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.

All pictures copyright

Saturday 17/10/09 - A busy night

Looking forward to getting over to visit the badgers this evening as I've not made it for the last three nights due to other places I needed to be. I did manage to feed on two of those nights, so still feel I'm getting some contact with them, if only leaving my scent behind!

On my own in the hide, food out, including some Fox and Badger Food (what is says on the tin), and net up and anticipating what may turn up tonight. First thing to show is the mouse. He's getting bolder now and coming out into the middle of the floor to investigate any dropped peanuts, of which I always ensure there's at least a few there. Not long after, a badger appears from the main path and heads for the open door of the hide outside of which the bulk of the food I put out is placed. It finds some of the badger and fox food, a bit like small dog biscuits, and starts crunching one up. What a racket! Crunch, crunch, crunch!

The badgers have followed the dusk from 10.30 at night in July down to about 7.20 fairly consistently until about a week, or so back. They are still turning up at about 7.20 although it is quite dark at this time now. I'm guessing they have reached their "early limit" and won't follow the earlier dusk any more. Is this a normal pattern for some badgers to take? Not sure until I've learnt a lot more than I know already...

                           The Little One!

A second badger has appeared and both are now close to the hide. Amazingly, the mouse is still out collecting his food and from my perspective, he is sometimes less than two feet from the much bigger animals, who aren't adverse to eating a small rodent, or two, given the opportunity! The mouse, of course, is inside the hide and the badgers aren't so he is safe from them for now. I start feeding a few extras to the two badgers outside. I hear a Little Owl call from close by. I tend to hear the Little Owls around dusk rather than into the night, but on the odd occasion they are very active and vocal on into the dark. I sit there, smiling, as I watch the two badgers just outside the hide and the mouse running around inside the hide. It's about now that a sudden noise on the roof grabs my attention. Sat there in the dark with the noise of the badgers eating and sniffing, a sudden noise this close by certainly wakes me up. Scratchy steps take a wander around the roof and I assume it must be the Little Owl I heard earlier. He stays for a minute then flies off, although I don't see him. I suppose it could have been anything, but an owl is most likely. For that minute I'm sat there watching the two badgers, the mouse and listening to the footsteps on the roof! Good fun.
He likes that new badger food!            
The badgers start investigating the food on the doorstep and are soon, individually, eating off the step. I take some pictures and try and put a bit more food on the step. The badgers are now watching my hand appear from the darkness inside the hide, but a whistle and the appearance of food makes them inquisitive rather than scared. One does trot off, but the younger animal doesn't; he just watches. Once my hand is clear, he moves in and eats the nuts. The other animal is back already so the sight of my hand presumably didn't scare him too much! If I can get them used to movement and a bit of rustling of clothes, that will only help when visitors are present. I stop feeding at this point; they've had enough of my food and need to get out and find some more natural snacks to eat. I wander back up to the farm and after a quick chat, it's home to a glass of wine and feet up.

Badger Fact!
During the autumn, badgers spend a great deal of time feeding
to build up their fat reserves ready for the coming winter

All pictures copyright

Thursday 15/10/09 - A wet night

The weather this evening is pretty horrid. Heavy, soaking drizzle is falling with heavier rain falling every so often. Oh well, you've got to get on and do the things you enjoy. As someone once said, "It's never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes". Off down to the hide, peanuts in my coat pockets and a torch or two to hand. Due to the weather it is pretty dark already, although it's barely 7.00pm yet. The drizzle is making it quite foggy, it seems very gloomy out here, but in all honesty, I like a bit of  "weather" and this is certainly a bit of weather. Now the roof is on the hide it's a lot cosier in there now. Don't get me wrong, the front wall is still mesh with a scrim net over and as the roof hasn't been felted, water still drips in between the sheets of wood. At least the rain doesn't fall directly onto my head as it used to.

                   A rather wet badger!

