Monday 21/9/09 - A glorious sunset

It's been a lovely day again today. It's now a little colder at about 7.45PM, but still very pleasant. The sunset is also a corker too! The picture, below, was taken from the flying area just outside the aviary area at the Barn Owl Centre. It was a good one, to say the least.
On down to the hide whilst listening to the wild Tawny's again. At least two are calling to each other not too far away. I can also hear the "nocturnal" heron that haunts these parts. I hear him quite regularly, even after dark and once or twice I've spooked him as he roosts in one of the Oak trees on the way back to the centre. I reach the hide and put the food out in the usual way. I decide not to drop the net tonight, again, as it would be a great way for a single guest, or maybe two, to see the badgers without the net between them and the animals. I have tried it with others there as both my daughter and Vince have been there without a net. Both occasions were fairly successful but I'd need to be confident that the badgers would show before committing to that particular idea.

I'm now in the hide, food out and I'm not disappointed as a few minutes later, a lone badger appears from the main path. I get the usual tingle of excitement as he moves closer and closer to the hide. He's soon feeding in the pool of light I illuminate the point a metre, or so, out from the hide. I'm knelt to the right side of the door watching and taking the odd picture. This lone animal eats all of the food I've put out and is now looking for more. As he's eaten what I put out for two, I decide not to feed any additional nuts tonight. I can almost sense a tinge of disappointment from the badger as he eventually ambles of into the dark. I wait a few minutes as the badgers can often return. One of the tricks they use is to disappear to one side of the hide, but reappear from the other a few minutes later. I wouldn't want to leave the hide in view of a badger as that could set the confidence levels of the animal back several weeks, or longer. I close up the hide and leave a few more nuts lying around and begin walking back up to the centre. Just around the first corner on the path I spook a badger. He was close when I scared him, but up against the longer grass adjacent to the path, I didnt see him until I was almost on top of him. I'm not sure who jumped most, me or him! Anyway, he went crashing off into the hedge and I continued my walk back up. I had a second fright when the heron suddenly called it's awful call right above my head as it took flight from the Oak as I passed underneath it. To top off the night, I went through the gate into the top field and turned right along the hedge. Another badger here suddenly goes crashing off into the hedge. Three encounters in 300 yards, or so. I'll be a nervous wreck if this sort of thing happens regularly!

Sunday 20/9/09 - Part 2, the night shift

The nights are certainly drawing in now. I keep getting caught out by the early arrival of dusk each evening. Soon I'll be struggling to get to the badgers before it's dark as I'll be at work. I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Tonight, though, I'm over there before dark, just. I get down to the hide and put the food out whilst listening to several wild Tawny Owls which are close by. One is in the tree just behind the hide to the left and is quite loud. I decide to leave the net up tonight so just the open doorway between me and the badgers. When I do this I use a camo "buff" to cover my face as it takes away that white facial disk which is a classic signature for us humans.Just gone eight and the first badger shows up. He makes his way towards the hide and is soon a metre, or so, away busily eating nuts and dog food. The badgers are coming into the most important time of year for feeding as they need to put some weight on to cover the winter months when food is not so abundant. The two that are turning up regularly shouldn't have any problems!

     Badgers don't always see eye to eye!

The second badger does turn up tonight,  about ten minutes after the first. The second to arrive is generally at the hide very quickly as the first one eats the trail of nuts I leave leading into the feeding area. They are both busily sniffing and eating. I'm still amazed at how wonderful these animals look, they are in really good condition and those faces are just striking, If they hear something, they pause and can look straight at you and their eyes twinkle away. I don't think they are the most intelligent wild animals around, but they have something about them that is very appealing.

Badgers embarking in some "argy bargy"  
They've eaten most of the food now and are beginning to wander round, noses to the ground trying to find every last nut. I decide to feed some extra nuts now and whistle and throw a few extras out. That isn't as straight forward as it sounds as I've got the Buff covering my face and  I can't whistle. I have to pull it down below my chin in order to do that, but they don't seem to mind. They both converge on the nuts and begin trying to push each other out of the way. As I've said before, I find this highly amusing and would like to get it on video. This is proving difficult as I need three hands really. One for the camcorder, one for the lamp for additional lighting and the third to throw the nuts! Photographing it is a little easier as I can throw with one hand and hold the camera in the second, managing to push the shutter release with my thumb and flash being part of the camera gives me the light I need. I have put some nuts on the doorstep of the hide and when I stop throwing additional nuts out, the badgers, or one of them in particular, comes investigating. His nose leads him to where they are and he puts his feet onto the door step and starts feeding. He is about 18 inches from me, if that. The picture below isn't very good as it is difficult to move and frame and focus a shot with a badger so close, and remember, no net tonight. I think he looks like he's playing the piano, but look at those claws! A great design for a digging animal, wouldn't you say?

Sunday 20/9/09 - Buzzards and wild flowers on a glorious day

Last night was a good night down at the hide. The badgers showed well, the wild owls were out in force and this weather is very pleasant with light breezes, into my face when I'm in the hide meaning the badgers don't smell me so easily. I do wonder, however, why I'm generally getting just the two badgers.I'm fairly confident that they are the same two most nights and as I see badgers on the way back up to the farm, I know others are around. Why is it only these two visit the hide? Are the other animals more wary or feel it is a long way off their normal feeding routes? I'd be interested to find out...

This afternoon, as it becoming the norm, I wandered over to the Barn Owl Centre for a walk around and to see some birds fly. When I arrive, a small group of people is out on a walk with Leighton, the Buzzard. I wander on down towards them and take a little bit of video of this bird flying amongst the visitors. Leighton is a great bird to be out with. He flys freely into the trees and comes back and lands very close to the visitors. This makes him one of the favourites with visitors, I would guess. It's always nice to see a wild Buzzard when out with Leighton, too, as the visitors can see what this common bird looks like up close.

Here is Leighton flying over the wild flower meadow

When Leighton goes back to the centre, I have a wander around the farm and photograph some of the wild flowers currently on display. It's then back up to the farm to do a bit of IT work on the computers. After that, home and a quick bite then back to the badgers!

Saturday 19/9/09 - A good night and not only badgers

I fed the badgers last night, uneventfully. I've been lucky at seeing things during the daylight when I'm not watching badgers, foxes and the like. Nothing last night, though.

Tonight, as with any night when I've not watched the badgers the night before, I'm quite keen to get over there and see what's about. Usual routine, arrive, quick chat, top up with nuts and off into the gathering dark. I actually get to the hide about 20:00 and after putting the food out I sit and relax, waiting for whatever turns up. About 20:10, my first visitor arrives. Out of the dusk, I can see the distinctive head of a badger sniffing his way towards me. As I approach the hide, I leave a bit of a trail of peanuts over the last part of the path and increase them slightly as I enter the feeding area. It is this line of peanuts the badgers sniff down towards the hide once into the feeding area. Although I've now been doing this since July, it still gives me a thrill when I see a badger coming towards the hide.

