Showing posts from June, 2017

30 Nights Wild, night 29

At last, the wind dropped and we had a dry night. I went back up my ladder to watch the badgers, but left a camera on the ground to get some eye-level photos. It's been a while since I used the Wi-Fi on that camera, so I tested it out with my tablet before setting off. I positioned the camera carefully and got to my seat.

As I was turning on the tablet, a badger appeared at the hole on my left. Nicola emerged and was soon joined by Nigel. He was in just the right position for a photo, but I had no Wi-Fi connection - very frustrating.

Jeremy joined the cubs and they hoovered up all the peanuts before wandering off through the brambles to the big oak tree. They played on the slippery logs underneath, with Jeremy joining in, then they all had a chase around the centre of the sett, largely obscured from my view by brambles and bracken. The cubs had a final check of the feeding site, to make quite sure there were no peanuts left, and the clan went off into the woods.

30 Nights Wild, night 28

It had been cold, wet and windy all day and the evening was no better. I arrived at about 8:45, set up the dome hide and put out some peanuts, in heavy rain.

The two cubs did not let me down, they were out within five minutes. They rushed back to the sett whenever there was a particularly strong gust of wind, but kept coming back. After 20 minutes they'd had enough and returned to the sett. I packed up and was walking back to the car when an incoming badger crossed the path ahead of me. It was my shortest ever badger watch, at about 35 minutes.

30 Nights Wild, night 27

Heavy rain was forecast for about 10, so I set up my dome hide to provide some cover for the camera gear. Nicola watched me from the hole opposite and only retreated when I walked slowly towards her to put out the peanuts. She was back out again within five minutes and ate for a while before disappearing down the hole on my right.

Two minutes later she came back with Nigel. They ate together for a few minutes, then Nicola had had enough and wandered off into the brambles. Nigel continued to eat, but was a bit nervous, rushing off every few minutes, perhaps when he caught my scent, or noticed the red glow of my infrared light. Boris was keeping an eye on him, watching from the brambles. Finally, he wandered off back to the sett. I packed up just before the rain started and took my camera gear back to the car. When I returned to collect the hide, one cub was out again and Boris was still watching from the brambles.

30 Nights Wild, night 26

I went back up my ladder this evening, to watch the badgers from three metres up. Nigel was out first for a change. He spent ten minutes eating peanuts on his own, then went off through the sett to find Nicola. They came running back together two minutes later and rummaged through the leaf litter finding peanuts for quite some time.

Eventually, they'd both had enough and went off to the big oak tree to play on the slippery logs. Boris then appeared and came to the feeding site, with Jeremy turning up a minute later. They ate together for a while, then the cubs realised the adults were there and came running over. They were warmly greeted, but Boris wanted a quiet evening so didn't stay. Jeremy played with the cubs for a while before they all went off across the sett and into the woods on the other side.

30 Nights Wild, night 25

This evening I decided to sit on the ground and hand-hold the video camera, with a small infrared light attached. I also set up a GoPro on the opposite side of the feeding area, to simultaneously film the action from both sides.

There wasn't much action for a while, but eventually Nicola had the courage to emerge. Nigel took a bit longer and the light was fading by the time they were both feeding in front of me. Nicola finished first and wandered off into the brambles, leaving Nigel working his way slowly towards me. I'd evidently put out too many peanuts, as he too wandered off before reaching the food around my feet. I heard rustling in the brambles from the adults, but they wouldn't come out while I was there. As I left, the cubs were playing noisily in the centre of the sett.

30 Nights Wild, night 24

This time it was Nicola who came out before I had a chance to get to my seat. She saw me coming and dived down the nearest hole. It only took a few minutes for her to emerge again though. I sat on the ground this evening which, together with the gusty wind, made the badgers nervous.

Nigel came out to join Nicola, but Jeremy was more cautious. He edged slowly down the spoil heap leading from his hole, but then changed his mind and retreated into the brambles. Nicola was very focused on finding peanuts, while Nigel wandered around. He eventually wandered into me, but was not concerned until I moved slightly, trying to film him. He ran down the nearest hole, but emerged again within a minute and resumed peanut hunting with Nicola.

30 Nights Wild, night 23

I walked down the path alongside the sett and was about to turn off into the clearing where I put food out, when I saw Boris rooting around on the edge of a bramble patch. I stood perfectly still as she moved gradually closer. Fortunately, she was still ten metres away when she realised I was there and trotted off into the brambles. I didn’t want her to get too close and then get a fright.

