Saturday 17/10/09 - A busy night

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

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

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

                           The Little One!

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

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

All pictures copyright

Thursday 15/10/09 - A wet night

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

                   A rather wet badger!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Pictures Copyright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Pictures Copyright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Pictures Copyright

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

Saturday 3/10/09 - A trip down to the hide with Beth

I went over to feed the badgers last night, but was on my usual Friday night outing to see some friends. It's nice to mingle with some humans from time to time!

I've been thinking about the wonderful weather we've been having lately. Those nice warm, sunny days followed by the darker evenings, with that definite Autumnal chill in the air. This has been going on for a month, or so, now. No real rainfall around here to speak of. That must make things difficult for animals whose staple diet is earthworms. We have been getting some heavy dews, I guess, but are worms about on those chilly nights? I guess there is a lot of fruit about at this time of year and that contains a certain amount of water. There are also ponds nearby, so drinking isn't a problem, but what about food? The two regulars I get at the hide are looking in great condition and I don't think they are reliant of the food I put out. If I didn't feed them again for a month, I'm sure they'd be OK. That said, Beth and myself had just got down to the hide this evening and it absolutely threw it down with rain for about twenty minutes! As there is currently no roof on the hide, just the camo net, it doesn't offer much protection from the rain and we got rather wet. We stuck it out, though and were rewarded with a visit by two very wet looking badgers.
                       Boots and Badgers
One arrived at 7.50, really late compared to recent arrivals. He comes down the main path and is soon joined by another from the path to the left. We have left the net up tonight and Beth is sat in the middle of the doorway on a chair a couple or three feet into the hide. I am sat on my stool to the right of the door, but would be fairly obvious to anyone passing. The badgers move in close to the hide and finish the food I've already put out. I have put some nuts on the doorstep too. I begin feeding them additional nuts after a whistle and they move in really close. One of the badgers latches onto the nuts on the doorstep and climbs up to get at them. Beth is sat on the chair with her feet out in front of her. The badger gets quite close to her feet, but thinking she may scare them if she moves her feet, she leaves them there. In the next picture you can see her feet against the doorstep with the badger happily feeding closeby. In the picture, her feet look really big, and no, they're not my wellies! I think the perspective of the lens makes them look big.
Same number of badgers and feet, less nuts    

I manage to throw some nuts to the two badgers and whilst their heads are down eating them, manage to put some more on the doorstep. They easily find them and with Beths feet still there, they climb back up and eat the newly placed food. I later found out that Beth had scrunched her toes up, just in case! I stop feeding and the badgers wander off in different directions, as usual. We pack up and head back up to the farm. On the way we come across a single badger out foraging, but he sees us coming and disappears into the hedge. Back at the farm we have a quick look around at the birds. It is fantastic that our native owls are so fantastic. The Long Eared Owl looks stunning, the Barn Owl is the essence of a British owl and the Tawny is another beautiful bird. To top off the collection, the Little Owl is unbelievably cute (although he does like pecking people, apparently). A lovely collection of owls, and that doesn't include the Eagle, Boobook, Great Horned, Grass and Snowy Owls that also live here.

Thursday 1/10/09 - A return trip for some visitors

I came over to feed the badgers last night, but didn't stay and watch them. I'm tending to take the odd Wednesday off at the moment due to things I should be doing elsewhere.

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that we had a family of four in to see the badgers and had a no show. I was really disappointed so we decided to offer them a return trip to try their luck again. I was a little nervous about this trip as five in the hide is a lot and I didn't want them to be disappointed again. It also turned out that the wind had swung round to a North Westerly today meaning the wind would be moving from the hide to the feeding area. To cap all that, a near full moon was due and it was a clear sky. The moon would be shining straight into the hide. Not that I was at all negative as the badgers had been showing so well recently.

