've got a few people interested in a badger watching session, but if I don't know when the animals are coming, it's a bit tricky to book anyone in. I'll have to try something different tomorrow...

Sunday 1/11/09 - Two guests on a bright, moonlit night

I've been over to the Barn Owl Centre this afternoon doing some bits on the hide and buying some felt for the roof. After the horrendous weather this morning, some proper waterproofing in the roof is probably a good idea. My two paying guests, a mum and her daughter, turn up to have a look around the centre later on in the afternoon and I wander over for a chat. The mum is a keen wildlife photographer who travels all over the world, but whose favourite is Africa, and the daughter arranges wildlife safaris all over the world for a living and has just returned from three weeks in Africa herself. No pressure then! Having said that, both are very pleasant and seem quite excited about seeing a badger, hopefully up close. Last nights encounter would be nice!

Once dark, at around 5.45, we set off for the hide and chat quietly on the way down. Once at the hide, they take their seats whilst I put some food out in the feeding area and some of the doorstep, just in case! One small torch illuminates the area where most of the food is and as we have a full moon tonight, I drop the door net down to just over half way to reduce the amount of light entering the hide. We talk in whispers for a few minutes but eventually fall silent. The mouse hasn't shown itself yet, which is slightly odd, but then I see some movement outside the hide. A rat! He cautiously moves towards the food, but is very nervous and keeps darting back to the left side of the hide. He repeats this a number of times and gets a little further out each time. My visitors do see him, although a rat isn't what we are after. Mice aren't what we're after either, but once the rat stops appearing, hopefully because badgers are nearby, the mouse takes its turn. Regardless of whether mice are our targets, or not, it's nice to see and in the absence of any badgers, it's a lot better than nothing.

Seven o clock arrives and still no badgers, I can' t even hear any moving in the hedges nearby. We do hear both Little and Tawny Owls, but even they are distant. Some fireworks are also going off, but there was more last night and the badgers didn't seem to mind at all, so I doubt that is the hold up. When seven thirty arrives, I decide to tell them things aren't looking too good and it's up to them if we call it a night, or not. We decide to give it another ten minutes, or so. It seems a perfect evening; full moon, little to no wind and not too cold.Fifteen minutes go by, then twenty. We begin chatting in whispers when the daughter sees a badger out in the feeding area. Unfortunately, it runs off no sooner than we've seen it! That is a good sign, however. At least one badger is out and about. I explain that if one runs off, sometimes it appears from a different direction after a few minutes. We wait on.

After another fifteen or twenty minutes, a badger appears down the path to the left, clearly visible in the moonlight. I'm not sure what time it is as I'm too scared to pick up my phone and check in case I frighten the animal away! The badger moves towards us along the trail of nuts I leave leading into the main area. Soon it is feeding about four feet out from the hide and slowly working its way towards the door. This is one of my regulars, the slightly larger one. I'll have to give them names, I think. That will simplify things when explaining what they are doing. As she gets close to the hide, I whistle and throw some nuts out which she eats straight away. I only do this a couple of times as she's had quite a feast already eating all the food which was meant for two badgers. Now the only food left is on the doorstep and quite nervously, she takes some food from the step giving a wonderful, close-up view of this wild animal. She trots off shortly after this, but I think she'll be back. Within a minute, or two, she is and again approaches the step. Again, very nervously, she climbs onto the step and takes a bit more food, but again runs off. This time she doesn't come back and we begin packing up. Both guests seem very pleased with their encounter with a badger who was within a couple of feet of them. I'm pleased we had any sort of encounter at all as without my guest's persistence and patience, we may have packed up earlier and had a no show.

We get back up to the centre, discussing wildlife and birds from all round the world. Vince comes out and joins in, too. We have been down at the hide for nearly three hours, maybe a new record? Thanks to Mags and Katie for a good evening.

Wednesday 28/10/09 - A great night!