As usual, Nicola was first out to the peanuts, then Nigel appeared, having walked down from the top end of the sett. Jeremy came out of the hole on my left and joined the cubs. Nigel finished first and went down the hole in front of me. A few seconds later his head appeared at the hole on my left. He’d taken a wrong turning and went back the way he’d come! The others soon cleaned up the peanuts and went off into the brambles. A few minutes later, the cubs were playing around the big oak tree in the centre of the sett and a game of chase followed, with Boris joining in. A cuckoo was still calling thro…

30 Nights Wild, night 22

Once again, I put out the food and then returned to my car for the camera gear. When I got back to the feeding site, both cubs were already out. It was cooler and breezy tonight, so the sound of the wind masked the noise of my approach. I was able to stalk quite close to the cubs and get a few photos before they realised I was there and scuttled back to the sett.

I got to my high seat and had quite a long wait before top boar Jeremy cautiously emerged. He was soon followed by the cub Nigel, now covered in sand. The cubs had been play-fighting underground. Nigel didn't stay for long, before heading back down the sett. Fifteen minutes later, both cubs emerged again, this time looking clean. Boris joined them soon afterwards.

A baby rabbit ran across the open area on my left and went behind me. All the badgers looked up, but only Nicola went after it. She raced across, chasing the rabbit into the brambles on the other side. The other badgers continued eating peanuts. Five minutes lat…

30 Nights Wild, night 21

We're three weeks into my month long badger watching challenge, and it's time to get a few things sorted out. When I wrote my introduction to the clan in mid-May, a certain amount of guesswork was involved. With such a small group of badgers I didn't think I could go far wrong.

However, it's now clear that 'Boris' is not the badger I thought he was. He's actually a female and the mother of one of the cubs. Back in May I watched Theresa, the sow with the split ear, bringing a small cub to the feeding site. It was not until early June that I realised there were two cubs at the sett. At about the same time, Theresa disappeared. I now think that Nicola, the smaller but more independent of the cubs, was Theresa's and Nigel is Boris's cub. He's more inclined to stay in the safety of the centre of the sett, with Boris. Now, when they've finished the food I put out for them, it's Boris that takes both cubs away to the woods for some proper forag…

30 Nights Wild, night 20

A much cooler evening, more pleasant for badgers and humans. I watched from my high seat tonight, well clear of most of the mosquitos. Nicola emerged at 9:30 and Jeremy was out five minutes later. He did his usual trick of watching me from one entrance and then emerging from another, having taken the underground. Nicola didn't eat for long before running off back to the sett. A few minutes later she was in a game of chase with Nigel, in the centre. Nicola returned to the feeding site, but Nigel didn't follow. He was left wandering around on his own.

Then I saw Boris moving through the brambles, to appear over to my left. Nigel was close behind. He came over to the feeding site, to join Nicola and Jeremy, while Boris stayed and watched for a minute before retreating back into the brambles. The two cubs then had an amazing play fight, tumbling over each other, pulling tails and chasing around.

30 Nights Wild, night 19

It was yet another very warm night, but I decided to sit on the ground anyway. This was a mistake, as the mosquitos were relentless. I had a very long wait for a badger to appear, but finally Nicola emerged just after 9:30. The other cub Nigel and top boar Jeremy came out just before 10. Jeremy was not too happy about having me on the ground, but he settled down after a while.

I'd scattered peanuts over quite a wide area and a few of them were right at my feet. Before long, I had two badger cubs at my feet, snuffling about in the leaf litter, hoovering up peanuts. I slowly put my hand down to the floor and briefly felt the nose of a badger cub sniffing it. Jeremy moved ever closer too. He is a powerful boar and could take my leg off if he wanted to. They must have seen and smelt me, but were unconcerned until they saw me move. Then there was a stampede back to the sett. Within a minute they emerged again and continued feeding as though nothing had happened. When the peanuts were g…

30 Nights Wild, night 18

Another very warm, still evening. The badgers, ever unpredictable, had an early night tonight. Jeremy emerged just after nine, in good light, and the two cubs joined him ten minutes later.

