Wednesday 26/8/09 - Without a safety net

When I got home last night, I couldn't sleep. It sounds a bit sad, but having the badger almost in my lap last night really got the adrenaline going and I'm still excited about it tonight. Having said that, I don't know if I want to tempt the badgers into the hide again, I don't think I'd want to be in the hide with a badger as it's not that big and I don't want to scare the badgers, or be bitten by one!

Tonight I'm on my own and think I'll try something a little different. I haven't much time tonight either as I'd like to be home by ten. Food out, no meat tonight as I was late leaving and it was almost dark by time I arrived here. So peanuts spread around and into the hide. I decide to leave the net that normally goes over the door up tonight so nothing to hide behind. I position myself a couple of feet back in the hide sat on my little (uncomfortable) chair. I don't wait for long when some movement from the main path attracts my attention. It's a fox! He trots out into the middle of the feeding area and begins eating peanuts. A few seconds later, a second fox joins it. The first is one of this years cubs, by the look of it. The second is an adult fox, probably a vixen. I turn the light on and the adult fox runs, then stops, but eventually wanders off into the night. The reaction from the other animal couldn't be more different. It sits down on the grass about five meters away chewing nuts and looking quite relaxed. So here I am, sat in the hide, but with an open doorway in front of me watching a fox eating its supper. I can whistle to the fox and he doesn't mind that, a bit like the badgers. I do this every now and then to make a noise they may come to recognise as a "food call". You never know your luck!

In the background, a badger has appeared, but it doesn't get far into the feeding area when it turns around and trots off. Had is seen me? Badgers eyesight isn't very good so if the fox hasn't seen me (and foxes do have good eyesight), how did the badger? Who knows. Perhaps it was just put out that the fox was there eating the badgers peanuts. About ten minutes goes by and the fox eventually trots off. I decide to call it a day during the lull in proceedings and quickly shut the hide up and start making my way back. Still plenty of nuts around so I'm sure the badgers will be along soon. I've not gone very far when I see a badger making its way towards the feeding area, but resist the urge to go back and watch it. A little further along a lot of rustling in the hedge makes me turn the torch on. Two badgers are coming out of the hedge only about six feet away. One turns back, but the other makes its way onto the path and heads towards me, sniffing for food. As I've got the torch in one hand and the camcorder in the other, I'm unable to throw a few nuts down for it. It goes to walk past me on the other side of the path, about a meter away, when it suddenly stops sniffs long and hard. It then turns towards me and starts covering the short distance between me and it very quickly. I'm filming this and decide that it's probably best to move my foot about now, just in case its intentions are not to my benefit. It stops, looks at my feet and then runs off. I don't like scaring the badgers, but I'd like it even less if one thought my foot was tasty morsel! I make my way back up to the farm without further incident.

Sitting there without anything in front of you watching a fox, which ended up as close as three meters before it disappeared, is also quite exciting. The close encounter with the badger last night was slightly more so, but this was a lot more relaxed and the fox left of its own accord, not because I had to scare it. With the encounters I've had whilst being stood, or knelt, close to both foxes and badgers whilst out in the open, it just goes to show that if you take the wind direction into consideration, wear quiet clothing and don't top up the after shave before you go out, what is possible. It's highly rewarding and I recommend you get out there and give it a try.

Tuesday 25/08/09 - Close Encounters of the Badger Kind

The night after a no show is always slightly worrying. Having had such wonderful experiences I feel disappointed when nothing turns up. Luckily, this doesn't happen too often.

Tonight, just me and the camcorder safely in the hide by 21:00 with peanuts and my dogs leftover food out for good measure. 21:10 and the first badger appears. He works his way down the trail of peanuts to the main feeding area and is feeding confidently. Too confidently, if I'm honest. I watch him eat everything, the dog food, the peanuts and he's sniffing around looking for more. At this point a second badger appears and is sniffing around too. I've quietly stood up and I figure I may be able to throw some peanuts out through the side of the netting that covers the door. I turn the light off and have a go. A small handful of nuts is deposited a few feet from the hide. It works! The badgers don't notice the movement and soon find the nuts. They feed together, but polish the food up pretty quickly and begin sniffing around for more.

It's on nights like this when I've got such fantastic views of the badgers that I regret not having someone here to share it. I feel it's a real privilege to see these animals up close. I do wonder about the ethics of feeding the animals like this. Some people think you shouldn't feed and watch them naturally. Unfortunately, this sort of viewing is generally at the sett and, at present, I don't have that luxury. Having said that, I'm in this for the long run and won't suddenly stop feeding the badgers and with opening to the public now getting closer, hopefully it will add a bit of income to the Barn Owl Centre. Although it won't revolutionise anything here, every little helps.

Where was I? The badgers! Right. A third badger has now appeared, although not close to the hide and I attempt to throw some more food out. This time my hand hits the door frame slightly and draws glances from all badgers. Luckily, they continue sniffing and foraging. The impact has, however, made me drop some nuts both just outside the door of the hide, but a few inside as well. I'm kneeling with my face against the netting over the door and the camcorder and torch through a small gap to the right of the door. What happened next was exhilarating to say the least!

