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.

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