When they arrived, I met them in reception and we had a bit of a chat. They were quite excited at having another go and with the dusk well and truly here we made a move down to the hide. On arrival at the hide at a quarter past seven, we sorted out seating for them and then I started putting the nuts and dog food out. I put more food further from the hide tonight so hopefully the badgers would be feeding confidently before moving closer to the hide. I put two small LED lights up illuminating the area where the majority of the food was and had my trusty LED handheld for illuminating anything outside of this area. We settled in, I put the net covering the door down and we began the wait. As a last act before the wait began, I put some nuts in two piles on the doorstep and told them we may be lucky. After a few minutes, we could hear a pair of Little Owls calling to each other. Shortly after that, with lots of screeching and other noise, a Little Owl flew into the tree opposite the hide and perched on the end of a dead branch so we could easily see it. A minute or two later, it flew off towards the farm. The Tawny Owls started just after this with at least two birds calling to each other. At least we had seen some wildlife, if not badgers.

A few more minutes went by and I spotted a badger to the right of the hide and indicated this to the others. By time I'd turned around to look again, it had gone. I waited a few minutes and it hadn't reappeared and I was worried that it had smelt us and decided not to eat here tonight. That animal showed at 7.30 which is the earliest I've had so far. Ten long minutes past before I noticed a badger approaching down the path to the left of the hide. He came into the feeding area a little way, but was acting very cautiously. At one point he ran back up the path he'd arrived from and I just hoped that wasn't it for the evening. It wasn't. A couple more minutes went by and another badger appeared from the main path and began working its way towards the hide. He then trotted down the right side of the feeding area and I thought we'd lost that one too. I needn't have worried as both badgers now made their way back into the feeding area and settled in to eating and sniffing. They sat contentedly eating about four feet from the hide and were moving closer, slowly. A couple of times they stopped and looked at the hide, or sniffed the air and I just held my breath. As I had not put too much food close to the hide, less than a metre out, I now had to decide whether to risk feeding them additional nuts. Would the movement scare them off? It doesn't normally, but if they were being extra cautious tonight, you never know. I decided to risk it and after opening up the net slightly, I whistled and threw some nuts out. They had a good look, but moved onto the nuts and came a little closer. I looked around at my guests and all were intently watching the badgers and all seemed to be smiling a little.

The badgers had now settled down and I was managing to feed them additional nuts from time to time. They were now right outside the hide in front of the door and, as ever, their noses were to the ground trying to find anything edible. Occasionally, one or the other, would lift it's nose and have a bit of a sniff, but there were no obvious signs of fear or panic. Having fed the badgers several more times, I felt they had probably had enough and stopped feeding. The badgers continued sniffing around looking for more food and one of them eventually lifted his head and sniffed along the doorstep. As soon as it smelt the nuts there, it lifted itself up onto the step and began eating. As I said earlier, we had the net down, but the view was very good and at one point the badger lifted itself up even higher, raised it's nose to sniff the air and put it up against the net. Chris, Wendy, Beth and Amy were all sat within two or three feet of the badger, who even now didn't suddenly run off or panic, it just carried on sniffing, looking for that last nut. It took another five minutes, or more, before both badgers had wandered off into the night. In excited whispers, we began discussing the events of the evening, collected our things and made our way back up to the farm.

Vince was delighted that we had had such a great display and we all had a bit of a chat about badgers, owls and wildlife in general. It was a great evening and all involved had an enjoyable experience, some of whom had never seen a live badger before. You can cross that one off the list now!

Tuesday 29/9/09 - Two badgers and some owls

I was off work today so I've already been over to the centre for a wander round with the camera. It was another lovely day and, although I didn't see much, it was nice being out there. A photographer was in photographing Leighton, the Buzzard and although I wasn't too close to where this was taking place, I heard a wild Buzzard calling, so looking around, there were in fact two wild birds. They flew over Leighton and the photographer and began rising. I took another ten or fifteen paces and looked back for the birds, but they had apparently disappeared. I looked a little harder and they were small specs in the sky. They must have risen at a fantastic rate to be that high so soon. As I watched them circling, there was still no movement of their wings, they just soar higher and higher.

