I began this diary in the summer of 2012 when I first discovered I had this very special visitor to my garden. The badger is a fascinating animal to watch, and I count myself most fortunate to have experienced these most amazing encounters.
Sunday 15th July 2012
I suspected a badger had been paying me a visit earlier in the year when I heard fence panels being disturbed in the dead of night, and discovered some minor damage the next day. I had also heard creepy shuffling amongst the dense shrubbery in the dark hours when I was outside, like something heavy shifted its weight in dark hiding. More recently, I had noticed some of my flowers and shrubs had been beaten down, and some of the stones in my water feature had been nudged to one side, as if something had been trying to get a drink of the water beneath. Most of the plant disturbance had been around my bird feeder and bird table, which indicated the badger had been foraging for discarded seeds and nuts. The night before last I decided to leave a few peanuts in a dish on the patio close to the house, well away from the birdfeeders to see what would happen …
The next day the peanuts had gone, but there was a possibility, of course, that early morning birds may have gobbled them up. Last night I put out the peanuts again, but moved the dish closer to beneath my bedroom window. Low and behold just after 12:30 am I heard the sound of the dish being moved, and something was undoubtedly chewing on the peanuts I had left out. I went downstairs with my camera and took some photos. One was shot through my patio window hence the back-flash. But here it was, the mystery creature revealed at last! It had eaten all the peanuts, and then, after sticking its snout amidst my Red Valerians, it ambled off down the bottom of my garden to disappear amidst the dark shadows awaiting for it there.
Monday 16th July 2012
Badgers are crepuscular creatures of habit, and around 9:30 this evening I stepped out into my rear garden and heard a disturbance in some shrubs and plants at the very bottom. It was near my bird table to begin, and something was undoubtedly foraging for bits of bread and seed the Woodpigeons and Starlings had dropped earlier, and I watched with excitement as the plants and bushes all moved in turn as something bulky passed amongst them. I caught a glimpse of the badger’s greyish bristly rump as it emerged for a brief moment as it crossed a path before disappearing in thick undergrowth in a another corner of the garden. I went to my shed and unlocked it, then crept towards where I saw the badger disappear as I could still hear the sound of it moving amidst the bushes.I heard a few animal grunts, and thought yes, the badger had not left my garden, and was delighted that he or she was still interested in staying around.
About half an hour later I pulled a chair out in my dining room and sat looking through my patio window for any signs of the badger. I had set down some peanuts on the paving slabs nearby and a bowl of fresh water, and had fixed my Nikon to a tripod. It had grown quite a bit darker by then, but I still could make out the tell-tale movement of plants and bushes at the bottom of my garden as again the badger was passing back through them heading for the bird table area. I moved closer to the open door and trained my binoculars around the base of the bird table, and yes, there was that familiar large black and white striped head and greyish bulk of a body as it searched amidst my plants. As I watched it appeared to be digging briefly, no doubt searching for tasty fat, juicy worms in the damp soil after the day’s heavy rains. I had left the outside shed light on which helped me a little with illuminating my observation of the badger and its mooching, and I saw him rear up on his hind legs near my garden bench. It was balancing on the edge of a large flowerpot in which my son had planted a hosta one of the neighbours had given us earlier in the spring. I watched as it buried its nose amongst the leaves, searching for slugs and snails to eat, no doubt. This was pest control at its best, without the use of those ghastly slug pellets. Amidst all this I was trying to get my camera to focus in the dim light so I could get a few photos in, but I was struggling, yet I was thrilled to be witness to such an amazing observation and insight into badger behaviour in its continuous search for food. It appeared to sense me as I stood in the open doorway, or sensed something else, when it moved off back to the corner of the garden where it felt the safest. But later, when I looked out again, I watched a cat cautiously approach the ‘badger’s bush’, and it must have still been there for the cat appeared all on edge and uncertain as what to do next. Eventually the cat disappeared in the dark, and I saw no more signs of the badger that night, but the next morning all the peanuts had gone!