Food out, some on the doorstep and a single torch on, a couple of nuts down for the mouse and I settle down, contented at being out there and not getting wet, a bit like sleeping in a tent when it's raining. About 7.20 and I hear the mouse out and about. I shine the torch down into the corner and there he is, little eyes twinkling in the light. I wonder if he appreciates the roof as much as I do? I check outside and a single badger is coming down from the main path towards the hide. As he draws closer, you can see he looks soaked. When you are only that high and walking through long, wet grass, I guess you do get rather wet. He looks quite happy feeding on nuts and dog food, though. Eventually he is right outside the hide and I whistle and throw a few extra nuts out. As he's on his own tonight he has already had a good feed, so I don't offer too many extras. Once I've stopped, his nose draws him onto the door step for the final few nuts. He moves along the doorstep getting ever closer to me and is eventually only a foot away from me. The think a wet dog smells bad, try a wet badger! He finishes off the door step nuts and then sits down and looks at me as though saying "where are the extras tonight, then?". I can't resist and whistle and throw a few more out. Now at this point, the mouse may be jealous at me feeding the extra nuts to the badger as he suddenly sprints across the hide floor scattering wood chips in all directions. This makes quite a noise and with one look the badger races off into the night. Thanks mouse!

I don't think the badger will be back so collect my things up, shut up the hide and make my way back. Whilst walking back up, I realise that I haven't seen badgers on the way back up for a little while now. It used to be a regular occurence and I wonder why? Perhaps they have changed their route to make the best of autumn foods, maybe they are learning to avoid me? Not sure which, but I did enjoy seeing them out there with no hide or anything between us and hope this will start up again at some point.

Badger Fact!
Badgers normally have two or three cubs in a litter.

Wednesday 14/10/09 - Coughing and badgers don't mix

I was unable to watch the badgers last night, but did manage to get over and feed them. I didn't see anything whilst there last night, so nothing to report for Tuesday.

Tonight, when I'd normally miss watching the badgers, I decide to go over with my dad seeing as I'd not watched last night and he is happy to pop over every now and then. We get down to the Barn Owl Centre and say our hellos to Vince and Juliette. Pick up some nuts and off down to the hide. I always enjoy the anticipation of approaching the hide, wondering what I may see tonight. Will it be something spectacular like six or seven badgers, or the more usual two? I really don't mind. If the badgers turn up and I can sit and watch for half an hour, I'm happy!
A Great View!                             
I position my dad sat a couple or three feet back into the hide, square on to the door. I sit to the right of the door as usual. Food out, single torch on illuminating an area a metre out from the hide and the wait begins. This is when I discover that my dad has a bit of a cough! He clears his throat a couple of times, but the urge grows and he has to have a full blown cough. That will keep the badgers at bay! This happens every five or ten minutes and the time ticks by. Eventually he seems to get it under control and, much later than normal, at 7.50, a badger turns up from the left path. I've put new batteries in the torch tonight and it is very bright. The animals doesn't get into the feeding area before it trots off towards the hedge on the left and behind the hide. I decide to take down the torch fearing the badgers find it too bright. As it's a bit overcast this evening, the light reflecting off the street lights and the city in general and consequently the ambient light levels are quite high. You would certainly notice a badger out in the grass area in front of us. Another badger appears from the main path and is heading for the door of the hide. Good. I'm now waiting for my dad to cough again, but he seems to have it under control now. We only get one badger this evening, but he does come up and feed off the doorstep in the end. We get some nice views, but as he's the only one, I don't feed any additional food. It takes about ten minutes, but eventually the badger wanders off. We pack up and after a brief chat, it's home to a nice cup of tea!

Badger Facts!
There are eight different species of badgers. We have the Eurasian Badger (Meles Meles) in the UK which is where this species is most common in all of Europe.

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Monday 12/10/09 - A first for me!

The sky looks fantastic as I drive off down to the Barn Owl Centre. The setting sun is lighting the few clouds up from below and it looks great. Within five minutes I'm driving up to the centre along the drive and I see a Little Owl sat on one of the large trees near the drive. I stop and take a bit of video, although I don't get that frame filling shot I'd like with only a 12x optical zoom, it's unmistakably a Little Owl. I keep considering buying a supplementary telephono lens that screws into the front of the camcorder for a bit more "reach", but don't know how well they perform. Does anyone use one? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

As I'm getting out of the car, Vince turns up and he wanders over and we chat about the owl. He's still there, watching us. He suddenly flies off and almost immediately another comes from behind us and follows the first. He must have been sat on one of the barns. Vince and myself wander into the centre and I pick up several handfuls of nuts which go into my coat pockets. I set off for the hide, camcorder in hand, and as I'm walking across the flying area, I hear a Little Owl calling, followed by a second a bit further away. The closer one isn't too far away and appears to come from the next field. I change course and go out of the top of the flying area and hear the owl again. He must be sat on one of the natural perches put there for the centre's birds to perch on. Without the benefit of having the sky behind it, I can't make it out too well, but as I get closer I can see it. It doesn't hang around as I approach, and flies off into the dusk. I walk out of the field into the lower field where I normally start to leave a few nuts and as I do so, a Tawny Owl calls close by. I look around and get a great view of a wild Tawny flying over the field with the darkening, but spectacular sky behind it. That's two species of owl in less than three minutes! The Tawny flies into a tree the other side of the field and calls. I almost go over to see if I can get a better view, but with the light as it is, the badgers could turn up soon.

