If you’ve already read last nights post then you’ll know that we spent Wednesday evening in the company of my new favourite species of British wildlife. I’ve always been fascinated by Badgers, right from the very earliest days of Springwatch where Bill Oddie invariably ended up staring at empty monitors despite undoubted weeks of preparation. Try as I might it seemed for the longest time that I too was going to be afflicted by the same bad luck, and certainly not for want of trying. Many hours have been spent walking nearby woodlands or driving around promising hotspots after dark yet somehow we never quite managed to connect. That’s not to say we never came close, far from it in fact. One particular summers eve springs to mind when, walking near one of the innumerable local setts, we could clearly see something moving through dense Bracken off to our right. Fronds were waving this way and that as we tracked its progress but the culprit refused to show itself before slinking off never to be seen again. In fact the closest we ever came was when I was on my own driving on Gower, another trip out more in hope than expectation, only to spot a Badger in my headlights running along the road ahead. It couldn’t have been visible for more than a couple of seconds but I almost burst with excitement, some of that fizzing energy no doubt coming through in my writings at the time. That was a long five years ago now though and, fearing we were never going to do it on our own, we booked onto one of Dinefwr’s Badger Watch evenings. I first heard of these a couple of years ago but not always being the most organised of people we only thought to enquire further this week. What a decision that turned out to be!
Promised two hours in a hide next to one of the estates setts, I really didn’t know what to expect. Would we be ensconced behind glass for instance to avoid the Badgers being disturbed? Would photography be permitted for similar reasons? We even had our binoculars with us not knowing if we’d be watching from some distance away. How wrong we were. The hide turned out to be a spacious structure for its ten occupants, situated in an elevated position overlooking a wide clearing in the woodland with several large fallen trees for added interest. Large openings allowed uninterrupted views and as for photography? It was a case of fill your boots. Our guide for the evening popped outside once we’d settled in to prime the area with a few choice peanuts and dollops of peanut butter as we began to wonder how long we’d have to wait for our first sighting. The answer turned out to not be very long at all. Even before our guide had finished two Badgers crept out from beneath the largest of the fallen trees and from that moment on it was non stop action. Two quickly became three and before we knew it there were up to nine Badgers on show at any one time, climbing on logs, bickering and generally giving this gob smacked viewer the time of his life.
Having rained all day we were quite fortunate with the weather which, although overcast, did at least stay dry for our visit. Light levels however were horrendous yet the images I was able to capture simply blew my mind. For a bridge camera dull conditions are an absolute killer so to have come away with anything was more than I could have hoped for. I probably could have experimented further but I just had to sit back, put the camera down and absorb my surroundings, wanting to savour every last moment before the dreaded call for time came. I did however shoot a few videos which, as I mentioned last night, really help to capture the character of these animals better than a still image ever could.
In summary then a simply excellent way to spend an evening which left me with a couple of overriding thoughts. Firstly it turns out that Badgers really like peanut butter and secondly, does anyone else think that Badgers look as if someone carefully designed the head and then couldn’t really decide what to do with the rest of the body so just left it as a fluffy grey lump? No? Just me then.