The two close badgers soon sniff out the new supply of nuts. They are quite close now. Their smell is noticeable to say the least. They work their way towards the door until they are at it. Two large, wild badgers are within a foot, or so, of me. One of them actually looks at me through the gap in the scrim and is inches away from the camcorder which I'm holding. I get a little excited at this point and my grip on the camcorder tightens and I accidentally zoom in, which at close range isn't a good idea. Luckily, I realise what I've done and zoom out again. That bit will need editing! The next thing, I have a badger looking at me again. Camera in one hand and torch in the other I watch as he gets closer and closer to the threshold of the hide. Next thing, he's trying to come in!!

Let me put a couple of things into perspective. I'm knelt here, in the doorway with both hands full. My legs are almost numb from kneeling here and being unable to move due to the proximity of the badgers. I suddenly thought "what happens if the badger gets tangled up in the netting over the door?" And now he's trying to come in. He must be able to smell the nuts that I dropped earlier. For me, that was close enough and I make a noise to warn him I'm there. He backs off, stares for a moment and leaves. Wow! It can't get much better than that, can it? Luckily I caught the sequence on video so you can share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, but I doubt it!

Here is the much awaited premiere of badgers on video.

Monday 24/8/09 - After last nights antics

After seeing the foxes and badgers outside the hide last night, I was keen to get down there for more of the same tonight. I thought that once the foxes had discovered a food source, then they would probably return.

I'm down at the hide, just gone 21:00, on my own. It's a lovely evening, stars are starting to appear, almost no wind, although what bit there is is in my face and therefore I'll be downwind of the badgers. It feels a little eerie down here tonight, I don't know why. A couple of wild Tawny Owls are about, but not much else. I start wondering why I've not seen any badgers or foxes tonight. It seemed like such a pleasant evening, but now I just feel a little uneasy. Odd as I'm not normally scared of the dark. Anyway the hour comes and goes and I decide to give it another ten minutes. After a few minutes I roll up the scrim net door and sit there watching the stars. Another five minutes and I pick up my kit, shut the door on the hide and, still feeling uneasy, start walking back up. I decide to scan the area around me with the torch as I'm walking, but don't even see any eye shine. Most odd. I make it back up to the farm without being attacked by anything unpleasant and wonder why I felt like that. It's odd that it's coupled with a complete no show of any animals. Perhaps they knew something I didn't...

Sunday 23/8/09 - A nice surprise

Back on my own tonight after the five people we had in the hide last night. I have brought the camcorder, though I don't know why as I've still not edited any of the other footage I've taken. I will get around to it, honest!

Only peanuts out tonight. I've started to reduce the number of peanuts I'm putting out for two reasons; one, the badgers will get fat and unhealthy and two, with smaller numbers of badgers turning up now the cubs have grown up a bit and they seem to forage independently, although not always, a large number of free offerings is not only unhealthy for the individual, but it can take them quite a while to have their fill.As access to the hide isn't possible without coming through the feeding area at present, if you need to go, you can't without disturbing the animals. A smaller number of offerings are eaten more quickly, especially with small numbers of badgers. They are still there for maybe twenty minutes, but that's enough time for a good viewing.

Anyway, back to the watching, or waiting as it is at the moment. I was in the hide at about 21:00 and it's now getting on for half past. I thought I saw some movement outside the hide, but it was very quick. Perhaps an owl flew by? I squint into the darkness and amazingly, there is a fox out there. Since I've started watching the badgers, I've not seen a fox anywhere near the hide, but it's a nice surprise. It's eating nuts and chomping away quite happily. I sit and watch for a couple of minutes, letting the animal settle. I then try and put the light onto the fox. I normally do this by pointing the light into the sky and switching on and slowly lowering onto the subject. I try this, but as soon as the light comes on, the fox is gone. Not quite so relaxed as the badgers, then. I sit there, pleased to have seen a fox as I really like these gorgeous animals and that's the closest I've been to one, I think. A few minutes go by and suddenly and silently another fox appears. I think it's a different animal as it came from behind the hide and the first one ran away from the front of the hide. As I'm watching this one, switching on the spotlight and trying to get some video, a third fox appears about eight feet from the hide and immediately tucks into the peanuts. The other fox is also eating peanuts, but it's hanging around a bit further from the hide. It's about now that I find out how good a fox's night vision is. With the badgers, once the light is on, they don't seem to notice movement in the hide, only sound. The light, although not powerful may dazzle them slightly, I guess, so it's difficult for them to see what is behind the light. As I'm videoing the nearest fox, camcorder on a tripod, I move my hand up to zoom in a bit and the fox is gone. The other one stays put and it's not long before the one I scared is back. Behind the foxes I can now see the eyeshine of a badger. He's not looking too confident in coming and and soon disappears.