I'm back over at the centre at about 7.30pm ready to feed and watch. With animals showing up as early as 7.45pm, I need to be down there and ready by then. I can hear at least two Tawny Owls as I walk down in the gathering dusk, but don't see them. Food out and into the hide, net stays up again tonight as I have been enjoying the uninterupted view of the badgers recently. I've only been in the hide for about five minutes when a badger appears from the right of the hide. He also comes almost along the front of the hide, very close. This is unusual as they often start further out and work their way towards the hide. As normal, I have one LED light illuminating a patch about a metre in front of the hide. He is soon here eating the free offerings I have left out. From the main path, a second badger appears and he is soon feeding close in to the hide, too. I have place myself a little further out into the doorway than normal and I think the badgers notice me. They keep sniffing the air whilst looking in my direction. I also think that the very slight breeze we have is blowing from behind the hide blowing my scent towards the animals. I think because they are a bit more alert than normal, every slight sound I make, but moving my arm, for example, they latch onto and have a bit of a look. Maybe they can see the movement. It doesn't stop them getting pretty close, though. When I decide to feed some additional nuts both badgers watch as I get some from my coat pocket and look slightly nervous. As I whistle, they start sniffing and when I throw them out, the movement doesn't affect the badgers at all as they rush to where the nuts have fallen. They polish of the nuts quickly and I swear they are looking at me and waiting for more! I whistle and let them have some more. I think these two badgers are getting used to this routine as they actually sit there waiting until I throw some more out. When I decide to stop feeding, they sit there for a good thirty seconds before starting to sniff around. It's now they will be bold enough to come up to the step, where I have positioned some nuts. The smaller of the two is always first in line for these nuts and with both front paws on the step I get wonderful views of the animal. During this feeding I have noticed a couple of rabbits to the left of the hide. They don't act nervously at all and with badgers being only fifteen yards away, I'm surprised. Perhaps they know they can outrun a badger if needed.

I stop feeding more nuts and one badger has a good sniff around for three or four minutes before he's leaving the feeding area via the main path. The other animal doesn't want to give in so easily. He sniffs around for a good ten minutes before disappearing to the right of the hide. I start putting my camera, torches and chair away when I hear sniffing. He's reappeared from the left of the hide and is right outside again! Another five or six minutes goes by before the gives up and exits via the path to the left. I sit there a little longer before exiting the hide, leaving a few more nuts for any latecomers and head back. A fairly uneventful walk back up, apart from a rustle in the hedge here and there. Back at the farm I go and watch as Vince introduces Clyde, a Lanner/Gyr falcon, to the hood that falcons wear to keep them calm. He has successfully put it on once and although Clyde is rather vocal, it doesn't look like this will be a problem for him in the future. Whilst watching this, the local, wild Tawnys are very active and we see one fly across the aviaries into a nearby tree where it continues calling. Lovely! A quick cup of coffee and off home. I'm amazed that the thermometer in the car is registering 15 degrees. Very warm for evenings at this time of year. I can't see that lasting too much longer...

Monday 28/9/09 - A quieter night (for my heart!)

After the excitement of last night with a badger in the hide, I'm eager to get down and see the badgers again this evening. When I arrive at the Barn Owl Centre, I can already hear wild Tawny Owls calling to each other. They are not year near the compound, but that may happen later if they come over "for a chat" with some of the rescue birds.

As I approach the hide I notice a dark blob on the grass in front of it. A badger is already there. It is 7.40pm and still only dusk, but one animal is already there. As I approach, he makes good his escape and disappears into the hedge. If past experience is anything to go by, he'll be back soon. I quickly put the nuts and dog food out, put up a small LED torch to illuminate an area about a metre from the hide and get on my little chair. The badger I spooked on my way down is back out already. He reappears from the right of the hide and is soon feeding in the pool of light. About ten minutes goes by and a second badger appears from the main path and soon joins his colleague. Again tonight, I've not put the net down so have uninterupted views of the two animals feeding. They work their way closer to the hide and I begin feeding nuts to them by throwing them out after a whistle to alert them something is happening. When I whistle, the badgers look at me with their ears up and seem to be waiting for the nuts to fall. As soon as they do they are on to them and a bit of push and shove normally takes place. As mentioned before, these two animals seem of equal stature in the clan as both can win these pushing fights.