Tonight the badger is, for now, alone. I kneel down by the door, which does have the net down tonight, and watch the badger feeding a few feet from me. Another badger appears around the corner on the main path and as there are no nuts for him because the first one ate them all, he is soon alongside the first. These are my two regulars, I'm pretty certain, and they confidently feed close to me and the hide. As the nuts I put out are nearly gone, I begin to feed the badgers extra nuts. As per usual, I do this be whistling and then throwing a few nuts out to them. As I whistle, both badgers stop and lift their heads and I then throw the nuts out to them. As soon as they hit the floor, the badgers are sniffing them out and tucking in. If I throw the nuts between them, this normally triggers a bit of push and shove, or "argy bargy" as I like to call it. It always makes me smile when they lean into each other and try and push the competition away from the nuts with little grunting noises into the bargain. I can repeat the additional nut feeding several times and the animals just keep on eating. They are now right outside the hide and I decide to put some nuts onto the door step. So they don't see my hand appear out of the darkness right in front of them, I whistle and throw some nuts slightly behind them, causing them to turn around. I can then put some nuts on the doorstep, hopefully without getting seen. I whistle and throw some nuts very close to the hide and they turn and move right up to the step. As the grass is long here, they snuffle around and use those fierce looking claws to try and get the peanuts out. Once these few nuts are gone, they are sniffing around again and one latches onto the nuts on the doorstep. He puts a claw onto the step and lifts himself up. A quick glance directly at me, then he's eating the half a dozen nuts I put onto the step. I have the camera with me and take a shot. The badger doesn't flinch and after finishing the nuts, he drops back down to continue the hunt for more food. I repeat the doorstep feeding several times, taking a shot each time. Eventually I feel they have had enough food and stop feeding any more. It takes a good ten minutes of sniffing around before both badgers have wandered off and now I can shut the hide up, leave a few nuts for the second shift and head back to the Barn Owl Centre.

When I get back to the centre, I discuss the evening with Vince and Juliette and as we are chatting it becomes apparant that we have some wild Tawny Owls having a chat with Ollie, one of the Tawny Owls here at the Centre. One is in the tree over by the flying area, and although he is quite close, we can't see him. As I'm stood in the office doorway wth Juliette, he flies from that tree, right over the aviaries and is illuminated by the lighting around the aviaries. He looks great, calling as he flies over to the tree just behind the barn here. He sits there calling for a while, but suddenly calls even closer. Juliette peers out of the office door, and there on the kitchen roof, maybe four or five yards away, is a wild Tawny. He doesn't stay long once he's seen us, but it was fantastic to see and a great way to end the evening.

All Pictures Copyright

Thursday 17/9/09 - Back to normal?

Beth, my daughter is coming over to see the badgers tonight. She's always pleased to come over to the centre and see Connie, the juvenile Long-eared Owl, her favourite. Connie isn't looking quite so juvenile nowadays, it's amazing how quick they grow up. You can say the same about your kids, too, I guess.

We get to the Barn Owl Centre before eight, but I need to do a bit of work on a computer before going down to the hide. I don't complete the work and leave a little later than I'd like, but with peanuts and dogmeat on board and a daughter in tow, we set off down to the hide. Once there, I put the food out and we settle in. We have a bit of a wait and the first thing to show up tonight is a fox. I enjoy watching the foxes and so does Beth. She hasnt' seen them as often as me (as I'm here a lot more). Foxes are definitely more cautious than the badgers; they don't want to come into the pool of light and if a badger is present, they don't normally get too close to those either. This one is circling around the front of the hide and is acting quite nervously. I'm sure he knows we're there. A badger appears and shows no interest in the fox and moves towards the hide. The picture, above, shows the fox about as close as it cares to get to a badger, although I have seen them closer.

I apologise for cutting the badger in half, but with the fox being very alert, I cannot get my line of vision onto the screen on the back of the camera and have to guess where the camera is pointing! The fox eventually tires of pussy-footing around the badger and disappears. A second badger has now joined the first and we have them fairly close to the hide already. I can now whistle and feed the badgers a few extra nuts at a time. I'm sure they can see my hand, but wait patiently after I've whistled until they hear the nuts fall. I really enjoy this part and must be careful not to over feed them!

The picture here shows a badger with a mouthful of dog food, which they seem to thoroughly enjoy. The one in the foreground is eating peanuts and isn't bothered about his colleague eating the meat. In fact, I would go as far as to say they enjoy peanuts more than dog food. Beth is enjoying the additional feeding with a small snigger escaping every so often, although it doesn't seem to bother the badgers. At one point there is a badger right outside the hide with his nose up against the torch and Beth puts her face up very close to the badger with just the net separating them. Suddenly, the badger is off. He must have seen her. He doesn't reappear after a few minutes and as his feeding partner has already ambled off, we decide to call it a night and head back to the farm.

I finish off the work I started earlier and head back for home. I'm out tomorrow night so won't be watching. I will be feeding, however, and if anything shows I'll certainly let you know about it. Otherwise I'm hoping to watch again on Saturday night.

Wednesday 16/9/09 - More guests tonight and my dad too.

I had arranged with my dad that he could come over to see the badgers tonight before some regulars at the Barn Owl Centre asked if they could come along. These guys sponsor one of the Barn Owls here. I thought that would be fine and, in rather less panic than last night, I arrive at the centre to find my guests already waiting for me. Introductions over, top up with nuts and a quick chat outlining what the plan is and guidelines on how to behave. They have read my guidelines and look like "professional" badger watchers! They ask about last night and I tell them we had a no show, apart from the one brief glimpse. They look slightly disappointed, but we set off for the hide in good spirits. I've never had two no shows in a row.

We arrive at the hide and the three visitors settle in as I put the food out.Desperate not to have another no show, I use just one light tonight in case the additional lighting I used put them off, although it hadn't affected them on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Wind is still that North-Easterly, which blows from the hide into the feeding area. That fantastic sense of smell the badgers have concerns me somewhat. It is 20:00, we are quietly waiting in the hide. 20:15 comes, prime time for badgers of late, but nothing. 20:30, still nothing. At last, I see some movement out in the feeding area. Not a badger, though. A rabbit comes towards us. Not very exciting, but the first rabbit I’ve seen from the hide! I’m now getting a little uncomfortable and I’m not talking about the fact I’ve been kneeling for ages and can’t feel my feet! Not another no show, I hope.

20:50 now and from the main path in front of the hide, I can make out a stripey black and white head. Phew, a badger at last! He barely makes it into the feeding area, however, when he turns and disappears back into the night. There was no noise or movement from the hide; he must have smelt us. As 21:00 arrives, another badger from the path to the left this time. I point him out to the guests, but one cannot see as he is too far around to the left. Amazingly, this one too decides to disappear. My spirits are now rather low, to say the least. We've seen badgers, but not like I'm used to seeing them, up close and personal.

I'm about to call it a day when a third badger appears from the main path ahead. This one is working his way towards the hide, eating peanuts en route. Thankfully this one is feeding confidently and I soon have the torch on him too. He gets to within about six feet of the hide giving everyone a wonderful view. You can easily hear him eating and sniffing and even get the odd whiff of him as the breeze eddies around the hide. We've been watching him for about ten minutes when I suddenly get cramp in my toes! I have to move and, of course, spook the animal. Now the badger has gone, the conversation begins, albeit in whispers. They seem very pleased to have seen the badger and we decide to call it a night. I do see another badger on the way back up, but he runs off before the others see him.