Both foxes are suddenly off again. For the second time they have seen me move in the hide. They've not gone far, about twenty meters awayin the long grass, looking at me. Next thing I know I have a badger feeding close to the hide. It obviously took its chance with the foxes out of the way. The foxes reappear in the background, but they don't come too close to the badger. Then one of the foxes approaches the badger from behind. It is being very cautious, but goes right up to the badger and sniffs its rear! The badger turns round very quickly and the fox is off like a shot. When I check later, I've got this on video and it's quite funny. I will post it soon...

The first badger is joined by a second and they feed confidently about three meters out. This is where the bulk of the nuts are, but I've put a few closer to the hide and they slowly work their way towards me 'til they are about six feet away. They sniff and search out every last nut and I get some great views. The foxes which were hanging around in the background have now disappeared and with no food left, the badgers waddle off to continue their feeding elsewhere.

I close up the hide and begin the walk back up. I've not gone far when a rustling in the hedge to my left stops me in my tracks. Two badgers appear about six feet from me and start coming in my direction. I have the light on them, but one stops and retreats. The other comes out onto the path a couple of meters down the path. It starts its busy sniffing routine and turns towards me. I'm on the left of the path and it is working its way down the right where I normally drop a nut, or two, on the way down. As it gets level with me, about a meter away, it stops and sniffs and turns towards me. It moves towards me rather faster than I'd like and with it being no more than a foot away from my feet, I move my feet. It stops, looks, then turns and trots off. I don't think it was going to do anything, but it seemed to be moving with a purpose.

That was an excellent night, good views of badgers and foxes, close encounters and a lot of it on video. I think people would pay for that experience, I almost feel like paying myself!! I reckon we should go public. There is already a lot of interest from friends and people who have visited the centre. I'll mention it to Vince back up at the farm.

Saturday 22/8/09 - Barbeque and badger watching, or not.

It's the barbeque tonight, which should be good. It's a pleasant evening and salmon, salad and beer have been purchased. When we get there, there are lots of new faces and Vince does some introductions. I'm starting to be called lots of things now from "Badgerman" (sorry Badgerman, if you read this. I have told them!) to "The Nutter", which is in reference to the feeding of nuts, I hope! There is a good cross section of people there from the farmer who helps out with things like planting the wild flower meadow (which looks great at the moment). He's been developing his farm with conservation at the fore and has a good number of Barn Owls on his land which Vince has helped develop over a number of years. We have the bookeeper here, the guy who produces a number of the marketing items and signs as well as the normal staff at the centre; Vince, Juliette, Carl and Rob, who fly and look after the birds, and Dee who works the front office. There are a few others here too, but I didn't manage to speak with these.

Anyway, the inevitable happens. I have three people who would like to see the badgers and Beth, plus me makes five. We set off to the hide just after nine and it's surprising how dark it now is. No sightings on the way down, which is a good sign as hopefully they aren't here just yet. Food out and we wait for half an hour, but no sign. One of the party has to leave as he has a lift waiting so he walks back up to the farm the back way and we carry on waiting. Eventually someone needs the loo and we feel a bit anti-social, so we come out of the hide and begin our way back up. We see some eyeshine on the way back up, but it looks like foxes as they are in long grass and we can still see them. No badgers. Typical! The first time we have some people down there, apart from friends and family and a complete no show. I have got to accept this as badgers don't follow a timetable and must treat it as the norm with a sighting as a bonus.

Back to the barbeque and another beer. A bit later I decide to go for another wander around the farm, but with plenty of food, drink and conversation, no takers this time. Which is unfortunate as when I get back to the hide, two badgers are feeding in front of it. I also see another two on the way back up, but I don't get closer than about five meters. One badger I follow up the path as it sniffs and snuffles looking for food for a good forty yards. It eventually goes into the hedge. Oh well, at least I saw some!

Thursday 20th August - Failing miserably

I've been holding off updating this blog as tonight I have managed to film the badgers again. However, I'm still not spending time at the PC preparing it for uploading. The temptation to go and see the badgers "live" is just too great! I'm at a wedding tomorrow, so no badgers but thought I'd find time on Saturday to sort out the video. No such luck. In fact, Saturday night we've been invited to the Barn Owl Centre Staff and Helpers Barbeque. No time for video again!

Anyway, back to Thursday night. On my own I set off and spread the nuts around. Interestingly, on the way down I disturb a badger. It's only 21.00 and that's the earliest I've seen them out so far. No dogfood tonight, but I thought I'd try one of Vince's ideas. A couple of weeks ago, he suggested taking down a day old chick to see how the badgers reacted. They will eat meat and as there are lots of the chicks here (for feeding the birds) I thought I'd give it a go. Nuts down and a couple halves of day old chick (sorry, but they are dead already) into the feeding area. I settle down, with the camcorder, and wait. At about 21:25 a lone badger turns up and begins feeding. He feeds on the nuts and slowy works closer to the hide, and the chicks. Eventually he finds a piece of chick and sniffs it cautiously. Next second, he's turned and ran off! I wonder if it's the same one who turned it's nose up at the dogmeat. Is it possible to have vegetarian badgers, I wonder? Anyway a couple of minutes later, it's back. Again it approaches the chick and again, sniffs and runs away! It does this a third time to, but returns after each departure. Most odd!