It's been a nice afternoon here in sunny Gloucestershire and it's now turning into a pleasant autumnal evening. I arrive at the Barn Owl Centre at about 6.00pm straight from work. I'm relieved that I can still get here to see the badgers if I get away from work ontime. It is pretty dark by now but there is an almost clear sky and a bright moon shining, so not that dark really. As I walk across the car park I see a shooting star. A good omen?
The Support Act                         

I don't hang around once I get into the Centre now. It is a quick chat, pick up some food and off down to the hide. Although quite short, it's a nice walk down to hide, maybe four minutes. Tonight, with no wind and millions of stars and lots of autumny smells on the air, it is very pleasant. I get to the hide and no badgers out before me. I put the cameras, torches, etc, into the hide and come out to put the food out. A large bird table has been installed opposite the hide and I always wander over a put some nuts and badger/fox food onto this in the hope a fox will come along one night and jump up onto it. No luck yet, and it's too tall for a badger to access. As with last night, I put the net down tonight, just like the good old days. With some inconsistent showings last week and some badgers appearing which are not regular visitors meaning they are quite nervous, I've resorted to this for now. The views are almost as good and it still gives the opportunity for a photo or two, as you can see.

The first thing to show is the mouse. I only hear him at first as I don't illuminate the inside of the hide for obvious reasons. As it's all quiet outside the hide I decide to try and get a picture of the mouse. I move into his corner and put a diffused torch on, having already left some peanuts out for him. After the disturbance of me moving, it's not too long before he's back out. With the compact camera held down low and finger on the shutter release, as he appears I take a shot. It doesn't come out too bad and the flash doesn't bother him. He grabs a nut and runs off to stash it somewhere. A few minutes later, he's back and I manage another shot. He grabs another nut and disappears. I decide to leave him in peace and move back over as the badgers should be about soon. I've not been back in my usual position for more than a couple of minutes when I hear a badger eating. He's to the right of the hide and I can't yet see him, but he's there. As I watch, the badger moves into view coming towards the feeding area. I think he is a she and it's one of my regulars, the slightly larger of the two. Bearing in mind I haven't seen the smaller one for a few days now, I'm slightly concerned that something may have happened to the younger animal. As you see these animals more and more, you do become concerned if they don't show up for a while.

        A Gorgeous Stripey Head
Out of the darkness, another stripey face is appearing. As it gets nearer, I can see it is the younger animal I have been worried about. That's good news! Back to my regular two tonight, unless any others appear. I'm quite happy with that, one is good enough for me. Having said that, with two, you do get the interaction and little things. like when the younger one first appeared, the other one stopped eating, turns around and has a good look to see who is coming. Once identified, feeding continues, possibly at a slightly quicker rate than before! With the two badgers there, the remaining food disappears at quite a rate; the loud crunching of the fox/badger food very noticeable. I whistle and throw some nuts out and immediately both badgers converge on the nuts and start pushing each other to get a better share. I do this a couple more times and the argy bargy continues each time. This pushing appears to be friendly and if one animal has a superior postition and blocks the other animal, there is no escalation of violence; the other animal will begin sniffing around looking elsewhere for its food. I stop feeding and the badgers separate and sniff intently around the feeding area looking for anything that's been missed. They keep coming back to the door and I swear they are looking at me as though to say "Go on, give us a bit more" At one point the younger badger lies out straight with his head on his paws! It looks so comical, I almost give in and feed him some extras, but I don't. The one badger has drifted off up towards the main path and the younger animal sniffs around for a while and eventually disappears to the right of the hide. A lovely evening with some great company!

Badger Fact
A badger can dig faster than a man with a spade, allegedly.

Saturday 31/10/09 - Halloween, but no ghosts, only badgers and a mouse!

Due to being very busy at the moment, I haven't been updating the blog as regularly as I should. I have been over to see the badgers but to update the more recent sightings, I've missed a few days out. To summarise, the big event, as far as I was concerned was the clocks changing. This moved everything the badgers do to an hour earlier as, obviously, they don't change their ways the same as we do. That was what I thought, anyway. It turns out the badgers have moved to around an hour earlier, but they have been all over the place with regard to timings. Also, I've had the odd visit from a badger who I don't normally see and who is consequently quite nervous of our usual format for watching the badgers. Badgers have been turning up from about half six, which means I can just about get there straight from work. However, they have been coming out quite late some nights, up to 8.00 o clock. I'm sure this doesn't have anything to do with the changing of the clocks, but they are acting a little inconsistently at the moment. Anyway, back to what is actually happening.