They soon started playing again - I've never known cubs play as much as these two. They were fooling around a deep entrance hole, one in the hole defending it, while the other tried either to get in himself, or pull the other out! Then they nosed around under my ladder and covered my battery pack in sand. Jeremy wandered off back to the brambles and the cubs ran off into the woods for another game of chase.

Boris returned to the sett, wandered through the brambles and came out to the feeding site. He cleared up a few peanuts that the cubs had missed. As I was leaving Badger Wood, a barn owl flew down the road in front of me.

30 Nights Wild, night 17

It was a very warm evening, so I decided to revert to my usual routine of sitting in my high seat, three metres off the ground. It's cooler at that height and there are fewer mosquitos. The woodland smelt of wild honeysuckle - there's a lot of it here, an indicator of ancient woodland.

Perhaps the badgers had slept badly in the day's heat, but they were late emerging this evening. It was 9:45 before Nicola appeared, soon followed by Nigel. They didn't eat for long before running off into the brambles. Jeremy came out to the feeding site, but he didn't stay long either. Soon I could hear squealing noises as they played in the centre of the sett. Three badgers were chasing around, with Boris joining in the game. All went quiet and I knew they had gone off across the wood, with more important business to attend to. They'd be back later, to finish off the peanuts.

30 Nights Wild, night 16

I decided on a change of tactics tonight. Instead of sitting in my high seat, three metres off the ground, I'd sit on the ground, on a small stool that I normally use on conservation volunteering days. I started off about five metres from the feeding site, just to see how the badgers would react.

Nicola was nervous at first, but then she's normally very cautious when first emerging. Eventually, she came out to the food and ignored me. Jeremy was not so sure either, but even he overcame his fears and emerged. After eating peanuts for ten minutes, he stopped and stared at me, then stampeded back to the sett, with Nicola following. He evidently has a short memory, as he was back out again in less than a minute! Nicola returned too for a short while, but then wandered off into the brambles. Jeremy slurped up the honey and wandered off too.

It was getting dark by then, so I decided to try my luck and move in a bit closer. I moved around to the foot of my ladder, about three metres …

30 Nights Wild, night 15

It was cooler this evening and there were fewer mosquitos than last night. I was more comfortable and the badgers seemed so too. Nicola emerged just after 9 and was soon joined at the feeding site by Nigel and then Jeremy.

The cubs were in a particularly playful mood and were constantly scrapping. They went off through the brambles into the clearing in the centre of the sett. A game of tag then started, with Boris joining in, all chasing around, play-fighting and squealing. It quietened down for a few minutes, then Boris came out to the feeding site, soon followed by the cubs who continued their battle on the spoil heap nearby. Finally, Boris led the cubs away into the woods at about 10:15.

30 Nights Wild, night 14

It was a warm evening and the mosquitos were horrendous. Two fox cubs visited the badgers' feeding area at about 8:10, but soon wandered off. Nicola emerged at 9:30 and had a look around. Perhaps smelling fox, she decided it wasn't safe and retreated back to the sett.

Half an hour later, Nigel came out for some food and eventually Nicola joined him. After eating for a while, they had a play fight which ended in them rushing off into the brambles. I was about to leave when Boris returned from the woods, having once again gone out without me seeing him. The sett covers a large area and it's easy enough for a badger to leave or return at the far end undetected, under cover of the bracken and brambles. He came out to clean up the peanuts that the cubs had left and was soon joined by Jeremy. Noises from the brambles told me the cubs were still playing. It was about 11 when the adults wandered off and I was able to leave too.

30 Nights Wild, night 13

The wind had dropped this evening and with clear skies giving good light for photography, I was hoping the badgers would be out early again. Typically unpredictable, the first badger appeared much later than last night. Top boar Jeremy was first out and was soon joined by the cub Nicola. They finished eating and left, with no sign of the other badgers. Then the two cubs returned, as if Nicola had gone to fetch Nigel, and they had some peanuts and honey together. They disappeared into the brambles and Boris came in from the woods. He must have set out early as I didn't see him go. He came to the feeding site and finished off the few peanuts the cubs had left.

By then Jeremy and the cubs were playing under the big oak tree, largely hidden from view behind the brambles. Then it all went quiet and I knew they'd left, either into the woods or the field. I walked along the fence line, looking for them in the field, but there was no sign of them.