Back at the farm and over a nice, hot cup of coffee, we talk about the evening. The guys are really happy to have seen a badger that close and they keep saying what a great night it's been. They can't believe how beautiful this animal was, just six or seven feet away from them. At last, I've shared a badger watching experience with someone outside of my family, a bit of money has come into the Barn Owl Centre and we all go home feeling happy at an evening well spent. Thanks, guys!

Tuesday 15/9/09 - Our first paying guests, officially!

Well, all the hours spent feeding the badgers and getting them to feed consistently close to the hide will be tested tonight. I have a family of four coming out to hopefully see the badgers. I was leaving for the centre at just gone seven when I realise my son has used my rechargeable torch, which I use to badger watch, for a photographic project he is doing. The torch is almost dead. What am I going to do? Tonight is a big night and suddenly, my main torch is flat and it takes hours to recharge! I decide to dash of to B&Q to see what I can get there, but by time I arrive at the BOC, it's way later than I would have liked, although my visitors haven't arrive as yet. I wait a few minutes and they turn up. I introduce myself and have a quick chat with them. As it is already almost dark, I suggest we make our way down to the hide. We have put some chairs in the hide for them to sit on. I get them inside and put the food out, along with a couple of torches which illuminate the feeding area. It's 20:06 and the wait begins. Badgers have been showing from about 20:15 recently and this time comes and goes. 20:30 comes and goes. Not a badger anywhere. I stick it out and as 21:00 approaches a badger appears on the path to the left of the hide. He's only been there a short time when he turns and trots off. I have a chat with the family and decide to go and have a look along the main path to see if any are on their way. I can see some eye shine off in the distance, but that's all. I make my way back to the hide feeling rather embarrassed if I'm honest. I explain that the badgers are normally out by this time. I give them the option to call it a night, but they decide to stick it out. However, at 21:30 I decide to call it a day. We walk back around the wild flower meadow and all I can do is recount some of my experiences.

As we walk back into the Barn Owl Centre, Vince asks how we got on. "Five very disappointed people" I reply, then add "no show". The guests are very understanding and have a look around the birds and have a chat with Vince. I find out the two girls have never seen a badger and my mood darkens further. This is just the opportunity I was hoping for; to show people a badger in all its glory, right in front of them. But, it didn't happen and that has to be expected with wildlife. There is no guarantee. I still feel disappointed, however, and I find I have two more visitors tomorrow night. I hope that turns out better than this evening.

I speak to Vince about this and we agree that if a no show occurs, we will offer guests the opportunity of a free entry to the centre or another visit to hopefully see the badgers.

A couple of possible reasons why the badgers didn't show tonight come to mind. Firstly, we had a north-easterly wind blowing, which comes from behind the hide towards the badgers. This could blow our scent out towards the animals, which isn't good. Secondly, Vince mowed the paths into the wild flower meadow last night. Were they exploring the new paths through this natural larder? Also, on the Severn Trent reserve next door, the grass was mown very short today having been left to grow long for several months. Could this too have been a distraction? Who knows. All I know is paying guests are very understanding considering they didn't see very much. Better luck next time!

Monday14/09/09 - Vince pays us a visit!

When I arrive at the centre tonight, Juliette is giving the birds their supper and winding things down for the day. Vince, I can hear, is out mowing. A quick chat with Juliette and load up with peanuts and I'm ready for the off. Just then, Vince pulls up on the mower and tells me he's put some paths through the wild flower meadow. We wander down for a look and there are several paths right through the meadow giving close access to all the flowers and bugs. We end up wandering down towards the hide and I ask if he's coming down to see the badgers. Bearing in mind, he's the Director of the Barn Owl Centre and in the two or three months I've been feeding the badgers, he's not been down once! Anyway, he says he's coming down for a look so I hope the badgers show up! Don't get me wrong, he has seen lots of photos and video, so he knows what goes on down here.

We get to the hide and a badger is already in the feeding area. This poses a problem as we have to walk past him to get into the hide. We slowly move closer to him and he notices us approaching and disappears into the hedge. I begin putting the food down and Vince opens up the hide. When I've finished putting the food down, I notice Vince is sat on the step of the hide, feet outside. He suggests giving this a try, so I sit next to him and we wait. It's not long before the badger that disappeared into the hedge a few minutes earlier is back. However, he gets to the feeding area, has a good sniff and a look at us and turns tail and disappears. We wait maybe ten minutes before a second badger appears down the main path. He too sniffs the air, looks at us and follows his mate into the hedge to the right of the hide. Vince whispers "maybe we should get inside?". I agree and we move into the hide. We leave the net up, however and it's not long before the next badger arrives. Now we are inside the hide, the badger approaches without any concerns and is soon about three feet out. He's joined by a second badger and they are right outside the hide now, less than two feet from both myself and Vince. I whistle and throw some nuts out and both animals respond to the noise of the nuts hitting the floor by coming over, noses constantly sniffing as usual. I repeat this additional feeding several times and the badgers put on a great display for Vince and myself. Eventually, something spooks them and they trot off into the night. We take the chance to vacate the hide without spooking any animals and make our way back up to the farm.

We decide to take a walk back around the wild flower meadow to see if anything is about down this end of the farm. As we approach the gate into the Severn Trent reserve, which adjoins the BOC, I hear a noise that sounds like two or three men digging, or chopping trees. I stop and listen and we both turn off our torches. I'm wonder if someone is trying to dig the sett up as the sound is very close to the sett. We get into the little grassy area in front of the gate, but all is quiet now. We stand there for a minute in silence, when suddenly, the noise begins again. This time it sounds like a mixture of digging and bark being ripped off a tree. It's quite loud and a little disconcerting, to say the least. Vince moves in towards the hedge from which the sound is coming from and whatever is making the noise starts moving, thankfully away from us. I actually see the hedge move as the animal moves away from the torches. I run on past Vince to see if I can head whatever it is off, hoping to get a glimpse of it. However, it turns around and heads back towards Vince. I wonder if it might be a deer rubbing it's antlers against the trees to remove the velvet that must now be coming off their new antlers. Anyway, the "thing" moves past Vince and then away from him. I walk back towards him and ask him if he saw it? He only saw a bit of it, but says it was quite large, grey and had a tail. He didn't see the head, only the body and back end through a little hole in the hedge. We walk back up towards the farm considering what it might have been. We can't decide, which is a bit of a concern as I spend most nights down at the hide on my own! I could picture all sorts of things you wouldn't want to bump into on a dark night. As we get close to the farm, more movement in the long grass to one side of the path. We both look for what made the noise with torches, but don't see anything, even though it was almost at our feet. Vince thinks maybe a weasel.

Vince thinks the badgers were great and he genuinely seemed to enjoy that. I hope the same happens tomorrow night as our first paying guests are coming, but with the badgers showing this well, I needn't worry!

