Sunday 1/11/09 - Two guests on a bright, moonlit night

I've been over to the Barn Owl Centre this afternoon doing some bits on the hide and buying some felt for the roof. After the horrendous weather this morning, some proper waterproofing in the roof is probably a good idea. My two paying guests, a mum and her daughter, turn up to have a look around the centre later on in the afternoon and I wander over for a chat. The mum is a keen wildlife photographer who travels all over the world, but whose favourite is Africa, and the daughter arranges wildlife safaris all over the world for a living and has just returned from three weeks in Africa herself. No pressure then! Having said that, both are very pleasant and seem quite excited about seeing a badger, hopefully up close. Last nights encounter would be nice!

Once dark, at around 5.45, we set off for the hide and chat quietly on the way down. Once at the hide, they take their seats whilst I put some food out in the feeding area and some of the doorstep, just in case! One small torch illuminates the area where most of the food is and as we have a full moon tonight, I drop the door net down to just over half way to reduce the amount of light entering the hide. We talk in whispers for a few minutes but eventually fall silent. The mouse hasn't shown itself yet, which is slightly odd, but then I see some movement outside the hide. A rat! He cautiously moves towards the food, but is very nervous and keeps darting back to the left side of the hide. He repeats this a number of times and gets a little further out each time. My visitors do see him, although a rat isn't what we are after. Mice aren't what we're after either, but once the rat stops appearing, hopefully because badgers are nearby, the mouse takes its turn. Regardless of whether mice are our targets, or not, it's nice to see and in the absence of any badgers, it's a lot better than nothing.

Seven o clock arrives and still no badgers, I can' t even hear any moving in the hedges nearby. We do hear both Little and Tawny Owls, but even they are distant. Some fireworks are also going off, but there was more last night and the badgers didn't seem to mind at all, so I doubt that is the hold up. When seven thirty arrives, I decide to tell them things aren't looking too good and it's up to them if we call it a night, or not. We decide to give it another ten minutes, or so. It seems a perfect evening; full moon, little to no wind and not too cold.Fifteen minutes go by, then twenty. We begin chatting in whispers when the daughter sees a badger out in the feeding area. Unfortunately, it runs off no sooner than we've seen it! That is a good sign, however. At least one badger is out and about. I explain that if one runs off, sometimes it appears from a different direction after a few minutes. We wait on.

After another fifteen or twenty minutes, a badger appears down the path to the left, clearly visible in the moonlight. I'm not sure what time it is as I'm too scared to pick up my phone and check in case I frighten the animal away! The badger moves towards us along the trail of nuts I leave leading into the main area. Soon it is feeding about four feet out from the hide and slowly working its way towards the door. This is one of my regulars, the slightly larger one. I'll have to give them names, I think. That will simplify things when explaining what they are doing. As she gets close to the hide, I whistle and throw some nuts out which she eats straight away. I only do this a couple of times as she's had quite a feast already eating all the food which was meant for two badgers. Now the only food left is on the doorstep and quite nervously, she takes some food from the step giving a wonderful, close-up view of this wild animal. She trots off shortly after this, but I think she'll be back. Within a minute, or two, she is and again approaches the step. Again, very nervously, she climbs onto the step and takes a bit more food, but again runs off. This time she doesn't come back and we begin packing up. Both guests seem very pleased with their encounter with a badger who was within a couple of feet of them. I'm pleased we had any sort of encounter at all as without my guest's persistence and patience, we may have packed up earlier and had a no show.

We get back up to the centre, discussing wildlife and birds from all round the world. Vince comes out and joins in, too. We have been down at the hide for nearly three hours, maybe a new record? Thanks to Mags and Katie for a good evening.

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