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.

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