When I decide to stop feeding any more nuts, the badgers begin looking around and generally find the nuts on the doorstep. The image above shows a badger just finishing off the nuts on the doorstep and he certainly looks like he's enjoying them! After about ten minutes, the badgers realise there will be no more food tonight and disappear on their natural feeding routine. I don't want to overfeed them on peanuts and dogfood, or make them reliant on a non natural food supply.

I make my way back up to the farm and the wild Tawny Owls are about. They are calling to some of the owls which are residents here at the centre. I just love the Tawny's call and could stand and listen all night. However, with blogs to update and sleep to be had, I head off for home.

Badger Fact
A badger belongs to a family of animals called the Mustelidae (which means they have a musk gland) which contains animals such as the weasel, otter and mink.

Sunday 27/9/09 - Visitors in the hide

I've been to Prescott Hill Climb this afternoon, so no Barn Owl Centre as yet. It's been another fantastic day weatherwise. Feel a little cheeky actually. Out at Prescott all day, then back, eat dinner then off over to see if any badgers are about. They are. By time I'm down at the hide, owls are calling, badgers are moving in the dry ditch and food out, into the hide, and wait. I leave the net up tonight. Badgers don't seem to mind if it isn't down, especially when I'm on my own. Why not have an uninterupted view?

A badger checks out the doorstep nuts          

Two badgers turn up tonight, a few minutes apart. One from the right of the hide, the second down the main path. Both are feeding confidently just in front of the hide. I begin feeding some addtional nuts and a little push and shove takes place, but nothing aggresive. Both badgers seem to win at the push and shove with neither animal showing as dominant. This apparently friendly push and shove is always amusing to watch.

                   Over the top!
I've put some nuts on the doorstep and soon the smaller animal latches onto them. He puts one front foot on the step and begins eating the nuts. He's only about two feet from me and I'm taking pictures of him with flash and he just doesn't mind. I get a fantastic view of a badger up close, including those claws. I think the head of a badger is smaller than you would think for an animal of it's size. I guess you don't want a big head when you spend so much time underground. Up close, you also see whiskers which aren't immediately visible when you look at a badger.

In with both feet              
As often happens when they feed from the doorstep, they knock some nuts into the hide. Tonight, with the net up and being on my own, I decide to watch and wait to see if they will come in. At first the badger waits on the step sniffing and trying to reach the nuts that lie on the floor of the hide. He tries in vain, but cannot reach so eventually he gives up. He wanders back outside and has a sniff around, but he just can't leave those nuts in there uneaten. He returns and is soon gaining in confidence and placing a front foot onto the floor inside of the hide. He is about 2.5 feet away and suddently seems much bigger! I continue kneeling there and watching, fascinated as this wild animal eats the nuts on the floor. Suddenly he puts both feet in to reach a few nuts which he couldn't manage in his previous position. He is also moving in my direction. I'm sure he's going to hear my heart beating shortly, it seems really loud! I'm really pleased that the trust, or whatever it is they are relying on to enter the hide, is coming on the way it is. I think of the clip on Jurassic Park where the T-Rex has just chased the jeep and the guy says "do you think they'll have that on the tour?". I smile to myself. I don't think I'll be attempting this with visitors as I don't want to scare the animals or the guests! It is great to see, though and I feel a bit sad that no one is here to share this with me. The badger mops up the remaining nuts and eases backwards out of the hide. I stop feeding now and after about ten minutes, the two badgers have left in different directions and I gather my things, shut up the hide and make my way back up to the farm. Another exceptional night. Every time something new happens lately, I think " what else can happen to surpass that?". Something does each and every time. It must have to stop soon as they can't get much closer, or more confident. Perhaps you'd care to join me sometime? If so, call the Barn Owl Centre on 01452 383999. It would be nice to meet you.

Badger Fact
Badgers don't hibernate in winter, like a hedgehog. They do become less active, especially when the weather is cold. All the more reason to get out and put some food down for them!