I continue on down to the hide and put the food out, giving the odd whistle as I do so. No dogfood tonight, my dog hadn't been fed when I left! As a substitute, I found a slightly out of date jar of peanut butter the other day and have been meaning to bring it down. Thinking I'd be well prepared, I brought a plastic fork down to dish some up, but it's not man enough and breaks! I look around and see the piece of wood I use as a doorstop. That'll do. I stick it in the jar and put some peanut butter onto the grass in front of the hide and, of course, some on the doorstep. I now have a stick with peanut butter all over the end of it and I'm not sure what to do with it. I decide to put it just outside of the door; perhaps a badger will lick it clean? I'm not putting the net down at present, so sit a couple of feet back in the hide on a chair. I have a single torch setup outside of the hide, as per usual and I'm just settling down, camcorder and torch in hand. I hear something down in the left hand side of the hide; the mouse is out and about. I put the torch on briefly and there he is,eyes twinkling. I decide to take some film, if he cooperates. I put the light on and he doesn't run away, so begin filming. Positive ID please, if you look at the video! Field or Wood? I check outside and a badger is approaching from the main path. I sit contentedly listening for the mouse and watching the badger get closer. Suddenly some movement catches my eye. A silent, ghostly figure passes the hide; a Barn Owl. I quickly stand up so I can watch him disappear into the dark. He was definitely hunting, head down, quite slow progress and a stunning view. They always seem to light up, even in the dark, but it's not quite dark yet and he looked magnificent. The badger was still far enough away not to scare when I stood up, although he did stop and look hard for a few seconds.

That is a first for me; three species of owls in less than half an hour. I've never seen three species of owls in the wild in a day before, probably a week! There's one of those natural highs I mentioned a few weeks ago. Well worth the time invested in sitting alone in the dark!

The badger is now close by and happily eating nuts. He's approaching the blob of peanut butter and as he reaches it, he doesn't even sniff, just wolfs it down. It's true, they do like peanut butter! A second badger has appeared from the left of the hide, quite close already. He walks across the front of the hide and starts feeding, only a foot or two out. He looks to be making up for lost time as the other has been there for ten minutes already. He moves towards the door and discovers my peanut butter covered stick. He sniffs it and looks slightly puzzled. He then picks up the stick and trots off with it! I peer round to the left of the hide, but he's not in sight. A minute or two later, he's back, but without my door stop.

I now begin throwing additional nuts out to them and a bit of argy bargy takes place. I whistle and feed several times and then stop. They both now sniff around and the smaller one finds the nuts and butter on the doorstep. He licks the one smear of butter, then starts on the nuts. A third badger has appeared and it makes its way over to the door where the other two are. I manage to get some more nuts onto the doorstep and the larger of the first two badgers smells them, then starts eating them. The newcomer is showing an interest in the doorstep too and as the other one departs, he moves in and sniffs where some peanut butter was. There must be a bit on the camo netting as he starts to tug at it. As the netting is stapled to the step, he has to pull pretty hard and you can see just how powerful these animals are. He does eventually manage to pull some netting off and I worry he may eat it. He doesn't, he just drops it and then carries on sniffing around. One of the other badgers has already left and the other is almost out of sight on the main path. The newcomer sniffs his way towards the hedge to the left and suddenly, I'm on my own. I pack up the torches and camera, check outside to make sure nothing has come back and step outside. I can't see my stick, so have a bit of a search for it and it's gone. It's either been taken into the hedge or he's eaten it!

That was a special evening what with the owls and three badgers, all of which were feeding at the doorstep. Back to the farm and a quick chat over a coffee. A wild Tawny is now in the usual place in the tree behind the aviaries. But it's time for me to go, so I head off home feeling a little less stressed than I was.

