Wednesday 16/6/10 - A exciting forty five minutes

It was a glorious evening in Gloucester, clear skies, slight breeze and the setting sun shedding that gorgeous richness across the landscape. I initially set off towards the orchard near the sett to see if there was any activity there, collecting bedding or feeding, which I have witnessed here lately. It was still quite light and no activity here. I watched for five or ten minutes then headed off down to the hide. As I was walking along one of the mowed pathways which wind around the farm, a sudden movement caught my eye. On one of the grass piles, where the cuttings go when Vince mows the pathways, a vixen and her cub who were resting on one of the piles jumped up and the vixen disappeared. I just stood still and the cub who had its back to me just stood and watched where his mum had gone. He was no more than thirty feet from me and was tilting his head from one side to the other as though saying "come on, mum, stop playing around". He obviously hadn't seen me. After a good thirty or forty seconds, he started sniffing around and that was when he turned, saw me and vanished into the long grass. I was really pleased to see at least one cub around. I'd seen foxes from time to time, but no cubs so far this year.

I wandered over to the area the cub had disappeared, which was right next to one of the dry ditches that run around and through the farm. I could hear movement in the ditch so lowered myself behind the long grass a little and waited for the cub to appear. What actually appeared was a badger! Now this area in early spring looked like badgers were using it as an additional sett, but I hadn't seen, or heard any activity for a couple of months. Well the badger moved up the opposite bank of the ditch and started collecting bedding by clawing at the grass and gathering it into a ball and walking backwards, rolling it along, and disappeared back towards what must be an active sett! He repeated this three times, which is great news as this sett is only about forty metres from the hide.

I then wandered onto the hide and put nuts out as usual, waited for a few mminutes, but had to get back so didn't stay long. I thought I'd check out the orchard on my way back. En route I heard something in the wild flower meadow, so crept closer. The grass and flowers are quite tall here and although I got quite close to what was obviously a badger from the noises it was making, maybe four feet, I couldn't actually see it. It was sniffing loudly, then a pause as it noisily ate something, then more sniffing. I left it alone and carried onto the orchard, but still nothing there. Although it was getting dark now, a cuckoo was still calling and the light was fantastic. All in all, a great way to spend 45 minutes!

First Visitor of the Year

As mentioned in the previous entry, Chris was coming to visit tonight in the hope of seeing a badger. Things are still pretty erratic at present, so not overly confident, although with Monday's viewing fresh in my memory, a lot more confident than I was.

Chris and myself turned up at the Barn Owl Centre at about 9.30. I filled my pockets with peanuts and as it was overcast and had been raining, light was fading fast, we went straight out into the gloom. First target area was the gate near to the sett which is normally pretty good for seeing something. I put a few nuts out and we settled down into the wet grass at the side of the footpath. It was about now the rain started falling again! It wasn't just drizzle either, but we stayed put for about twenty minutes, but no sign of any badgers. As the light was now almost gone, plus the fact we were getting wet, we set off for the hide. On the way down, we did hear a badger in one of the dry ditches, but it never materialised. Into the hide at about 10.15 with peanuts out in front, some quite close. I was even optimistic enough to put some on the door step of the hide! We waited for three quarters of an hour and nothing had shown. I had heard a badger moving behind the hide along the hedge, but it never came into the feeding area. At 11.20 I checked with Chris if he was OK for a bit longer. He said he was, but another ten minutes and I would call it a day. With a badger turning up at 11.30, if it stuck around for forty minutes, it would be well gone midnight and with work in the morning...

Just after 11.30, we called it a day in the hide and I just hoped we would see something on the way back up. We didn't, so I suggested going back to the gate near the sett where we had started the evening. We arrived there, and nothing. Feeling a little disappointed, I scanned the newly mown orchard area, but nothing out there, not even eyeshine. I literally gave the orchard one last scan with the torch and this time saw some eyeshine! I kept the beam on the animal and it was a badger. Not only a badger, but one of this years, it was tiny! It was about 20m away and had its head up and was sniffing wildly, but it stayed put for thirty seconds or more before heading for the long grass. It certainly wasn't the best view of a badger I've had, but it was first for Chris and I think he was really pleased. We went back up to the farm with a bit more of a bounce in our step than we'd had earlier. All in all, a slightly disappointed evening, but we did see one and that's what it's all about! Gone midnight by now so home to bed.