Sunday 13/9/09 - An afternoon and evening at the Barn Owl Centre

It was my daughters "unofficial" birthday today as she was away in Spain on her actual birthday. She wanted to go over to the Barn Owl Centre to see if the Eagle Owls were flying as she hadn't seen them flying free. So, over we went (as it doesn't take much to get me over there). A number of cars were in the car park, but the place was deserted when we arrived. They were inside watching an indoor flying display. We went down to the wild flower meadow to see what insects were around and had a wander down to the hide. On the way back up we met the visitors and Karl and Vince out with Kaln, one of the Eagle Owls. This bird is impressive; with a five foot wingspan and flying free over the natural terrain here, it looks wonderful. This pleased Beth as she'd now seen the Eagle Owl flying free. We stayed with the group whilst the owl flew around to different areas and up into the trees. We slowly made our way back to the centre and some people who were on a flying experience went out to fly a Barn Owl called Luna. It's nice watching these sessions because you can see the expressions on the participants faces who are obviously having a great time. After this session, Turner, the brother of Kaln the Eagle Owl had his go at flying. He comes out of his aviary on foot and walks to the flying area which is quite comical to watch. The people on the flying experience now had something a little bigger to fly to them! Juliette then asked Beth to come over and she had a go at receiving this big owl onto the glove. She really enjoyed that! We then had to go back for tea, but I was planning on coming back later.

Kaln flying free

Around 20:00 and I'm back off over to see the badgers. On my own again, for now, but hopefully the company will be stimulating in a short while, although not much conversation. At about 20:15 the badgers turn up, one to begin with followed by another a short while later. Feeding and moving towards the hide, I take some video. The new lights I bought yesterday are in use and making a pleasant change to holding a torch all the time. When the badgers get really close, though, I have to use the handheld as the other lights are pointing out from the hide and close into the hide is in shadow. I've now seen another badger on the path to the left of the hide, but he's decided not to come in and join the fun. The other two, meanwhile, are feeding right under the doorstep into the hide. So close that I can't see their heads, only their backs. The musty smell is quite strong this close to the badgers. As the food is eaten, they start sniffing around looking for more. I whistle and throw a few extra nuts out and the badgers latch find them quickly and eat them. I feed several more times and I'm sure they can see my hand as I feed. It doesn't seem to bother them at all. After last night with the badger climbing onto the doorstep, I'm keen to see if this can be repeated. I actually put some nuts on the doorstep and wait. One of the badgers is sniffing along the front of the hide when he lifts his head up and sniffs the top of the doorstep. Next thing, his front feet with those large claws on the step and he's tucking into the nuts. I manage to get this on video and you can see this below. He is inches away, facing me and eating nuts I' ve just placed there. How amazing is this? He finishes and drops back down so I reach forward and put another eight or ten nuts there. He's back and seems completely unconcerned although he must know I'm there! I repeat this step feeding one more time before I stop feeding altogether and let the badger wander of. Wow, that was a thrill and it's on the video. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday 12/9/09 - A good night's watching

Tonight I have to go into work after ten to work on a server that can't be offline during the day. Luckily, I should have time to go over to the badgers before I go. I leave home at about 20:00 and am at the Barn Owl Centre shortly after. A quick chat and I'm off down to the hide on my own. Food out and settle in for the wait. I don't wait long and my first badger of the evening appears from the main path. He meanders over towards the hide and is soon joined by a second. They are eating quite happily a metre, or so, from the hide. I've brought my dad's Samsung over tonight and manage to get a couple of shots. A third badger appears from the path to the right, but doesn't stay long, not even coming into the feeding area. Shortly after this, a fox appears, and although he doesn't come within three or four metres of the hide, I get some good views of him as I've brought some additional lighting along this evening.
As you may be aware, I use a handheld 24 LED torch to watch and film the badgers. This has worked well, but it fairly labour intensive holding it and keeping it on the animals. Due to the distance we are away from a mains supply, rechargeable power is our only option. LEDs offer the best performance for battery life and don't give that intense beam of light like a halogen torch gives. There are some LED floodlights on the market, but they are really pricey, so I've been looking for an alternative. In B&Q today for non-badger related items, I checked their torch range out and found a small 24 LED magnetic/hanging light for a fiver! I bought a couple to see what they would be like. Well, they are really good! They light up the feeding area quite well and although there is a concentrated beam, the light outside of the beam also gives good coverage. Being magnetic, they can be put onto the metal mesh of the hide which means they can be switched on a and off through the mesh. The on/off button noise is a little harsh, but I switched the one I had brought down on as soon as I saw a badger, so he was a little distance away. I'd like to figure out how to run these off a small 12v battery as they currently run off three AAAs which isn't very environmentally friendly. Any ideas on lighting if you do a similar thing, please let me know.
Back to the badgers.They are now very close to the hide and I've began to feed them additional nuts using the whistle and chuck method. They are both getting quite competitive in trying to eat the nuts before the other. This leads a good spell of their pushing routine, which I thorougly enjoy. They are not at all malicious to each other, just grunting and putting the shoulder in. Unfortunately, the battery in the Samsung has gone flat, so no more pictures as it is a proprietory battery rather than AAs, or similar. I put the camera away and just enjoy the badgers less than two feet from me. At one point, one of the badgers puts his head through the gap in the net and has a good sniff. I'd like to have got that on camera. Maybe another night.

Eventually I stop feeding the two badgers any more and they leave the area, having checked it thoroughly for any they may have missed. I wait a minute or two and begin packing up. The last thing I do is roll up the netting over the door and I'm just collecting my bits and pieces when another badger comes sniffing along the front of the hide. I think this is a different animal, but as usual, I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm stood almost in the doorway when the badger arrives so I quietly move to one side and kneel down again. I whistle and throw some more nuts outside and he turns and eats them immediately. The next few minutes are really great as there is nothing between the badger and myself, apart from the doorstep into the hide. Several times the badger looks directly at me and continues sniffing for nuts right outside the hide. I'm really pleased he stays for a little while and feed him until I've run out of food. He continues sniffing around in ever increasing circles until he disappears into the night.

Tonight was a really good night; four badgers and a fox seen, three of the badgers incredibly close and highly entertaining. I see another two badgers on my way back up, but they don't hang around as I approach and I don't get too close. Now the downside, off to work for a couple of hours....

Friday 11/9/09 - No watching but what a sunset!