Sunday 11/10/09 - A cold, clear night

After some drizzle this morning, the day has brightened up with a nice, sunny afternoon. As I went to the BOC yesterday, I don't go over this afternoon, but do get over after dinner for the badgers. I get there a little earlier than of late and I am soon in the hide, dog food and nuts in place, including the doorstep, one small torch on and we're into the wait. That clear afternoon has turned into a clear evening, with a definite Autumnal chill in the air tonight. The mouse is out down in the front left hand corner of the hide and I occasionally put the torch on him. The tiny little creature is fantastic, so quick to move. I chuck a nut, or two, down for him and it's great to see him go over to it, pick it up and turn and leave the hide to go and stash it somewhere. A single badger has appeared from the main path and is coming towards the hide. I happen to be looking at the tree opposite the hide when a sudden, white streak goes right across the sky; a shooting star and a good one at that! For a second I thought it may reach the ground, but it didn't.
A nice wet nose                        
Back to the badgers. They are now feeding closeby and I'm getting some great views. With nuts on the doorstep, I'm eagerly awaiting the moment when they sniff out the food and climb onto the step and start feeding right in front of me. I've already started throwing some additional food down and the usual tussle takes place, a bit of pushing and shoving trying to get a bigger share of the food. Fun to watch.

The badgers are now looking bigger than they were only a couple of weeks ago. I guess they are eating as much as possible to fatten up a little for winter, which from the temperature in the hide, is only just around the corner. Badgers don't hibernate like the Hedgehog or Dormouse does; it may be less active through the winter and stay underground for several days at a time, but doesn't actually slow its body down and sleep through the cold months. I am interested to see how the badgers here react over the winter, bearing in mind I only started watching  them back in July. I haven't watched them through a winter as yet, but intend to be out as much as I can keeping an eye on things and hopefully seeing them from time to time.

                         The last nut!
The smaller badger is now eating off the doorstep. I'm sat on a chair, but am leaning forwards and my head is no more than eighteen inches from the badgers head. Every now and then he pauses, looks at me and sniffs the air, but keeps eating. Once the nuts are gone I throw a few more out and whilst it is sniffing and eating, I place some more on the step. He's back straightaway and with the torch on him he looks immaculate. A beautiful animal in lovely condition.

I stop feeding now. The second badger has been sniffing around the feeding area, but has wandered off already. The smaller one is hovering around in front of the hide, hoping for some more food, but I don't offer any more. He has a sniff around in ever widening circles and ambles off looking for food of a more natural variety. I check nothing is outside and step out, remove the torch hanging off the front of the hide, check I've left nothing behind and shut the door. I always leave a few nuts when I leave in case other badgers appear. I walk back up to the farm with a torch on tonight. As it is clear, with no moon and no light reflecting off the clouds its difficult to make out the path clearly and I always fear I might step on a badger by accident! I hear movement in the hedge on the way back up, but see nothing. Once back at the farm, a cup of coffee and a chat with Vince and Juliette and a wild Tawny turns up calling from the tree nearest the aviaries. Always nice to hear, better to see, but not tonight. He's there, quite close, but stays within the tree. Maybe tomorrow night?

Badger Fact!
Badgers have a gestation period of 7–8 weeks and give birth to 1-5 offspring

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Saturday 10/10/09 - A sunny afternoon at the Centre

It's been a busy few days for; Wednesday I was back late from work, too late to even go over and feed. Thursday I had a meeting at 6.30, but did manage to get over and put the food out. When I arrived, Vince mentioned that they were "down there" putting the roof on. I wandered down, and they were! I put the food around whilst they were still working. It looks a bit more waterproof now! Friday night I was out, but again managed to feed the badgers before I went out, but didn't stay.

