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.

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