After not being able to feed or watch last night, I can at least achieve the feeding tonight. So, about 19:15 and I'm off to the Barn Owl Centre to put the feed out for the badgers. A quick chat with the staff, still all present, and off down to the hide. I've brought both cameras, video and stills, with me as you never know what you might see. Already, a glorious sunset is turning the few clouds that are about a lovely pink colour with a deepening red to the horizon. As I pass through the gate into the bottom field, I notice on the path ahead of me a load of feathers and a carcass of a pigeon, without a head! I wonder if a Sparrowhawk has been hunting and I've scared it off? The carcass has been partially plucked, hence the mass of feathers around, but the head gone, I'm not sure a Sparrowhawk would eat the head first? I take a bit of video for future reference and continue down to the hide. I put the nuts and dogfood out, check around for signs of activity and just hang around for five minutes in case anything turns up. It doesn't.
I am just about to walk a different way back, but decide to go back via the pigeon carcass just in case the hunter has returned. I'm about thirty yards from the pigeon when I see a fox sniffing around that area. Has he just found the dead pigeon and is taking advantage of the free meal? I don't see how a fox has caught a pigeon unless it was very lucky, or sly. I take a bit of video, although the fox is quite small at maximum zoom. I try and move a little closer, but the fox sees me and darts back into the hedge. When I get back to where the kill was, the carcass is gone. The fox has had his supper already; he must have been close when I passed here on the way down to the hide. It's only been ten minutes since then so he didn't hang around.
I continue walking back towards the farm when a notice a fox ahead of me on the path alongside the wild flower meadow. It's going away from me so I decide to follow it, about forty yards behind it. Suddenly it stops and sniffs the air, then turns around and comes back straight towards me. I begin filming and stay as still as I can. Every so often the fox stops and looks into the hedge and long grass. I take one of these pauses as the opportunity to kneel down and make myself less conspicuous. The fox continues on its path directly for me, but at about twenty five yards, it sees me and runs off in the opposite direction. It would have been nice to see it closer, but as I've discovered, their eyesight is very good.
I take some more video of the sunset which has now turned the sky a gorgeous red and almost wish I wasn't going out this evening, it would be nice to stay. I get back to the flying area and Vince and Juliette are there. I mention the fox and pigeon to Vince and the mystery is solved. In one of the adjoining fields they have been shooting pigeon all day and several wounded birds have come down in the nature reserve. The fox wasn't sly, he was just lucky!
I take more video of the sunset and as I chat to Vince, one of the local Kestrels starts calling in the bottom field. You can see it looking at something on the ground, but it is an alarm call it's making. Must be the fox says Vince. We then go on a mini Little Owl hunt behind the farm buildings. We do see one of the Little Owls, but we don't get too close. Still nice to see, though.

That's it for today, but all these things I've seen and written about have taken place in the last forty five minutes and not a badger in sight. Just goes to show what you can see if you are at least out there!

Wednesday 9/9/09 - No net again

Off on my own down to the feeding area after a quick hello at the farm. Almost dark again and it's 20:25; later than I would have liked. I get down to the hide without seeing any wildlife and begin spreading the nuts and meat. I have both video and stills  camera here tonight and I decide to sit back in the hide slightly and not to drop the net over the doorway. This will give me excellent views of the feeding area and should be good for some video and pictures. I use a camo "buff" to cover my face up to my eyes and I have my usual hat on with a wide brim. This should stop the badgers seeing our "signature" facial disc which shouts "humans!" to lots of animals. I also use some black gloves to cover my white hands as these can easily be seen if moved around, even in the dark.

I check the time; it's 20:40 and no action yet. Another very pleasant evening although a bit colder than of late and the wind is a north westerly meaning it isn't blowing in my face tonight. I wonder if they will smell me? Another ten minutes goes by, but eventually a solitary badger comes round the corner from the main path. He is soon about three metres out and feeding confidently. I've discarded the gloves by now as I cannot feel the controls on either camera. I have some gloves with removeable fingertips somewhere, I'll have to dig them out. I put the torch on and whilst it is fully charged, I take some video which relies on the illumination of the torch. Nothing special, just a relaxed badger feeding. The badger is now quite close, maybe a metre, and I change to the stills camera. Because I'm sat on my seat, I'm a little higher than when I kneel and I decide to see if I can quietly move from the chair to kneeling by the door. With the badger so close I think I'm going to spook him. He does look up at me, I freeze, he carries on feeding. Phew!

Still only the one badger here, which is unusual, but he's been so close I could have stroked him. I am now whistling and throwing the odd nuts out, but as he's eaten everything I put out, I won't give him too much more. I continue taking some pictures, but eventually the now fairly full badger, I would guess, wanders off into the night. I wander back up to the farm and hear some rustling in the dry ditch on the way up, but see no more badgers,
so only one tonight.

The picture, above right, is taken by holding the camera over the badger. I could have reached down and scratched him behind the ear, if I was that brave!

We have decided to have a public viewing next Tuesday, 15th September. If you are interested, please go to and look under Events and give them a ring.

No feeding or watching tomorrow as I'm off to a gig in Oxford and only feeding on Friday. Hopefully I'll be there Saturday night to see what's about.

Tuesday 8/9/09 - Barn Owls and Badgers

I actually get home from work at a reasonable time this evening. Gives me a bit of time to have a drink and chill a bit before coming back out to see the badgers. Actually, I need to catch up with the blog. Then I remember something I should have done at work. Bu**er. I can do this remotely but it takes me a an hour so there goes my time for updating the blog.

As usual, I arrive at the Barn Owl Centre a little later than I'd hoped, so it's a quick "Hello" and off down to the hide, on my own. I've just got into the second field when some movement catches my eye. Approaching from my right is a wild Barn Owl. As I see him, he sees me and veers off, but it is quite a good view. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera out and it was probably too dark to film anyway. I thought it had flown into one of the Oak trees, but have a quick scan around with the torch and see nothing. On down to the hide, food out and settle down for the wait. As of late, I don't wait too long before the first badger appears. He works his way towards the hide and is soon joined by a second badger. This is the usual pair by the look of things. It's odd how these two turn up each night, but others aren't. I hope this isn't a sign that the others not feeding here because they know I'm there? If you read the blog you will see that we do get other badgers joining these two from time to time, so it isn't a definite that only two will show. I think the large groups we saw early on, with up to seven badgers, are a feature of having young cubs in the clan and sticking together. As the cubs become independant, the clan resorts to individual foraging again. Even the terrible twosome turn up independently when they both show. I feed the badgers additional food by whistling and throwing half a dozen peanuts out every so often, but eventually stop so they can continue on their natural foraging and they wander off.

Walking back up I hear a badger, or two, in the dry ditch that runs almost down to the hide. As I'm walking up the second field I see the Barn Owl again, flying low and quartering the long grass looking for voles. Within a few seconds, he too disappears into the darkness. All in all, a good night topped off by the Barn Owl, twice!

Monday 7/9/09 - Another late finish....

First day back at school today for the pupils where I work. Usual chaos with lots of forgotten passwords and other problems. Eventually leave work at about seven. By time I'm home, I have less than an hour before going back out to see the badgers. It'll be a pleasant way to unwind after a hectic day.

I take my dad's camera over tonight with a view to getting some more close shots of the badgers. By time I get down towards the hide it's already quite dark. I check the time and it's 20:20. I walk on a bit further and a badger is approaching from my left down an adjoining path. I stop and watch, but he sees, or smells me and, although he doesn't run off, he turns around and heads away from me back in the direction he came from. Onward towards the hide and movement out in the feeding area. A single badger is there already! 20:25. I must get here earlier. This one, too, trots off as I approach and I set the food out as normal. Into the hide and at 20:40 a badger appears down the main path. He works his way towards the hide and is soon within photographing range. I put the camera behind my back and switch it on. It makes a bit of a whirring noise, so I reduce the noise as much as I can. I carefully put the camera out throught the gap in the net and take a shot. I take a quick look at the image and a message says "Memory Full". Odd, I think as I thought there was a lot of space left. Then it dawns on me. I've left the card in the card reader at home! Coming out in a rush is not a good idea!