30 Nights Wild, night 12

I was hoping for an early night today and the badgers did not disappoint. In fact, Nicola emerged to check for peanuts at 8:05, long before I arrived. She came out again just after 9, to find the peanuts and honey had appeared. Ten minutes later, Jeremy and Nigel emerged and joined Nicola. Boris went straight out into the wood, down the path to my right.

The cubs then went to play on the fallen branches under a big oak tree. Nicola walked along a high branch, like a gymnast on the beam, deftly turned around but then fell off! The two cubs then came out of the brambles onto the spoil heap and had an epic play fight which went on for ages. It was great to watch. Finally, the whole clan went off to the fields at about 10pm.

30 Nights Wild, night 11

A really strong wind tonight unsettled me as well as the badgers. My high seat, a ladder with a small platform at the top, leans against a large birch tree which was creaking and swaying erratically with every gust.

Top boar Jeremy looked out of the sett at about 9:20, but it was cub Nicola who ventured out first about 20 minutes later. Jeremy and the other cub, Nigel, came out to join her and yearling Boris turned up soon afterwards. They had their peanuts and honey, interrupted many times by gusts of wind that sent them rushing back to the sett. The cubs played a bit and then they all set off across the woods at about 10:40.

30 Nights Wild, night 10

First out this evening were the wood mice. They pinched a few peanuts before the badgers emerged. A badger is unlikely to eat an adult wood mouse, as the mice are too fast, but they will empty a nest of babies.

Nicola appeared at about 9:30 and went straight to the dish of honey. There was a gusty wind, which always makes the badgers uneasy, and Nicola soon retreated back to the sett. Boris went out along the path on my right and returned a few minutes later. He, Jeremy and the two cubs then came out to the feeding site and fed together in relative harmony. Cub Nigel was slow to discover peanuts but is making up for it now by defending his peanuts from the rest of the clan. A few times even top boar Jeremy has been pushed away and sometimes he retaliates, sending the cub back to the sett. They all went off to the field at about 10:30. After all the rain we've had, earthworms will be easy to find this evening.

30 Nights Wild, night 9

There was a lot of coming and going this evening, so it was difficult to keep track of who was in the sett and who was out. Theresa and Jeremy went out early on, taking the path on the right of my ladder. Cub Nicola came out to the feeding site at 9:30, still in good light. She was soon joined by the second cub Nigel, and they had a good chase around, clearly more interested in play than in food.

Boris emerged soon after 10 and they ate peanuts together for a while. The other adults came back to the sett, Boris left, and Jeremy came out to join the cubs. At about 10:30, the whole clan set off across the wood. I'd love to be able to follow them, but even if they would accept me I'd have difficulty getting through the brambles and over the fences!

30 Nights Wild, night 8

At last we had a fine night and I was able to return to my high seat, three metres off the ground. This gives me a great view over the sett and I can see much more of the action than is possible from the ground. A barn owl flew past me, at eye level and very close. They fly silently, so you don't hear them coming.

The cub Nicola appeared, ate some peanuts and returned to the brambles. I thought that was all I would see this evening, but then I heard a rustling in the undergrowth on my right. Both cubs were approaching. They passed right under my ladder and went to the feeding site. A minute later, Jeremy and Boris emerged together from the hole in front of me and came to the food. Both were spotlessly clean and seemed very relaxed, any animosity between them apparently forgotten. The clan ate together, with only Theresa missing. She is very distinctive, with her torn left ear, but I haven't seen her at the feeding site for over a week now. She's just not that keen on peanu…

30 Nights Wild, night 7

The wind had dropped by this evening, although a light drizzle persisted. On the drive down to Badger Wood I saw a brown hare running down the road - a young one, a well grown leveret. It was great to see, as hare numbers have declined noticeably in this area over the last few years.

I sat in my dome hide, to keep the rain off my camera. The cub Nicola was first out again, appearing just after 10pm. She ate peanuts until a fighter plane came over and frightened her away. It was another half hour before Jeremy turned up. Another plane came over, but he ignored it. Nicola emerged again and they ate together for a while. Then Boris came along, but just watched from the brambles for a while. It was only after Jeremy and Nicola had left that Boris came out to the feeding site, but by that time all the food had gone.