Thanks to Chris for being so patient and I hope he and his family enjoy the rest of their stay.

Here we go again!

It's been over five months since I last posted. There are several reasons for this, the main one being there has been little to report! I have been feeding the badgers, or baiting the feeding area about five nights a week. Only once in that time, until very recently, have I seen a badger near the hide. During my feeding visits, I quite often have a walk around the farm, mostly in the dark or heavy dusk, but sometimes earlier. On odd occasions I have seen badgers, especially up near the sett, so I guess the badgers are staying close to home.

This has not been very reassuring with regard to getting people down to see the badgers. Over the last week, or so, things have been improving, but my, are they out late! I've been staying 'til 10.30ish and not seeing anything at the hide, but I have been seeing more and more on the way back up. That is, an odd badger, or if I'm lucky two. On Sunday, Chris, who is from Australia and returning there on Saturday, paid a visit to the Barn Owl Centre and saw our Badger Watching signs. Although it was explained to him that chances were slim, he really wanted to try and see one whilst he was here. As I'm down there anyway, I thought why not? It's a part of this badger watching I really enjoy, being able to show someone a badger who may never have seen one before.

On Monday evening I decided to have a trial run of what we would do, albeit on my own. I went down to the gateway near the sett and waited for fifteen or twenty minutes and although I did hear some movement and chattering, I didn't see anything. I then moved to another "hotspot", but nothing there. Down to the hide and put peanuts out, near the hide and sit and wait. At 22.30, a single badger appeared from my left madly sniffing the air. He sussed me out in no time and trotted off. 22.50 and a badger appears from the main path in front of the hide, walks straight down to the hide and begins feeding about six or eight feet out. It was a lovely warm evening and sat there watching the badger feed brought back all those experiences I had last year. It was great! During the time the badger was feeding, another badger appeared, but stayed away from the hide. At one point, the feeding badger seemed to get intimidated by the newcomers presence and ran off. He was back a minute or so later. What wasn't so great was the amount of time he spent noisily sniffing around the feeding area. He must have covered every square inch! It was 23.40 when he disappeared and I could come out of the hide and go home. During the session, I firstly put a torch on the animal at quite a low level without problem. I also took two photos when it was very close to the hide, again without reaction. I'm sure due to this, and other mannerisms, that it was the small badger from last year that used to feed regularly.

I'll take my guest down to the hide tonight with a little more confidence now. Watch this space and I'll tell you how it goes.

5/1/10 - Happy New Year!

Well, hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. Back to the routine way of life of work, sleep and get out when I can, which hasn't been much lately. Since my last post in early December I have continued to feed the badgers most nights, but have not seen one during that time. I was talking to Kev Lewis down at the Barn Owl Centre the other night. He was out taking star trail pictures (which you can see on his web site). This process took him about three hours and he was in what was a "hot spot" for badgers. During his stay he saw no sign of badgers moving around, which isn't great. That is only one night, but during the time spent there, I would have hoped, he might have seen or heard something.

The tracks they use around the farm seem to be as cleary defined as ever so they are being used regularly, but I'm guessing late at night or early hours. Hopefully, with the food still going down regularly, they will return to a more sociable hour at some point, but that now may not happen until Spring.

I have been out and about a little with visits to Ham Wall RSPB site near Glastonbury, mainly to see the starlings, but whilst there I was lucky enough to see Marsh Harrier and a Bittern in flight. I've also been for some walks around Frampton on Severn and Slimbridge WWT.

I will post again, especially if there are any badgers sighted, in the not too distant future. Watch this space!