I now have the two "usual" badgers, I think, feeding close to the hide. I just sit and watch and enjoy. I always find it particularly funny when they start pushing each other in competition for the food. Small grunting sounds usually accompany this pushing match. As the food is now running out, I whistle and throw some more nuts out. They latch onto them fairly quickly and polish them off. I throw some more and accidentally hit one of the badgers with at least one nut. No response. They're not too shy close to the hide, so it seems. Another top up of nuts and I hit the badger whilst he has his back to me. He turns around so quickly, it's amazing. They are not the fastest animals in the world, but turning around they are very quick. It doesn't bother him and he begins eating the nuts I hit him with. I top up the food a couple more times, but let the badgers wander off into the dark and make my way back up to the farm uneventfully, a little less stressed than I was earlier!

Sunday 6/9/09 - A few hours over at the Barn Owl Centre

This afternoon I decided to go over to the Barn Owl Centre to see what was happening. I turned up and there was a number of visitors in, although the place looked deserted as they were all inside enjoying a flying display of Barn Owls in the indoor flying area. I decide to go straight down to the wild flower meadow to see what bugs and insects are around. It is looking fantastic down there at present. There are lots of bees about and a good collection of caterpillars too. Whilst down there I hear both Green and Greater Spotted woodpeckers. I spend some time looking around and find there are quite a lot of moths feeding on nectar. Not sure what they are but there are quite a few of them. See picture below right. I spend a bit of time down here looking for anything interesting but hear voice coming over the PA in the feeding area. I wander back up and Leighton, the Buzzard,  is just about to go on a walk. I tag along and Vince introduces me as "the badger man", which is nice. Karl and Vince take the visitors out and about to show the birds over natural terrain. The visitors enjoy it and so does the bird. Please find another picture below showing the Buzzard in the lovely, natural terrain at the Barn Owl Centre.
After going on the walk I return to the wild flower meadow to take some more pictures and video. I don't find anything new, but just enjoy being in amongst the flowers. After a while I look up to the flying area and Vince has Ron, the Golden Eagle out. He is showing visitors how the training begins and the amount of dedication it requires to get the birds to even do a small jump to the glove. I'm hoping to see the fox about, but he stays well hidden.
I fullly intended to return this evening to feed and watch the badgers, but due to a late dinner, it isn't possible. I do find time to get down there and put the food out, I just don't know what will eat it. Hopefully I'll be there on Monday night to see what is happening.

Leighton Buzzard

Saturday 5/9/09 - A good night with my lad

I've been to work all day today due to working in a school and the having the start of term on Monday. I'm now looking forward to going over to see the badgers. It's a great way to unwind from the stresses of IT! My seventeen year old son, Andrew, decides to come along with me tonight. He hasn't been before as he's normally too busy doing teenager things...
We get over to the Barn Owl Centre and introduce him to Vince and Juliette. We have a quick chat and a quick look around the birds. I show him Kaln, Turner and Mozart, the Eagle Owls, and some of the other birds here, including Connie, the young Long-Eared Owl. As it's almost dark we stock up with nuts and set off for the hide. On the way down, Andrew tells me he's never seen a badger properly. Hopefully that will change in the near future. As we get near to the hide I can see some dark shapes on the grass in front of it. I tell Andrew to stop and turn on the light. We are greeted by two sets of eye shine, which bobs around looking at us. Amazingly both badgers start trotting towards us. We are just stood there on the path with two wild badgers approacing rapidly. At about five metres away, they both stop, looking at us and sniffing the air. They are downwind of us so I'm not expecting anything else to happen, apart from them running off when they smell us. Then, one of the badgers starts coming closer. I throw a few nuts down in front of Andrew and the badger walks to within a foot of Andrews feet. It does, however, smell us and trots off, taking his friend with him. Andrew has seen a badger now!
Once we've put the food out and entered the hide we settle down for the wait. It's not long before the first animal arrives and is soon joined by a second. I think this is the usual twosome we get, but so difficult to say. They are soon feeding close to the hide and we get great views. I have brough my dad's Samsung camera along with me tonight and begin taking shots. No reaction from the animals. Whilst the animals are still about a metre away, I take the shot above which I like a lot. It shows the badger with its tail showing clearly, something you don't see too often. They come closer until they are literally against the hide. Andrew is sitting crosslegged with two badgers literally inches from him. The peanuts are now getting thin on the ground and the badgers are sniffing along the edge of the hide in the longer grass the mower cannot reach. I whistle and throw a few more nuts out. They find them within seconds and start chewing their way through the additional food. I do this several times and they keep coming back for more! I am getting bolder with the camera and holding outside of the hide no more than a foot away from the badgers. They don't seem to mind at all. The shot below is an example of that. I'm holding the camera below the step into the hide and the badger is about a foot away. Exciting times!
The badgers showed really well tonight with three animals turning up, although only two came close to the hide. I really enjoyed sharing this with Andrew and I think he enjoyed it too. We went back up to the centre and saw another badger en route, but didn't get too close to it. A chat and a coffee with Vince and Juliette. It was a very pleasant evening weatherwise too. For a while, we thought it was thundering in the distance, but decided it must be fireworks somewhere. It was fun speculating what the noise might be. Maybe War of the Worlds?All in all, a great way to spend an evening.

Pictures Copyright Mark Williams

Friday 4/9/09 - No watching tonight

Tonight I cannot watch the badgers as I'm off out with a couple of mates. I still like to go over and put the food out for the badgers, though. After last weeks success with filming the fox pounce whilst on my way to feed the badgers, I take the camcorder along, but reach the hide uneventfully. I put the food out and hang around for a few minutes, but nothing out as yet. Having said that, it's only about 19:30 and still light. I wander back up towards the centre, already missing the fact I won't see badgers tonight. I get back to the centre withoug seeing anything, but am now looking forward to a beer, or two, with my friends. Roll on Saturday night!

Thursday 3/9/09 - Forgot the camera!

Tonight was a real rush (in the running around like a headless chicken sense). I didn't get in from work til well gone eight, got changed and back out again to see the badgers. In the rush I forgot to take a camera with me, so no new pics tonight. I could have given it a miss, but I won't be watching on Friday so didn't want to miss two nights on the trot.

Anyway, rushed off to the Barn Owl Centre, very quick hellos and stock up with nuts. Off into the darkness and as I'm approaching the hide, a badger on the path. Unfortunately, with the wind on my back the badger is soon peering at me in the gloom I'm sure having smelt me in the first place. I stop, but the badger isn't having any of it and disappears into the dry ditch to the right of the path. On to the hide, food out and into the hide.