So, Saturday is here and it's a lovely day. I decide to have my visit to the Barn Owl Centre today and after taking my daughter to her job for 12.30, I'm straight to the BOC. When I arrive a photography day is taking place. There are six or eight photographers in the lower field and at present they are working with Leighton, the Buzzard. I meet Karen and her brother. We all enjoy nature so we sit there in the sun talking about all sorts of things. Occasionally a Buzzard, or two, spirals over, calling. We also see a Jay, which I've not seen here before. The photography day participants come back up for a break and Leighton too. Everyone, including Rob, the handler, disappears into the aviaries leaving Leighton out in the flying area. He looks around for a worm, but finding nothing he flies to the telegraph pole that supports one of the CCTV cameras and sits up there looking around. This is the level of trust you can see with some of the birds. When Rob comes back out, Leighton  dutifully comes back down to a post, then the glove, and he's off for a well earned rest. The next bird due out is Turner, one of the Eagle Owls. He will be taken down to the wild flower meadow to offer some interesting shots to the photographers. There are now about ten or twelve visitors here, so Vince brings them down to see Turner doing his stuff for the photographers. It's a wonderful image, the Eagle Owl flying over the colourful flowers and perching on an old stile amongst the flowers. Vince takes us back up to the flying area and he is going to fly Kaln, one of the other Eagle Owls. This bird is always impressive to see flying and on such a lovely day makes his colours even more spectacular. Kaln keeps looking down to where he can hear Turner being flown. Eventually he has to go and take a look and flies down to the big Oak near where Turner is flying. These two birds are happy flying together, so this isn't a problem. Vince calls him and the big owl flies back up. He is flown close to the visitors and Vince keeps the information coming. It's quite funny that if he talks for a little too long without getting Kaln to fly for a snack, he's off down to the bottom field again. As ever, he returns when called and glides back into the flying area.

The photographers are now coming back up and stop off to take some pictures of Kaln. Vince gets some of them led down in the grass on their bellies and flies Kaln right over the top of them. I'm not sure if any got a decent shot, but it looked good! After a while trying these shots, they are off to do some static shots of owls in the barn; nice natural looking pictures of our native owls.

At this point I go for a wander around the nature reserve. I spend a pleasant couple of hours wandering around with both the camcorder and the SLR with the 50-500mm Sigma, just in case. You never know what you might see. It's good excercise too! When I come back up, the photographers are still there and Vince is just getting Ron, the Golden Eagle out. Ron is still very much in training and on a line. He is flying from glove to post and back, but only over a short distance; a couple or three yards. This is good progress since May when he arrived with the ultimate aim to be able to fly him free like some of the other birds. With the late afternoon sun on him, he looks fantastic. You can see where Golden Eagles get their name! Back home for dinner now, but back in a bit for badgers.

Saturday 10/10/09 - Back over for the badgers

Tea eaten and I'm on my way back over to see if any badgers are about this evening. I load up with food and I'm off into the night. Whilst walking down, I can hear a distant Tawny calling and a little closer a heron is also saying "goodnight". A little further on and I see something fly from a tree nearby. I think it's a Tawny, but it's closely followed by another and I get a better view of this one; Little Owls. This is confirmed as they start calling from the tree they flew to. I arrive at the hide and no badgers in sight. Good. I thought I was a bit late, but obviously not. As I'm putting the food out, a strange noise comes from the tree opposite the hide. It's too dark to see anything, but a low chattering noise is coming from something in there. I guess it is another Little Owl, but I'm not sure.

I keep an eye on the tree to see if I spot anything flying out, but before long, first one badger, then a second appear from the main path. Two arriving together isn't the usual pattern, but I don't mind, the badgers are here. The net is up, I have no cameras tonight so I just settle down to watch. I've put some nuts on the doorstep as well as the ones outside on the grass. The badgers are eating nuts (I forgot the dog food) quite contentedly and continue to work their way towards the hide. Once most of the nuts have gone, I begin to feed some extra food with both badgers rushing to the sound of nuts hitting the ground. The usual pushing match ensues and then they are looking for another handout, literally sat side by side waiting for the whistle and nuts. I do oblige after a few seconds and they tuck into the new offerings with relish. I continue this for a few minutes and then stop. They wander round, nose to the ground, and eventually discover the doorstep. One badger, the smaller one, puts one paw onto the step and eases himself up and begins eating. As he moves along the step, both paws are now on it. He is about a foot from my legs and hands. Once he's finished he steps down and continues sniffing around for more, but that's it for tonight. After another ten minutes, both badgers have left the feeding area so I pack up and head back to the farm. I see another badger on the way back, but not close. A quick chat with Juliette and off home to spend the rest of my evening in a more traditional manner!