Saturday 26/9/09 - Another mammal to add to the list

Having missed last night, I am keen to get over to the Barn Owl Centre tonight. A quick catch up with Vince, pickup some nuts and I'm off into the gathering dusk alone. Wild Tawny Owls are already around, calling to each other. Normally you don't see these owls, you hear them, but tonight is different. As I get near the hide, an owl is calling from the tree to the left of the hide. As I make my way towards the hide, the owl flies out and I see it quite well in the light that is left. I stop and watch it fly across the field until it disappears behind a tree to my right. I watch for a couple more seconds and it reappears, only about 25 feet up and flies right over my head. I get a lovely view of it as it goes on its way, eventually being swallowed up by the dark. For anyone who watches nature, it's times like this we all do what we do. That close view of an animal, or bird, not commonly seen, may only last a few seconds and we may have spent hours out in the countryside, but that is the reward for the time we put in. A "natural high" is one way of putting it....
  A badger eyes up some dog food
Briefly, but pleasantly interupted, I continue down to the hide and put the food out. I leave the net up tonight, place a single small torch to illuminate an area about a metre out from the hide, sit on my chair and wait. It's not too long, maybe six or seven minutes, when the first badger appears from the main path. I just sit and watch for a while, listening to the badger feeding, the owls calling and the traffic on the nearby road. From the things I see here, it's worth remembering that I'm only two miles from the actual centre of Gloucester! If the badgers don't mind, then neither do I! As I'm sat there in the hide, watching and listening, I keep hearing some noise down in the front left corner of the hide. I move a light so it illuminates that corner of the hide slightly and keep an eye down there. I then see some movement and watch and a Wood Mouse pokes his head out briefly ,then disappears again. I'm not sure what its after, but he keeps coming back. I throw a couple of nuts down there to see if that will entice him to stay in view longer. It doesn't. By now the badger is close to the hide and he is very close to where the mouse is hiding. There must only be about six inches between them, but the mesh of the hide is too, so the mouse is safe. Badgers will take small mammals given the chance, but this one hasn't noticed the little animal just in front of it.

A badger not smiling for the camera        

The single badger is eating everything in sight and enjoying some nuts and dog food. He is moving close to the hide and as he's on his own, I decide to take some liberties. I move my hand and camera outside of the hide quite close to him. He either doesn't notice or doesn't care. I take the shot below and he doesn't mind that either. As he is the only badger to show tonight I don't feed him any additional nuts and he finishes off what I've put out and begins the sniff around. This goes on for several minutes, including a couple of trips to the doorstep. Eventually, he wanders off and I'm on my own. I wander back up to the farm and have a coffee with Vince and Juliette, updating them on the activity of tonight. I've still yet to convince Juliette to come and see the badgers, although she always seems busy feeding and dealing with the birds. A busy, but rewarding job.
Badger Fact
The British population of badgers is estimated to be in the region of 300,000 to 400,000.

Thursday 24/9/09 - A "standard" night

As I'm trying to cutback a little on the time I'm spending over at the hide so I can update the blog a little more regularly, for example, I'm tending to miss out on watching on a Wednesday night. I still go over to feed, but don't stay to watch. So, nothing to report for last night.

Tonight I go over and have a chat with Vince and Juliette, load up with peanuts and down to the hide. It is about a quarter to eight and as I arrive at the hide, a badger is already sniffing around looking for nuts. I turn on the torch to get a better view and he trots off into the hedge. I quickly go over and open the hide, put some nuts and dog food out and I put the net down tonight. Not sure why, it just seemed the right thing to do. I place myself to the right of the door on a small foldup stool I have down there. By time I've settled in and checked the time, got the camera out and put a light on, a badger is already in the feeding area. He came from the right of the hide, the same way the early visitor disappeared when I put the torch on, so probably the same animal. A second appears from the main path and works his way towards me. As badgers forage independently, it's every badger for himself and when they do meet, as they do in front of the hide, you would think they may get a little defensive. Luckily, the worst I've seen is the argy bargy that takes place when I throw additional nuts out. Badger clans are hierarchichal, meaning there is a pecking order with each animal having its place. Oddly, the two regulars I get don't tend to follow this pattern. One is larger than the other, but the smaller one pushes the other off food as often as the larger animal does the smaller, maybe more. Perhaps they are equal with the hierarchy? Most of the time they are very happy eating alongside each other. This is what they are currently doing, sniffing around and munching nuts side by side. They are now close to the hide and as I've left a small gap in the net in front of me, I place a few nuts on the doorstep. I decide not to throw any additional nuts out tonight and just sit and watch the animals feeding.