Eventually, at about 22:00, it wanders off and I go back up to the farm, only seeing eye shine en route. I do a bit of work on the computers while I'm there and leave later than I should have done, especially with the wedding tomorrow!

The BoC has a busy day tomorrow, so I don't ask for the badgers to be fed, they have enough to do already. I'll go down on Saturday during the barbeque and see what happens.

Wednesday 19/8/09 - A new observer

My dad has decided to come along with me tonight, which is nice. We head off to the centre, but as he's not the spring chicken he once was I decide to go back to the hide tonight as it is slightly more comfortable than sitting in the long grass nearer the sett. I show him around a few of the birds at the centre, Kaln and Turner, the Eagle Owls, Ollie the Tawny, Gyzmo the Barn Owl and of course, Connie, the young Long-Eared Owl. We then head off towards the sett end of the farm and distribute some nuts where I watched the badgers and fox on Monday. Then off to the hide. I've brought along some dogmeat tonight as our Border Terrier only has three quarters of a can of meat and I don't know why I haven't thought of this before.

Nuts and meat are out, it's a balmy 20 degrees with a warm breeze blowing into our faces as we wait in the hide. Perfect! After about fifteen minutes I spot a badger come around the corner from the main path. He fairly quickly moves to where the bulk of the food is, about three meters from the hide. I have the camcorder with me and try and video the animal in the spotlight. It looks very blurry. I decide to take a still picture as this is silent on the camcorder, unlike the SLR. My only concern is the flash. I should have worried about focusing as there is not enough light, even with the spotlight, for the camera to focus. I push the button anyway and the flash goes off. No reaction fromt the badger at all. That's worth knowing.

We watch it feed confidently for about six or eight minutes when it sniffs the air a couple of times and trots off the way it came. At least one showed up for my dad!

Five minutes later, what is probably the same animal comes around the corner and quickly moves to within three meters again. I notice a second animal come around the main path corner and he's soon alongside the first. I'm trying to see what they are eating and the newcomer finds some dogmeat. Very gently he picks a small bite into his mouth and he tastes it. I can see it gently chewing the meat. Amazingly, he literally spits out the meat and trots off, not to be seen again! There's nowt stranger than badgers! A couple of minutes later from the left path, three badgers in line appear. I move the light onto them and the one at the back pauses, then turns and trots off. The other two work their way into the centre of the feeding area and being eating noisily and confidently. We have three badgers eating about three meters away. I've given up on the camcorder by now. As the food runs out, the badgers move closer to the hide picking up the odd tidbits I've place nearest to us. One of the newcomers finds some dogmeat, he's about two meters away now. He picks up some meat in his mouth and tastes it, much like the first one to try it. This time, he wolfs down the meat and is quickly looking for more. One of the other badgers breaks away and sniffing for peanuts, he moves down the left side of the hide and out of sight. I can still hear him sniffing his way around and both the torch and myself are focus on the corner of the hide. A few seconds later he comes around the corner, sniffing his way along the front of the hide.

To illuminate the badgers, I put the spotlight out through the side of the camo netting that makes the door when the hide is in use. I'm knelt down, too. The badger comes along the front of the hide and passes within a foot of my hand and the torch. I realise the bag I carried the dogs meat down in is on the floor near the doorway and suddenly expect the badger to start sniffing throught the netting. He doesn't and moves away from the hide. Wow, that was close!

Shortly after this, with the food all eaten, the three badgers, almost as one, trot off into the hedgerow to the right of the hide. My dad and me have enjoyed that immensley. We close up the hide and after explaining what might happen on the way back up with a close encounter between badger and feet possible, we make our way back towards the farm. Not far along the path, a badger is coming towards us. As my dad isn't doing anything I said, I turn and speak with him. When I look back, the badger is gone. What the hell, we've had a good night and it's back to the farm for a quick chat with Vince and Juliette.

If I can stop visiting the centre, hopefully I can edit some of the footage I have regarding the camcorder. It's difficult not to go out and try and film some more, but I'll do my best!

Tuesday 19/8/09 - More of the Same?