I have only been in the hide for a few minutes when a badger appears from the same path I just walked down. As usual, he follows the trail of nuts to where the bulk of the food is and begins feeding in earnest.This one is soon joined by another badger and they settle into a relaxed feast of nuts and dog meat. You may remember that when I first introduced the dog food, one badger in particular literally spat the meat out and ran away! I haven't seen that behaviour since and the badgers really seem to relish the little bit of dog food I put out (about a quarter of a can). They will pick it up in their mouths and lift their heads up off the ground, unusual with these badgers who are constantly sniffing, or eating off the ground. They really seem to enjoy this little treat so I'll keep it up. Soon the badgers are sniffing around in the long grass at the bottom of the hide wall. This close you can see how powerful these animals can be as they force their noses and mouths into the long grass to find the peanuts. They thrust forward in short, sharp movements and you just know they are stocky, powerful animals. Soon, the food is all gone and the mad sniffing around phase begins. I whistle and throw a few peanuts out through the door and soon one of the badgers finds them and tucks in. I repeat this feeding pattern two or three times and the badgers seem to respond to the sound of the nuts hitting the floor. The whistle, as ever, doesn't bother them, but I'm hoping they will come to associate it with food. Eventually I let them wander off having had their fill and deciding not to feed any more so I can get out, go home and go to bed!

Wednesday 2/9/09 - Busy at work

This, as some of you may already have gathered, is my first ever blog. I like keeping some sort of record of events for myself and if no-one else reads it, that's fine by me. However, for those of you who do keep blogs (if anyone is reading this), isn't it difficult to keep up to date with them? Really busy at work at the moment and putting in a number of late nights meaning I'm getting home by about eight and leaving for the badgers at half past. By time I get back from the Barn Owl Centre, I'm knackered and don't get around to updating the blog as often as I should. I will try and remedy this in the near future.

Wednesday night I was home from work relatively early and my dad comes round for a chat. I show him the pictures I've taken over the last couple of nights and he suggests using his little Samsung camera for a go at taking pictures of the badgers. I can't really see the difference as it's a small compact very similar to the Nikon I tried last night. Anyway, he lends it to me until next Wednesday so I'll give it a go.

As ever, I'm later than I'd like to be when I arrive at the BOC. As usual I have a quick chat with Vince and Juliette to catch up on how busy it's been with visitors, how the birds are and any other news. It's then off into the darkness, on my own tonight, food out and into the hide. The weather today has been very wet and I'm togged up in my fleece jacket (it's quieter than a waterproof), waterproof trousers and wellies. Rain is now just spotting a bit, thankfully. I have my dad's Samsung camera and realise there, in the dark, I need to figure out where the on/off button is, which setting to use, etc. I fiddle about with this for a while and think I've got it sorted. A badger appears, coming in from the main path ahead of the hide. He moves confidently forward and is soon only a couple of metres from the hide. I use the gap in the camo net to put the torch out and also slowly move my hand witht the camera in through the gap. If the movement is behind the torch, no problem. Just don't let any movement happen in front of it or they are gone. I don't do that this time and as a second badger appears to the left of the hide, I try a shot. No response, which is reassuring. I take a couple more with no response from either badger, who have now moved closer together and are feeding happily side by side. A few more piccies. Still no reaction. Good. I like trying to get a good shot as I can show them on this blog and you can see them too. See this wonderful pair below, looking a bit like drowned rats, but it has been pouring.
They get closer to the hide, literally a couple of feet away from where I'm sat. Again, I can smell the odd odour they have. They are quite noisy, not vocally, but sniffing and eating noises in abundance! As always, I am gobsmacked to be so close to these animals. I never know for sure if they are aware of me, or am I just hiding well and with the wind into my face, they can't smell me either? I'm starting to believe they now know I'm there, but maybe putting up with me. I don't know how long it would take to gain trust from these wary animals, but wonder if I'm getting there after two or three months? Again, if you have experience of badgers, please let me know. Why do I think they know I'm there? Look at the two pictures below. The first is blissful ignorance, maybe. The second? Apart from the redeye, or badger equivalent of it, this badger is looking directly at me. What do you think? In the first picture you can see the second badger in the background. The second picture shows a bit of the setup I use at the hide. Although my torch looks huge, it is only about three inches across the lens so the gap between the camo net and door frame is about a foot. It's through this gap I illuminate with the torch and take either video or stills as you can see here. My knees, when I'm kneeling, are almost up against the inside of the hide. This puts me really close to the badgers, which is great!

During the taking of these pictures, and another dozen besides, the badgers didn't once show any concern, apart from on one occasion when my hand was holding the camera outside of the hide and the badger came  a bit too close for comfort and I pulled it in fairly quickly, which spooked him slightly. So, if you are going to buy a camera to photograph badgers, Don't buy an SLR or a Nikon. Samsung cameras are definitely badger friendly!!

Tuesday 1/9/09 - More pictures tonight

After the attempts to take photographs last night I have decided to try my daughters Nikon Coolpix as a quieter option to the SLR. This is a very compact little camera, but it takes some nice shots. Also, and most importantly, once you have turned off all the little noises these modern cameras make for focusing, shutter sound, etc, they are pretty quite. No loud clunk as the shutter fires.

Beth comes along with me tonight. I don't think she trusts me with her camera! With school about to start plus a trip to Spain starting on Friday, this will be the last night she can attend for a while. We arrive at the hide a little later than planned and almost dark again. We put the food out and begin the wait. It's not a long wait and a badger shows up. He works his way towards us and I get the camera ready. I take a shot and the flash goes off. No reaction! This is exciting, badgers turning up just after we arrive and now a second badger. We sit quietly watching the feeding animals. Here is one of the shots I managed to take early on. You can see the badgers look to be in great condition.
The badgers move in close to the hide and as I attempt to take some more images, a couple of times the animals spooked and ran a few metres away. They don't go far and I guess the flash is startling them somewhat, the same it does to us when we have a picture taken when we're not expecting it. They come back pretty quickly, though, so I risk a couple more shots.  The picture on the right is a cropped image of one of the regulars, I think. I still find it difficult to tell them apart, but having looked at some pictures I've now taken, it seems as though their nose colour, or the area just above the nose varies slightly. Perhaps this is just me, but is may be one way of telling one from the others. Has anyone else noted this? Let me know.

Anyway, the two badgers feed confidently and eventually they are right outside the hide. Due to the disturbance of the flash, I stop taking pictures and just sit and watch. The badgers finish off the nuts and dogfood and are now sniffing around looking for any that they've missed. As I've mentioned before, I began whistling at the badgers a while back now and they don't even look up when I do this. I've also started to throw a small number of peanuts out when they are running out and as long as the badgers don't see the movement of my are, they home in on them pretty quickly, possibly by the noise of them landing. What if I do these two things together? Would the badgers begin to associate my whistle with more food being available? This has got to be worth a try and is basic animal training at the end of the day, so why not?

Monday 31st August - Argy Bargy and photographs

We are now getting close to going public with the badger viewing. They are feeding regularly at the hide in varying numbers and will hopefully give people the chance to see these animals up close. To help promote this I need to take some photos of the badgers to use on the blog and on the Barn Owl Center website. Therefore I leave the camcorder at home tonight and take the digital SLR plus flash. If you read this blog regularly you will know I've tried using flash before on the camcorder. It couldn't focus in the dark, but the badgers didn't seem to mind the flash. The only untested bit is the noise of the camera as the shutter and mirror move. I'll give it a go and see what happens.

