Saturday, 24 July 2010

Gloaming Glimpses

Last night we had our first of a series of night walks scheduled in through August. I was very excited at the prospect of finally seeing our badgers and was trying desperately hard to hide it so I didn't raise expectations too high! As we gathered in the Centre's lobby there were at least 3 badgers on badgercam, 2 of the badgers were busy clearing out one of the holes giving us clear views of badger bottoms! Before badgercam we had always thought our badgers were late night badgers, so I was slightly concerned about how to get to the hide without disturbing them as they had already emerged from the sett and we weren't sure whether they might have already been to the woodland hide feeding bowls. The badger feeding bowls are bowls dug into the ground filled with peanuts with a heavy log over the top so only a badger can get at them. This stops the peanuts being eaten by other animals before the badgers are awake. We set off to the Woodland hide as quietly as we could and saw 2 '55' pipistrelle bats flying in a clearing amongst the alder. When we arrived at the hide the badger feeding bowls were undisturbed - great news as it meant we were not too late. So we sat ourselves down.......and waited!

There was a glimpse of a passing badger across the back of the woods near the sett...and then it was we went back to waiting....

Finally our patience was rewarded when a badger appeared out of the undergrowth and approached the feeding bowl on the right, on top of the bank. It was weary at first and flinched at every knock that it heard from within the hide, but as soon as it got its head in the bowl and started tucking into the peanuts it seemed a bit more at ease. It was digging around a bit and came up from the hole with the bowl in its mouth, tipping all the peanuts back into the hole! This badger continued to feed until suddenly another badger came bundling out of the bushes and jumped on it! The 2 badgers scuffled around a bit and then seemed to take it in turns to have their head in the bowl while the other snuffled around in the leaf litter. This continued for over 20 minutes until we could no longer make out their stripey faces in the dark. They were still eating the peanuts out of the first bowl when we left. I think I may have been a little over generous with the peanuts!

On the walk back our bat detectors picked up a couple of pipestrelles but they were best heard feeding over the moth traps at the back of the centre. I had also painted some of the trees with Bob's secret moth gloop (a super saturated sugary solution with a drop of rum!), a technique known as sugaring which can attract different moths to those you might find around a light trap. I have never had much success with this in the past but our evenings luck continued and each tree had at least 5 moths feeding on it, including copper underwings.

At the end of the walk we attempted to call to a tawny owl by imitating a male tawny owl call with a whistle. This was answered by a female hooting nearby. After a few more blows on the whistle a male could also be heard further off in the distance. Female tawny owls say 'twit' and the males say 'twoo'! The evening couldn't have finished any better!

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