After last nights great display with the badgers and fox cub, I decided to do the same again tonight. I fed up the hide and dropped back to the area near the sett and settled down in the grass. Vince and myself had decided to try the radio again tonight. Vince had taken it down earlier and left it covered in a camo net. It was on so you could hear it 10 yards away and the aim is to get the badgers used to some local background noise. The local Tawny Owl was out and about, the stars came out and the radio played, but no sign of badgers or foxes. I noticed a bit later that the radio had gone very quiet and then silent. As it was a little way away from me all I could assume is the batteries had gone! After an hour and ten minutes sat waiting in the grass, decided to call it a night and as I had started some work on a PC earlier in the evening, went straight back up to the farm. I picked up the dead radio and with my headtorch on, I noticed some eyeshine in the bushes near where I had been waiting. It looked like a fox was watching me, but for how long? I went back up to the farm and finished off the IT work and then off home to bed. It's odd how one night can be so good and the next, not!

I will be posting some video of the badgers as soon as I've mastered the art of downloading from the camcorder. Watch this space!

Monday 17/8/09 - A Change of Location

Back to work today. Nuff said. Having had a relatively poor show last night and a no show on Friday I decide on a slight change of routine tonight. I get down to the centre at about 20:45, stock up with nuts and go down to the hide to put the nuts down as usual. Rather than sit in the hide and wait, I head for the sett and pick a spot nearby, about 25 meters away from it, spread some nuts on the mown path and sit down in the long grass alongside the path. It's a bit odd not being in the hide but already I've heard the wild Little Owls and a Barn Owl not far away. I can also hear movement in the hedge alongside the path over to the right of the sett. After about twenty minutes, as it's now quite dark plus my legs are killing me kneeling down, I stand up. I have a camo jacket on, a hat and a scrim net over my head. I hope no-one sees me like this! The movement slowly works its way up towards me and eventually a small black and white head appears in front of me. It's a cub! I hadn't seen any for a little while and being new to this game, thought they had grown up a bit and were hard to distinguish from the others. This is definitely a small badger, shortly joined by a second. I assume that, although the cubs are now feeding independantly, they are not straying too far from the sett? Answers on a postcard please...

I have the camcorder with me, but they are a little further away than they can get at the hide, bearing in mind I'm just stood there, it's still pretty close, maybe four meters. They are working their way towards me when I notice eyeshine from behind the two feeding badgers. I'm about to be joined by a third. However, this one seems quite nervous and although I can see its eyes and hear it moving, it's a good five minutes before it makes it out of the bushes. I slowly move the light towards it and I'm really pleased to see it is in fact a fox cub!! It is quite wary of the badgers at first, but begins eating peanuts and seems to relax a little. All three animals are slowly moving towards me and I've got this big grin on my face looking at the three young animals feeding together. The fox cub decides to circle around the badgers and passes between them and me. It moves within about eight feet of me and doesn't know I'm there!! Wind is in my face, I hasten to add. Anyway, struggling to get a decent shot with the camcorder (spotlight in one hand, camcorder in the other), I try and change settings. With the spotlight moving around, the fox cub decides it has had enough and trots off to my right. The badgers are still feeding. I notice the fox hasn't gone far, but he's watching me from further down the path as the eye shine gives him away. Eventually, I manage to spook the badgers too and they disappear into the bushes. Still with a big grin on my face I decide that's enough excitement for one evening and start to walk back towards the farm. I flick on my head torch and look back to where the feeding was taking place. The badgers are back out already. I stop and I'm trying to decide whether to creep back to see if I can get close again. At his point I hear something behind me and turn around to see what it is. There is some eyeshine bounding towards me and I see this is an adult fox. It stops about five or six meters from me and stares at me. I stare back and after several seconds it turns around and bounds away. As I watch it go it's joined by another pair of eyes, both of which are watching me from about 30 meters. This looks like the adult plus another cub. So far tonight, three foxes and two badgers. I decide to call it a night and I continue back towards the farm. Only a few strides later and something else is moving in the long grass. It must be a badger as I can see the grass moving, but no sign of the animal and the grass isn't taller than a fox. I stand and wait and the badger appears out of the long grass a little further up the path. Three all!

I decide that it's probably too late to go back down to the hide to see what is there and head for home. What a great evening. Perhaps we should be building a hide up this end too!

Sunday 17/8/09 - A daytime visit too

Having been unable to watch for the badgers last night, although I did put the food out early evening, and the no show on Friday, it is with some trepidation that I go out to look for badgers tonight. Being my last day before returning to work, I decide to visit the Barn Owl Centre during the afternoon and have a wander around looking for badger signs and anything else that might appear!

There is a reasonable number of visitors in the centre, some on a flying experience, others just spectating. I decide to go for a wander whilst people are watching the dispays; I can see the birds being flown later. The first thing I see is one of the wild Little Owls on their favourite tree which is no more than fifty yards from the main flying area. This keeps a number of the captive birds grounded as they could catch and kill a Little Owl. As I get closer to the tree, I see a second Little Owl. I take some distant video on the camcorder and wander on to where the sett is. There is a lot of evidence of badgers foraging around here, lots of small digs and some droppings, with peanuts in! This is close to the wild flower meadow which was planted earlier in the year and quite a lot are now coming into flower. There are loads of bees and butterflies making the most of the flowers and it's interesting looking around at the different flowers and insects. This display will only get better as the summer rolls on, so looking forward to that.