Tuesday 06/10/09 - Rain, badgers and mice

It's been raining most of the day today and it looks like it's going to continue into the evening. Vince mentioned last night that a roof was going onto the hide today, so that will be a relief. I'm meeting a friend, Karen, at the Barn Owl Centre tonight. She has been over to see the badgers a couple of months back and is keen to see them again. I arrive at the centre and Karen is already there. As there is a new roof on the hide, I don't take waterproofs with me and I've forgotten my wellies. We go on into the Centre and have a chat with Vince. "Hows the roof looking?". "Didn't happen" says Vince "it's been raining!". We could go back to the car for waterproofs, but they are noisy and it is quite dark. We decide to set off so we load up with some nuts and into the rain-filled dusk we go.

The chairs are all wet, as you'd expect, and after putting the food out, plus setting up one light, we sit down and the slightly uncomfortable wait begins. I've left the net up again. If I can get the badgers feeding confidently with other people here and the net up, the experience is that much better. We can hear a single Tawny Owl in the distance, but that is about all. Sometimes when it has been wet, the badgers do arrive later than usual and tonight is no exception. Twenty five minutes after we arrive, at 7.40, the first badger appears. Before the first badger is in the main feeding area just in front of the hide, a second appears from the main path and both are heading our way. As we have low cloud and therefore a reasonable amount of reflected light off the clouds, as the first badger moves closer he may have spotted us and trots off. Within a few minutes it is back, but I switch on my torch and leave it on the step as it helps to darken the area behind the torch. Before long the animals are feeding only a couple of feet away and I think the rain is stopping! I have already put some food onto the step. It would be good if Karen could see them feeding off the step as the view is great. You can see their claws to begin with as these are normally hidden in the grass. I whistle and throw some nuts out and the animals respond to the sound of the food hitting the floor. We witness a bit of argy bargy, but nothing too strenuous. With the animals now right outside the hide, one of them smells the nuts on the step and climbs up to eat them. That is pleasing as there are two of us sat in the doorway, only a couple of feet away, if that, and the badger is contentedly eating food right there in front of us. Once I have them feeding off the step, I try and put addtional nuts on the step to see if they will come back. With the badgers very close to the step I throw a few nuts out to distract them and whilst their heads are down I put some more nuts on the step. This works quite well and at times my hand is only a foot from the badgers. As an experiment whilst an animal is actually feeding off the step, I move my hand towards it. I can get quite close to it and as I've now picked up the torch and am holding it, my hand is illuminated in the torchbeam. The badger can see my hand, but continues eating and I do get my hand less than a foot from the badger. They don't seem to mind this intrusion, which is great.

Once I feel we have fed the two animals enough, I stop feeding them. They have had nuts and dog food, but I'm keen to expand on the available menu items, so if anyone has a good, cheap idea of food that badgers like, please leave a comment. It takes a while for the badgers to check around the feeding area and doorstep, which they revisit several times, and be happy they've left nothing edible behind. Once this is complete, they wander off in different directions, as normal. Now we can talk and Karen is pleased with how close the badgers came, which is a lot closer than the first time she visited. Things have moved on remarkably quickly really. I never thought back in July, when all this started, I would have wild badgers coming so close and being so tolerant of humans. We walk back up to the farm, seeing a badger on the path on the way back, but not getting too close. Once back at the farm we update Vince on what we've seen and it's then I realise I've left the camera in the hide. Due to the rain, not only had I not used it, but I'd put it under a chair to keep it dry. Back down to the hide via the wild flower meadow as Karen hadn't seen it in flower. Whilst walking along the back of the meadow, in the rain (again), we pick up some eye shine on the path ahead. We weren't close enough to identify the owner, but with green eye shine it could have been either fox or badger.
We get to the hide and I open the door and there, right in front of us is a mouse. I've seen him a couple of times and called it a wood mouse, but still not sure. He wanders around in the torch light seemingly unconcerned. He does disappear out of the front of the hide and round the corner as I go in to pick up the camera. Another nice thing to see down here at the hide.

For the second time, we arrive back at the farm and this time we stop for a coffee.It's not raining anymore and a Tawny Owl is calling nearby. We keep an eye out and he flies to the tree just behind the aviaries and continues calling. We also see him leave that tree and can see where he lands in another tree. This tree is also close to the aviaries and we wander over towards it. He lets us get reasonably close before flying off to one the bigger Oaks nearby. Again, a nice way to top off the evening.

