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.

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