I continue wandering around and end up at the hide. No nuts are lying around so I guess the badgers did turn up last night. I'm trying to find a badgers latrine for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would be interesting to show people something like this plus, it may show a boundary to their territory. Although I find droppings here and there, there is no scrape with droppings in. I get some good views of one the resident wild Kestrels and then wander back to the flying area. Turner, one of the Eagle Owls, is now flying and these birds always impress me. Their eyes are amazing. I watch for a while and then go for another wander. Vince catches up with me and we talk about the possibility of watching the badgers at the sett, or very nearby. I might feed at the hide on Monday night, but go up near the sett and see what's about.

It's now quite late and after closing time, but Vince offers the remaining visitors to watch a training session with Clyde, a Gyr/Saker cross. He is still on a training line, but the end of his training he does fly and catch the lure. He is looking impressive after only a few days training. Ron, the Golden Eagle is next in line for the training, but I have to go home for dinner.

Beth and myself come back over at 20:50 and quickly get down to the hide and feed up the area. Rather than settle into the hide, I decide to have a wander back down to the sett and see if anything is about. It isn't. We go back to the hide and at 21:35 a single adult badger appears. It works its way towards us feeding confidently, but Beth makes a noise and spooks the animal. It trots off down the main path, the way it came in. After about twenty minutes it returns. I think it's the same one as it is acting very cautiously and keeps looking at the hide. It does eat some peanuts, but keeps to the left hand side of the feeding area and then departs down the left hand path. We wait another fifteen minutes and nothing else shows. There are lots of wild owls about tonight, mainly Barnys, but there is at least one Tawny Owl out there too. Too dark to see anything, though.

It seems that badgers do most of their foraging alone, unless there are cubs around. I think we may now struggle to get the seven badgers altogether again as the cubs are now acting independantly and aren't really cubs any more. I think the two occasions we had seven badgers were right at the end of the cubs "escorted" foraging and we'll have to wait for next year to see that again. Not so good if people are paying to see these animals, but that's nature!

Friday 14/8/09 - Back from hols

Had a great week away in North Wales, nature highlights being viewing the Ospreys at the Glaslyn Osprey Project, run by the RSPB, just inland from Porthmaddog. I have seen them at Loch Garten in Scotland, but this was a better view throught the scopes with two birds coming and going from the nest. Also finding the Choughs on the Lleyn Peninsula along with seal watching at Morfa Nefyn.

I also had a great day by driving out to the end of Anglesey to South Stack, another RSPB site to see what was around. The most amazing thing for me was the fantastic display of heathers and gorse; literally hundreds of acres of it. It looked so pretty. If the sun had of been out it would have looked even better. I did see more Choughs here, gannets, oystercatchers and all the gulls, I think! Even a kestrel living on the cliff, apparently!

On the way back from Wales we stopped off at Gigrin Farm, the Red Kite Feeding Station at Rhayader. I've been before in January this year and really enjoyed it. Feeding is at 15:00 in the summer, but although there were a number of birds around, they weren't interested in feeding. We continued waiting (getting used to that now with the badgers) and eventually at around 16:45 the Kites, Ravens, Buzzards and other corvids began feeding. Again it was a great display with about forty Kites in attendance.

Got back home at about 20:20 and back out for the badgers at just gone 21:00. It's amazing how much darker it is at this time compared to a week ago. I think I might be too late. No nuts down today so I rush down to the hide put the nuts out and wait. Nothing happens. I give it about twenty five minutes and give up as I'm really tired. I see nothing walking back up either, a complete no show. Hopefully things will improve now as it's Sunday and I'm just off out to see if they show tonight. Will keep you posted.

Thursday 6/8/09 - Last night for a week

As we are off on hols tomorrow, tonight is the last night of attending the hide for a week. Beth comes along with me as she too is going to miss the badgers. Tonight, as a bonus, I've brought my new camcorder along. I only got it today having driven down to Bristol to get it. I did order it from over two weeks ago, but lies and no delivery sums up their service. I've not used it at all as yet so it will be fair test to film in the darkness.

We arrive at the hide and spread some food around for the badgers. It's quite dark now at 21:40 when the first badger appears, closely followed by a second and then a third. They arrive down the main path to the hide and slowly work their way towards us. All three are full grown and, thankfully, feeding confidently. I try and use the camcorder on its "night setting", but in the dark having not used it before, it's not easy. I manage to find the colour night setting but without illumination, it's just black! I put the spotlight onto the badgers and it actually produces a picture! The badgers are now about ten feet away, chewing, sniffing, the usual. I continue to film when I can, but holding the spotlight and operating the camera is not easy. After about twenty minutes, the food is gone, shortly followed by the badgers who trot off almost as one. A good night for viewing!