On my own, I'm a little late tonight and it's 20:55 as I'm walking down to the hide. On the path in front of me is a lone badger foraging. I walk quietly towards it, but he's downwind of me and soon smells me and he's off. I continue to the hide, put the food out and get the camera ready. I fire a test shot at a stick I've placed there for something to prefocus on. It looks OK. At 21:15, a lone badger appears from the main path picking off the few nuts I leave as a trail into the feeding area. The badger is soon close enough to try a photo and I get as low as I can and, with some trepidation push the shutter. As soon as the shot is taken, the badger runs off, almost out of the feeding area. Not so good. In the quiet, the shutter does sound more like a gun shot going off, so I can't blame the badger. The badger is already making its way back towards the hide and as he gets closer, a second badger appears and soon joins him. I try another shot and again, the first badger does a runner. The second one didn't seem to mind at all. Whilst the one badger is not so close to the hide, I try another shot of the more tolerant animal. This time, he retreats a little way. Each time they have returned they have been getting closer to the hide as they've eaten all the food furthest from the hide, so although the camera is scaring them, it can't be too bad as they keep returning. That said, I decide that using the SLR for photographs is not the best option; I don't want to scare the badgers. I'd rather they left of their own accord as and when they are ready. I put the camera down and just watch.

Here is a picture that I did manage to take, my first :-)

The two badgers are now very close to the hide, literally just outside the door, a foot or so from where I'm kneeling. They are down to the last few nuts and as I watch they are trying to push each other off the remaining food. They try and get their head over the food and then walk sideways to try and block the other animal from getting any more. This only goes on for a minute, but it is highly amusing watching this behaviour. They don't make any noise during this pushing, or show any signs of agression other than the pushing and generally seem to get on OK.

Footage of the fox pouncing yesterday evening. This animal looked fantastic in the late afternoon light and is in really good condition. If there was a class at Crufts he would be in with a chance!

Saturday 29th August - Feeding only tonight

Due to my plans changing last night, I was able to go and watch the badgers after all. The downside to that is I am unable to tonight. On the bright side, I can get down there to feed them so it's about 19:15 when I get down to the centre. I stock up with nuts and set off for the hide. Now I've got the video camera, I thought I would take it with me as you never know what you might see. I'm glad I did. As I walk out of the first field into the second, I look up the path to my right and there is the dog fox. He's preoccupied listening to something in the long grass at the side of the path. I begin filming him as I've no daylight footage of the foxes (or badgers) yet. I've heard that if you make a squeaking noise, it can attract foxes to come nearer, so I try it. The fox looks around and sees me, but ignores me and concentrates on something in the long grass again. As I watch him, his ears go up, he does a little shuffle with his back legs and then launches himself up in the air and forward, disappearing into the long grass. It was a pretty spectacular jump, I was surprised at how high he went! A couple of seconds later he comes out of the long grass onto the path and trots away from me, ignoring my squeaking noises. That shoots that myth down in flames...

This behaviour is quite common with foxes as they hunt voles and other small rodents. I've only seen it on the TV before, most recently on the Yellowstone program, but that was in the snow. It was still a lovely sight to see and I do have it on video. I will post it shortly. I guess that's just being in the right place at the right time, but really glad I saw it.

I wander on down to the hide, put the food out and come back a different route. I don't see anything else, although the moon and clouds are looking good in the evening light. As usual, it's just nice being out there!

Friday 28th August - Change of plan

Tonight I wasn't planning on watching the badgers as I had other plans (no, I don't watch badgers every night!). However, plans change and I was able to. Another late night at work didn't help matters, but I was at the Barn Owl Centre for about 20:45. It's amazing how dark the nights are getting. Each night I think I'll leave a bit earlier, but I keep arriving at the centre and it's almost dark! Anyway, I'm off down to the hide on my own hoping for a good viewing. Food out and into the hide. I decide to put the net down tonight and do a bit more filming. At about 21:15 a lone badger appears. They are definitely foraging independently now and rarely turn up in a group. He's feeding confidently working his way towards the hide when another badger appears. When I refer to a badger as "he", I don't really know. Telling badgers sexes is not an easy task without, err, checking their bits.They are now getting quite close to the hide. My favourite bit! A third badger appears and joins in the fun. I'm filming the badgers and hopefully getting some good shots. It's not easy when filming as I'm holding the camera in one hand, holding the torch in the other and trying to poke both of these out through the side of the netting without any sudden movements or noise. However, when I manage that, I get shots like you see below. Turn up the sound and listen to the racket they make!

If you would like to share this experience, please visit and look under "Events".

Thursday 27th August - A good show for two

Tonight my wife, Juliet, has decided to come over with me. A quick chat with Vince and as it's almost dark, we make our way down to the hide. Dogfood and peanuts deployed, we get into the hide to wait and see what will happen. We've only been in the hide for about ten minutes when the first badger appears. He is not far into the feeding area when he turns and trots off. Juliet is sat in behind the netting over the door and it's one of those nights when we are getting a lot of reflection of light off the low cloud. Although quite orange, the ambient light levels are quite high and I wonder if the badger could see Juliet? He was too far away for the light to put onto him, so that wouldn't have obscurred his view at all. We wait maybe fifteen minutes before a reappearance of anything. This could be the same badger, but this time he is happier and works his way towards the hide. This one is joined by a second badger who comes over and is feeding with the first animal about three meters out.

This is where I tend to put the bulk of the food, although after the last couple of nights, I'm also putting some food much closer to the hide as they don't seem to mind being that close to the hide. Having said that, when it's a bit breezy, the netting covering the hide does tend to flap a little bit which can make the badgers (and foxes) uneasy, even making them retreat from time to time, although they return pretty quickly.

Anyway, the badgers are now getting quite close to the hide and I decide to try some more video. As I open the screen on the camcorder, it makes a small noise and the badgers spook and retreat several meters. I put the camera away and decide it is probably not a good idea to do this when I have visitors as the additional commotion could scare the badgers off. Within a minute, or so, the badgers are back and feeding right outside the door. From Juliet's feet, the badgers are no more than a foot away on the outside of the hide, obviously. With the light on them we get fantastic views of the animals sniffing out and eating the free offerings. With the breeze in our faces, we can smell the animals quite strongly. If you've ever driven by a dead badger, one of the many unfortunate ones to be hit by a car, and you get a smell come into the car a bit like gone off meat, but maybe not so bad, that is what living badgers smell like! It's not overly unpleasant, but before watching them at such close quarters, I assumed it was due to the dead animal beginning to rot. It turns out this is what they smell like.

As the food runs out they start sniffing around madly looking for any missed items. I manage to get a few more nuts near the hide unoticed and they are back eating these extra offerings with relish. Eventually these are all eaten and we watch them have a final search for food before wandering off, noses constantly sniffing.

Another nice show of the animals tonight plus we see another on the way back up to the centre. A cup of coffee, a bit of IT stuff to do, and a very pleasant way to end the day.