My wife, Juliet, accompanies me down to the hide this evening. Both kids are out and we take the opportunity to share the badger watching. I've been promising to take her out for weeks! Due to the bridge over the canal near the centre being closed, we have to take the long way around and I arrive at the centre a little later than planned. Once in, we have a quick chat with the regulars, and Karen is there too. She has been out fundraising in Cheltenham today as a volunteer. If you think you can help in any way at the Barn Owl Centre, please give them a ring.

Juliet and myself get down to the hide just after six and we sit quietly in the dark. I say quietly, but traffic noise and fireworks seem to be ever present tonight with some fireworks going off quite close to the centre. Still, it doesn't take long for the mouse to appear and start claiming the peanuts I've put down for him. He is highly entertaining, darting around and at one point he runs between my feet! At 6.30 the first badger arrives. Due to a bright moon, I've partially lowered the net over the doorway to stop us being lit up so much. The badger doesn't notice us, however, and he moves closer to the hide. A second badger comes along about ten minutes later and is soon alongside the first. My two regulars. With the badgers now trying to fatten up for winter, when food will be a lot more scarce, and the fact their coat is appearing to get thicker, they are both looking a lot bigger now than a month ago. The badgers don't seem to mind the fireworks either and both are now near the door step. The larger of the two makes a move first and puts its paws up onto the step. I'm using a torch to illuminate the animal at this range as the torch outside doesn't have much effect at this close range. The two badgers don't mind and after the first badger clears the step, I whistle and throw some food out to distract them. I then put some more food onto the step and the second badger now has its turn. The food I put on the step was very close to me but the badger moves in and begins eating about a food from both the torch I'm holding and my free hand. As this extra helping of food is finished off, I try and put some more food on the step, but one of the badgers sees my hand and trots off. I stop feeding now and after a few minutes the other badger disappears into the dark. Another really good evening for seeing the badgers up close and always nice to see the mouse. Good to share with someone, too!

Tuesday 20/10/09 - Guests in tonight, what will they see?

After some heavy rain this afternoon, the weather has cleared up a little so it doesn't look too bad for my two guests this evening. I meet Kath and Wayne at the Barn Owl Centre at about 6.45pm and we have a quick chat, about badgers, of course. Kath has seen them before, but Wayne has only seen the unfortunate ones by the side of the road. He has brought his camcorder along to see if he can get some footage. Armed with several torches, lots of nuts and some badger/fox food, we set off for the hide. It is quite windy and, due to the cloud cover, quite dark already. As we are approaching the hide, a Barn Owl flies out from one of the trees across the field. It isn't a great view due to the low light, but the white underside is clearly visible. On arrival at the hide I get them seated, get some food out and put up a torch shining onto the ground a metre in front of the hide doorway. I put some food onto the doorstep just in case we are lucky enough to get a badger really close. I don't put the net down all the way, just use it to restrict a bit of the light reflecting from the clouds. It's 7.00pm.

Recently, the badgers have been arriving around 7.20pm and this time comes and goes. As does 7.30. At 7.40, a badger approaches from the left hand path, but it keeps close to the long grass not coming into the feeding area at all and trots off behind left of the hide. I'm hoping he'll reappear from the right side of the hide as this is one of their usual tricks. Fifteen minutes later, he's not reappeared. At around 8.00pm a badger shows from the main path working his way down the line of nuts I left on the way in. He gets to within four or five metres, but then turns and trots off the way he came. This isn't looking good. I decide that I will put a less intense light up. I'm using the same LED torch as Sunday night, but it does look bright out there tonight. I use an identical torch, but with a flash gun diffuser over it to reduce the intensity and I hope that may give the badgers a bit more confidence.To keep our spirits up, the mouse has appeared and at least this little animal is confidently strolling around the floor of the hide, picking up and running off with peanuts I put down earlier. We must have been sat very quietly because this is the most active I've seen the mouse who at times comes very close to our feet.