Back up to the farm and a chat with Juliette and Vince. They have had some problems with some birds and a stomach upset which has been a concern, but most are over it now. Juliette invites us into the indoor flying area where Connie, the long-eared owl chick has been starting her training. It's great to be so close to this beautiful little owl. She's let out of her cage and immediately flys onto a nearby seat. I'm filming of course. Beth is then offered the chance to hold and feed the owl. What a fantastic opportunity. Beth is a bit reluctant to begin with as chopped up day old chicks don't look that good up close, but Connie thinks they are great and eats all offerings. She flies around a bit and is obviously inquisitive and interested in what is going on around her. We stay much later than we should and, reluctantly, leave for home and holiday.

No internet on hols so no updates for the week. Now home again and connected once more, so updates as and when.

Tuesday 05/08/09 - Heavy rain today...

This evening Beth decides to come along with me. We are over at the hide by about 21:20 and settle in. It's stopped raining at least; it's been pouring down most of the day. There are a number of wild owls about tonight with Little Owls and Tawny Owls calling not far from the hide, but in the growing darkness we can't see them. It gets to 21:50 and no sign of a badger. Looks like another slow night at the hide. At 22:00 we both leave the hide to have a quiet look around to see if badgers are out and about. About fifty yards from the hide we find a solitary badger moving towards the hide. We go back to the hide and decide to give it a bit longer. I pick up some eye shine from a badger on the left hand path, but it doesn't come any closer than about twenty meters. I whisper to Beth that it looks like a "no show", her first. We pack up and head back. We meet a badger on the path, but he veers off into the hedge and dry ditch. As we get to the gateway between the upper and lower field, Beth spots a badger over to the right. It's nose is down as it hunts for worms and other such niceties. It's moving slowly towards us so I throw five or six peanuts down, hopefully in its path. It latches onto these almost straight away and I throw a few more down a couple of feet away. I've already told Beth to stand absolutely still. With the spotlight on the badger, we watch as it comes closer and closer. It gets to about eighteen inches away from our feet, sniffing and picking up nuts and other natural food. It then moves away, only to two or three feet, still foraging and continues down the path. It is one of this years cubs and the poor little thing looks soaked through! He must have been out in the long grass. It gets to a point downwind of us and it suddenly trots off. This just shows how important it is to take wind direction into account. As with last night, this experience is amazing, but tonight I got to share it; even better!

I'm starting to think that after heavy rain the badgers behaviour changes somewhat. Looking back through the blog, after rain their behaviour is different. They are either very late or don't show. Is this because the rain makes for easy feeding off natural food like worms and slugs? This slows them down or they feel they don't need to rush down to feed on nuts? I'm very new to this so I'm only speculating. Also, I'm surprised how they forage as individuals a lot of the time. They don't seem to stick together, even the younger ones are on their own a lot. I've noticed this has become more the norm even since I've been watching them, about a month. I go away for hols on Friday, so no badgers for a week! Once I get back I may try and get a bit more scientific with regard to weather conditions, timings, etc.

Can't go watching tonight, so no update unless something exciting happens. Hopefully I'll be there tomorrow night, my last for a week!

Monday 03/08/09 No show, then...

After last Sunday nights disappointment, I set off for the hide hoping for a better evening. I arrive at the hide at about 21:15 and after putting the food out, settle into the hide. I've been working on the computers tonight and my mind isn't fully on the badgers. I needn't have worried as it's now 21:50 and no sign of anything. As I still have some work to do on the PCs, I decide to call it a day at about ten. I notice some movement on the path to the left of the hide and a single adult badger is sniffing out nuts. It works its way to the edge of the feeding area, but turns around and disappears. I wait a few minutes and nothing appears. It's just gone ten so I pack up the chair and roll away the scrim netting that covers the doorway into the hide. With a last glance around, I set off back up to the farm. I'm just reaching the path that leads into the feeding area when I notice a single adult badger coming around the bend ahead of me. As they've not been showing too well, I decide not to spook it and head back to the hide. I haven't time to open the door, wedge it, roll down the scrim and get inside, so I go and kneel on the right hand side of the hide. A few moments later, the badger comes around the corner.

I feel I've had a few "intense" moments since I've started to watch these animals and as the badger works it's way closer to me, I feel another coming on! This wild badger is now four meters away and working its way towards me. Another animal appears from the main path. I'm knelt down, wind in my face, holding my LCD spotlight on the badgers and they're getting closer. I watch, spellbound, as these animals come into feed, the nearest being less than ten feet from me. I've made my usual mistake of sitting on my feet and they are screaming at me to move, so I do. As carefully as I can, I stand up, slowly. Both badgers look over in my direction, but quickly resume eating. Once I can feel my feet again, I decide to try and vacate the area without disturbing them. I take a step away from them intending to work my way around the edge of the feeding area. No change, so another step. I manage to work my way round to the back of the feeding area and the wind, which was my ally earlier on, now blows my scent towards the badgers. Just when I think I've made it, both badgers trot off down the left-hand path. Phew.