30 Nights Wild, night 6

The weather tonight was, if anything, even worse than last night, with stronger wind and heavier rain. I decided to wait for a 'token' badger to keep my unbroken record and then have an early night.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long for the cub Nicola to emerge for some peanuts. Strong gusts of wind frightened her and she kept rushing back to the sett. When she'd had enough, I left quietly.

There was still enough light to find my way along the path through the wood, but along the way I nearly tripped over a badger which was crossing the path! I'm not sure which of us was more surprised. The camera trap showed that Nicola was soon out again and top boar Jeremy joined her half an hour later. There was no sign of the other badgers which were presumably taking advantage of the wet weather to forage for worms in the field.

30 Nights Wild, night 5

A really wild night tonight, with strong wind and heavy rain. Normally I would not have been out in this weather, but I've challenged myself to badger watch every night in June and didn't want to fail in the first week! Perhaps more importantly, I'm hoping to gain a greater insight into the lives of these secretive creatures and the only way to do that is to spend time with them, whatever the weather.

I sat in a dome hide which gives me and the camera some protection from the rain. It was 10:15 before the cub Nicola came out to the food, but she kept running back to the sett every few minutes. Top boar Jeremy soon emerged and they ate together for a while. Boris appeared, looking very muddy, and sniffed around anxiously before running back to the sett. Until last week, he was the more confident of the two boars, but now the tables have turned. I think Jeremy, the older boar, has been exerting his dominance and for now at least, Boris is afraid to come anywhere near him.

30 Nights Wild, night 4

It was cooler tonight, but with a clear sky giving good light in the woods well into the evening. Two cuckoos were calling, one nearby and the other very distant, and a tawny owl flew across the wood.

As usual, a badger went off to the latrines at about 9:10 and came back 10 minutes later. Jeremy, the mature male, hung around in the brambles for a while but didn't come out to the food. Finally cub Nicola wandered across the sett and came straight out to the peanuts. Jeremy joined her and they ate together for a while. Boris came in from the wood, paused to watch them, but then continued through the brambles and out again towards the fields.

Jeremy soon followed while Nicola watched me set up the camera trap and leave. Ten minutes later the other cub Nigel joined her and licked the honey dish clean.

30 Nights Wild, night 3

Usually Boris, the yearling male, is first out to the food, with the older male Jeremy waiting behind him, but for the last few nights I've noticed a change in behaviour. Jeremy has reluctantly emerged first and Boris has turned up later. Tonight it was the cub that came out first, from the brambles in front of me, then Jeremy crept out of the hole on my left. Boris came across the sett from the left, but didn't come straight to the food. He circled around nervously. At first I thought it was me he was worried about, but then I realised it was Jeremy. Finally, very cautiously, he came to the food. Jeremy did not react at all, he just kept munching peanuts.

I usually pack up and leave when the badgers have dispersed into the wood or field, but tonight I was aware when I came down from my ladder that the cub was still around. I kept the camera ready and infrared light plugged in, just in case she reappeared. I was amazed when two little heads popped up from the hole nearest my l…

30 Nights Wild, night 2

I checked the weather forecast earlier in the day and was expecting a shower early in the evening and fine weather for badger watching. However, the rain came later than expected, starting just as I arrived at the sett.

As I approached the feeding site to put out some peanuts for the badgers, I was just in time to see the mother and cub heading out towards the field. I waited under the trees for a while until the rain eased off, then took my seat three metres off the ground.

A damp evening like this is great for badgers, as it brings earthworms to the surface where they can be easily hoovered up. Earthworms make up about 80% of a badger's diet. I had a long wait in persistent drizzle before a very damp badger returned from the fields to take a few peanuts.

30 Nights Wild, night 1

I arrived at the sett in good time and put out some peanuts and a dish of honey for the badgers. A little food brings them out into the open, but I'm careful not to give them so much they become dependent on it. I climbed up to my seat three metres off the ground and settled down for what can be a long wait. A cuckoo was calling and a barn owl flew across the wood in front of me and out into the field.

Before long I heard a rustling in the undergrowth behind me and was surprised to see a badger and cub returning to the sett. They often head down that way when they first emerge and return ten minutes later. I haven't found it yet, but I suspect the latrine is down there! The mother badger halted, caught my scent and retreated, with the cub following behind her.

It was another half hour before two adult badgers and a cub emerged from the entrance in front of me and cautiously approached the food. By then it was getting dark and I'd switched the camera to infrared. The rooks …