        Badger at the Door
The nuts are now running out, dog food gone and the badgers begin sniffing around checking nothing is left. This is where they can get very close to the hide and is normally when they find food on the doorstep and this is what happens tonight. The smaller badger finds the food on the doorstep and tucks in. He is really close, less than a foot from my knee. It manages to knock a few nuts into the hide whilst eating and once the nuts on the step are gone he looks interested in the ones inside the hide. He sniffs and starts moving his head further in. Being this close, it's all a bit exciting and it looks like he's coming in! If he puts his foot down, it will be on my leg. I decide to move and he pauses, then backs out of the hide. He then continues sniffing around outside, but the movement didn't scare him, just put him off. That is a good result; that close is quite close enough but I didn't frighten the animal and he wanders off on his own, eventually. His feeding friend has already left so it's time for me to pack up and head back to the farm. I always leave a few more nuts outside the hide in case I get some visitors later in the evening. The reality is that the two that have already visited will come back, but who knows?

Badger Fact
A badgers main food source is earthworms. They can eat up to 200 a night! I can see why they enjoy peanuts so much...

Tuesday 22/9/09 - A fox for good measure

It's been another very pleasant day and I'm looking forward to spending some time down in the hide; my daily fix of nature! I follow the normal routine tonight and I'm in the hide before eight. It is a lovely evening and with little wind about, it seems very relaxing and just right for badgers. The first thing to show tonight is a fox, however. He moves in a semi-circle in front of the hide, never coming closer than about four metres. He knows there is food there, but won't come any closer. A badger shows up and the fox stays out of the badgers way. I've found that once a badger has moved into the feeding area, foxes don't tend to stay for much longer. Possibly with the awareness that a human is sat in the hide plus the fact a badger may decide to have a chew on it, the fox trots off as the second badger arrives. In the picture, below, you can see the fox keeping a close eye on the badger. It's also interesting to note the badger is sitting down, like a dog really. They tend to eat like this quite a lot and on the odd occasion, they lie down too! Hopefully this is a sign that they are relaxed and not under any stress.

      A fox keeps a wary eye on a badger
Meaning to get home a little earlier tonight, I decide not to feed any additional nuts. It's slightly concerning that the badgers, the smaller one in particular, are now waiting for additional food to be thrown out to them. If they hear movement, they are moving slightly closer in anticipation of something being thrown out to them. Normally they would baulk at the sound of movement within the hide, but because they hear movement as I get some peanuts out of my pocket, they are now associating that with some extra food being thrown out, they put up with it and sit and wait. It puts me under pressure, being a bit soft for that stripey face, to feed them more, but I am being sensible and only feeding a certain amount; never throwing all the food I carry out to them.

A number of wild owls are about tonight, all Tawny's. I can hear them calling from several directions. One is right up by the centre and calling consistently. Hopefully I will see him when I walk back up.  One badger wanders off down the main path, the other is circulating around the feeding area and keeps coming back to the hide looking for more food.  He eventually gets the hint and wanders off into the dark. It's important to me that they leave of their own accord and don't see me vacate the hide.  I see a badger on the path on the way back up, but don't get close to it. The wild Tawny is still calling from a tree next to the flying area. I can see him quite clearly as I walk back up and move closer for a better look. I get within about twenty yards, but he then flies off to a tree a little further away.

Badger Fact
Badgers live, on average, between twelve and fifteen years!