I start the walk back up to the farm and it's not long before I spot a badger ahead. I put on the spotlight and the badger looks at me sniffing, then retreats, slowly. I continue the walk and it's not long before another badger is seen. On with the light and this one doesn't change it's behaviour at all. It comes trotting towards me, picking up the odd nut I dropped on the way down. I stand still, on the left of the track with the wind blowing from the badger to me. It confidently comes closer and closer and is now a meter away. I hold my breath, spotlight still on the animal. It's snuffling along, looking for peanuts and keeps coming! It closes the gap with my feet until it's about a foot away. It pauses and has a good look at my feet, but doesn't like what it sees, or smells. It turns away, but doesn't run, just trots off. What a buzz! I was getting ready to move my foot in case it thought it was food! Wow, worth coming out for!

Sunday 02/08/09 Back in the hide...

I couldn't make the badger watching on Friday, but did get over to put the nuts out. Saturday I was unable to make the feeding or the watching, but hopefully Carl at the Centre did the feeding for me.

Sunday evening I can make it, however. About 21:00 I set off for the centre hoping for another display like on Thursday. I take the back route down to the hide and put the nuts and raisins out. I settle into the hide at 21:30. Sat there quietly on my own, I close my eyes a couple of times, just resting the eyes. I open them on one of these occasions and a single badger is approaching down the main path. I can see it eating nuts as it works closer. It's there for a minute, or so, then turns and leaves the area. I wonder why it was spooked, but I'm not sure. I wait five minutes and a single bader re-approaches from the main path, probably the same animal. It works it's way a bit closer and I reach up to scratch my nose. The animal is gone in a second. I think it may have seen my hand movement as I've noticed that we have quite low cloud and with the city lights reflecting off this, it's lighter out there than it should be. This animal originally appeared at 21:41; the earliest I've seen the badgers. However, it's now 22:20 and still no sign of further activity.

A few minutes later I see a dark shape on the path to the left of the hide. It works its way towards the hide but before it gets fully into the feeding area, it turns tail and disappears. This isn't looking so good. A few minutes later it re-appears and I can hear other animals moving around in the dry ditch at the end of the path. No other animals appear, though. I wait and we eventually lose the badger, again, before it gets into the feeding area fully. And that appears to be that! I wait a few minutes, but nothing else happens. I walk back up to the farm uneventfully.

I speak with Vince about putting a roof on the hide to reduce the light levels inside and also to put some hatches in for easier access. This will take time, though, and we'll have to continue with what we have for a while longer.

Thursday 30/7/09 - Anything tonight?

After last night I was slightly apprehensive that the fantastic start we had had to the badger feeding may have hit the rocks. With a no show, it drives it home that this is nature and it will do as it pleases, no guarantees. My daughter decides to come with me tonight, although I had explained that the last two nights hadn't been great. Over to the centre, load up with nuts and say hello to Juliet and some of the birds. Vince is out putting some Tawnys into the pre-release aviary. Halfway down to the hide and I realise I've forgotten the radio. As we deliberately came over earlier tonight, I decided to keep going and make sure we are ready in case the badgers are coming out earlier.I take a different route to the hide tonight, not down the main path to the hide, but one that approaches from the left of the hide. We settle down for the wait and thankfully, don't have to wait too long. After about twenty minutes at 21:48, Beth indicates that she can see a badger on the main path. I can't see it yet, but a few minutes later it appears. It very slowly makes it's way into the feeding area, but then, still some distance from us, turns round and trots off out of sight. A few minutes go by and it reappears with a second badger. The first one is a full grown animal, the second probably this years cub. They now make their way into the area, feeding confidently. We are joined by a third badger, again quite large, from the left path and then a fourth down the main path. This is looking good. I see some movement off to my left and there is the big, boar badger. He is looking directly at the hide, nose in the air. He scuttles off into the hedge and I don't see him again. The badgers have now worked their way quite close to the hide. We have three animals feeding about six or seven feet away. We can smell them, hear them eating, breathing and sniffing. Every now and then a little grunt and even a shove between animals to protect their food. Another badger appears from the left, now five badgers in front of us. The last one to appear is one of the two that don't appear to get on. The other badger who makes up the pair makes the quiet whinney type noise and trots off. The badgers are now even closer and a full grown animal is not more than five feet away, along with the cub. Fantastic! The nuts and raisins are now running out and there is much sniffing and snuffling trying to find the last ones. Then, almost as one, they trot off down the left path and into the darkness.

I can barely stand! I've been knelt down all this time and due to the proximity of the animals, I was scared to move. I must look at taking additional, quiet seating down there. I've discussed with Vince about modifying the hide for easier viewing and we need to look at this at some point.

Just to top the evening off, when back up at the farm, Vince calls us over and shows the latest addition to the collection. He has a gorgeous long-eared owlet, Connie, who is five weeks old. Captive bred, she is happy around humans and we all make a bit of a fuss of her. It is a treat to see this, still fluffy, owl at close quarters. A nice way to end a good evening.