Sunday 4/10/09 - Two's company, three is a crowd

I didn't manage to get over to the Barn Owl Centre this afternoon, but I went over to see the badgers this evening. I'm down at the hide by 7.25 and a badger is already there. I must try and get here earlier! I put the torch onto him and, for a few seconds, he sits and looks. He does turn and trot off into the hedge, though, so I get into the hide, put the nuts and dog food out and get into the hide. Tonight there is a very bright full moon shining out and illuminating everything. It looks really nice and I decide not to use a light tonight, view the badgers "au naturele" as it were. I leave the net up tonight again, although the moon is illuminating me rather. I have my hat on and the Buff I use over my face. As I settle down, I whistle a few times as though I'm feeding the badgers additional food. I repeat this three times, a minute, or so, apart. Just after the third whistle I hear the characteristic sniffing and chewing noises the badgers make. I look to the right of the hide and not one, but two badgers have arrived together. This is unusual and as I don't normally whistle like that, I wonder if they have arrived in response to my whistle? I appreciate they're not dogs and they will never act as such, but it's a nice thought to harbour for a few minutes.
A badger up close!                       
The moon has been behind a thin cloud for a few minutes during which time the badgers have moved to about four feet away. One of them picks up a lump of dogfood and holding his head high, trots off with it to the left of the hide. They do this fairly regularly and I think it's just them taking a lump of food away from the competition, although I have at times had them do this when only a single badger is present. Within thirty seconds, the animal is back and feeding alongside his colleague. The moon reappears from behind the cloud and illuminates everything, including me. If I turn around I can see my well defined shadow on the floor of the hide. The badgers don't notice. They just keep on sniffing and eating. I've already put some nuts on the doorstep and one of the badgers is sniffing around just outside and soon latches onto them. He tentatively lifts one foot onto the step, sees the nuts and tucks in. I've put four small piles of nuts along the step and he's working his way down the piles towards me. Eventually he's a few inches from my leg; too close to take a picture as it will be out of focus. Nuts finished, he drops back down and continues sniffing around. At this point I throw a few nuts out after whistling and both badgers move in and do a bit of shoving and pushing.
            Unusually, three badgers tonight
I notice in the background some movement and a third badger has appeared from the main path and is moving quickly towards the other two animals. This is unusual as I've not had more than two badgers for some time now. I'm slightly confused as to whether the two I've had here already are my two regulars, or whether one of them is a stranger and the new one is a regular. What becomes immediately apparent is the new badger is quite agressive towards the other two with some powerful argy bargy taking place. I whistle and throw some more nuts out and all three respond. The newcomer, who is possibly slightly bigger than the other two tries to defend the nuts from the others and is being quite forceful about it. The other two back off slightly and allow him to feed. This is interesting as this does look like hierarchical behaviour which the two regulars don't necessarily stick too, seeming to be equal. I'm still not sure if the newcomer is a regular, but the next time I throw some nuts out, he sees the movement of my hand as I throw them and runs off. The first two are my regulars, they don't mind the movement when I throw more nuts. He only goes about four or five yards, but comes trotting back in to get some of the additional food. He barges into one of the animals, who barges back. Then, with a long growl, he grabs the badger by the neck. He continues growling and the other badger stops pushing. He is then released and gives up the space around the nuts. This is the first physical agression I've witnessed and although no damage was done, he certainly made his point. I decide not to feed any more and watch as the three badgers sniff around looking for anything that's been missed.
They seem bigger in here...                    
The badger who had been grabbed a couple of minutes earlier is back at the doorstep and raises itself up onto the step. No nuts there. He then lowers his head over the step to the floor inside  the hide and begins mopping up nuts which must have been knocked in as they were being eaten earlier. Initially he balances on the doorstep trying to reach down, but eventually, lowers first one front foot, then the other, into the hide. He started on the opposite side of the door to me, but is working towards me. When he's about a foot from my knees, I fidget slightly and he backs out, then trots off. If the badger knows I'm there, which I'm pretty sure he does, the trust he is showing is fantastic. The only predator of badgers in this country, certainly for the last two hundred years, or so, has been man. This badger is a foot away from me and unless I give him reason, he would come closer. This is where maybe I should trust the badger more? I don't know, but will say again what a privilege it is sharing space with these creatures.
                 Are you looking at me?

Only one badger is left in the feeding area now and after a couple of minutes he wanders off too. What a fantastic night! Watching badgers by torchlight is great; watching them under a full moon's illumination only, was magical. Having one enter the hide was exciting and a great way to top off the evening.

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Badger Facts
Badgers are very clean animals and will regularly change bedding in the sett. They also spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other.