I'm just beginning to think that we may have a no show when the smaller of the two regulars appears from the right side of the hide. He moves across the front of the hide and onto the bulk of the food. He sits there happily eating and slowly moves closer to the hide. I'd put a bit more food out than normal, expecting two animals and not throwing as many extras as normal out after the main course was over. This means with one animal doing all the eating, progress is slow. At one point he trots off to the left of the hide, but it looks like a "temporary trot off" rather than a "goodnight, I'm gone trot off". Thankfully he reappears, further out and quickly sniffs his way back into the main feeding area, about three feet from the door. At this point I decide to throw some nuts out to try and tempt him nearer the door, so I whistle, throw a few nuts out and he immediately comes over to where they've land and begins eating. That seems to work and as I'm slowly and carefully getting some more food from my pocket, the mouse does a rather loud sprint across the floor, kicking up some of the bark and making quite a noise. The badger looks towards the sound and trots off. This time it is a "goodnight, I'm gone trot off". I don't think he'll be back. I let the others know but we decide stick it out for another five minutes. Unfortunately, I was right and the badger doesn't reappear. We decide to make a move and after sitting quietly for over an hour and a half, we get up to stretch our legs. I carefully check outside to make sure nothing is about, collect my things  and we walk back up to the farm. Again, on the way back we see a Barn Owl in the darkness leaving a tree and flying off across the field. Twice in one night is good, I've not seen the Barn Owl very often, but we did tonight.

Back at the farm and we all have a chat about wildlife encounters and then my two visitors leave seemingly well satisfied with their evening. It was a bit touch and go for a while, but the badgers came through in the end, thankfully!

Sunday 18/10/09 - Showing my hand too early?

After a great night last night I set off with high hopes this evening. I'm down at the hide just after seven with food out (and some in for the mouse). I settle in and almost straight away I hear the mouse moving around. I put a torch beam down into the corner of the hide and it isn't long before I can see him moving around just outside the netting which covers the front of the hide. As the door opens outwards, the mouse is still protected pretty well as it comes back against the wall he uses. I watch him for a few minutes as he takes the peanuts and runs off with them. I think this is one mouse that won't be hungry this winter!

A lovely shot of a badger feeding on the doorstep     
The first badgers shows at about 7.30 and he catches me by surprise as one minute there is nothing out there and suddenly a badger is six feet from me. He is eating quite happily and moving into the circle of light that my small torch is illuminating. The light doesn't seem to bother the badgers at all nowadays. When I replace the batteries, the whole area is lit up like Wembley Stadium and they can act very nervously then. I normally use a small flashgun diffuser to soften and reduce the light when batteries are new. I've tried various lighting options and one of the small LED lights is still the least intrusive, but adequate options. My trusty handheld rechargeable LED is getting a bit tired in the battery longevity now, but the badgers don't seem to mind this one either. Luckily, nor does the mouse.

           A badger moves in for a closer look
A second badger has appeared from the path to the left and is soon alongside the first badger. This is my regular duo and as the food diminishes, I whistle and throw some more out. A bit of argy bargy and a smile in the dark. Both animals are now very close to the doorstep and the smaller animal is the first to make a move. He confidently feeds off the doorstep and after last nights success I "show" him my hand as I feed. The looks slightly alarmed, but only backs up a step or two after the whistle signals some food is on its way. I drop the food onto the door step and he is moving onto the step straightaway. The second badger is now showing an interest in the door step area too. Again, I whistle and move my hand into clear view. The larger animal takes one look and trots off to the right. The younger animal stops and stares as I place some more peanuts onto the doorstep. He moves in and eats them. I decide to try again, this time with the camera in the other hand. I whistle and move my hand into plain view. He looks at my hand and this time moves towards it. In the picture, above, you can see the badger moving towards my hand ready for the nuts to be released. Although it doesn't look that close in the picture, he got within about six inches of my hand before I bottled it and released the food and withdrew my hand. Wow, that was exciting! I stop feeding at this point and the grin doesn't fade as I wait for the badgers to vacate the feeding area so I can leave the hide without scaring them. The grin is still there as I get back to the farm and tell my little tale to Vince.

Badger Fact
A female badger uses "delayed implantation" when mating. This allows the female to mate at any time and if eggs are fertilised she can put them "on hold" until the correct time of year ensuring she will not only have cubs, but will have them at the prime time of year.

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