Tuesday 17th July 2012
I was awoken just after 2:15 in the early hours by the now familiar sound of munching peanuts beyond my bedroom window. Earlier that evening I had set a vigil, looking out for the badger with my Nikon set up on a tripod, my patio door blinds drawn as much as I could so I could conceal myself behind them, with the door partly slid open. I waited, and waited but there was no sign of our badger friend. I think a cat may have disturbed it as there was quite a commotion in the deep dark recesses of the bottom of the garden, with the cat making most of a screeching noise, and something else making a kind of deep snuffling sort of sound. I half expected to see the badger appear within the bright arc of the shed light which I had left on, but only a small brownish cat appeared, apparently unharmed by its ordeal in the dark umbrae. Late, although disappointed I had not seen the badger, I went to bed and fell asleep with both ears open!
When I heard the sound of chomping peanuts I jumped out of bed, threw on my gown, dashed downstairs and switched off the house alarm. I looked out my window and the badger was gone … but was he? And I say ‘he’, for yes I found out, and I will explain in a moment. I switched on the back security light which washed the rear yard area, and indeed there were no signs of the badger, and quite a few peanuts were still left in the dish, and so I thought the sound of the house alarm bleeper had frightened it away. But I could hear the sound of crunching beyond the patio glass, like snail shells being popped and crunched beneath strong molars. To my surprise the badger appeared from beneath my Hydrangea in a nearby flowerbed, and after some wandering with nose down and sniffing, it went for the dish of peanuts. It was about 3.5 metres (12 feet) away from me, and I still had my camera set up on the tripod, but I couldn’t use the flash for the door was closed, and I didn’t want to scare the badger off by opening it. I took some photos which appeared a bit blurred in the low light, then decided to try the flash anyhow. One of the best examples is shown directly above. It didn’t take many minutes before the badger hoovered up all the peanuts, and still completely oblivious of me, it turned around and sauntered off back down the garden from whence it had come.
Wednesday 18th July 2012
I set myself up for another ‘Badger watch’ tonight, peanuts all dished up, along with a dish of fresh water. My camera was rigged up on the tripod, patio door open and blinds pulled to, shed light on. All I had to do was sit in my chair near the open patio door and wait. I saw the same brown cat at least half a dozen times popping up in flowerbeds and falsely raising my expectations, the darn thing. It began to rain on and off, sometimes falling quite heavy as I waited from around 11:00 onwards. The fridge kicked in on its cycle behind me in the kitchen adjacent to the dining room, and was a distraction also, but it soon went quiet and all I could hear was the steady pitter-patter of the rain falling on the leaves outside, and its steady trickle and chuckle along gutters and down drainpipes.
There was no wind, so I realised any movement of the shrubbery was down to animal passage, and yep, around midnight it was the same darn cat again. Why was it so interested in my garden? But I was beginning to get interested in watching the cat as there was not a lot else happening – until I heard the sound of something heavy forcing its way through a gap in the fence at the bottom of my garden. The cat appeared again in the arc of light cast by the outside shed light, and beyond, in a flowerbed I could see the plants moving and hear movement amongst them. The cat went rigid before dashing off in a scare, and sure enough I caught a flash of the badger’s hide amidst vegetation by my birdtable. My heart was pumping, and my camera lens cap was off whilst the camera itself was on, but I realised I needed to turn the outside floodlight on to get some decent photos in the dark. I hesitated and kept still, as I saw the badger’s head and bulk appear in the light cast near the shed. He seemed nervous, and perhaps could sense me hunkered down in the dark of the open doorway, yet he steadily approached, all the time sniffing around for morsels of food, and because of the wet night there was surely plenty of snails and large slugs about, sliding across my paving slabs. The badger was coming down the path, and I thought I had better turn the light on for if he got too close he would hear the depressive ‘click’ of the switch carried out to him through the open doorway, turn around and flee back.
But I learned something then, that badgers have a very keen sense of sight, even in the dark. As I slowly reached up an arm from my crouched position to turn on the light I saw the badger instantly freeze and look intensely at me for but a single moment. I did not even get to turn on the light before he turned and high-tailed it out of there. I heard the sound of it passing through the gap in the fence, waited a little longer just incase he decided to come back, but he didn’t, and with some mixed feelings, feeling of joy for he had returned again and I had seen him, and of disappointment for I had unwittingly scared him off. Yet I had learned something more tonight of the badger, that one simply had to stay dead silent, and dead still, that he had very, very keen survival instincts and senses, and that one must never forget that despite its suburban setting, it was a wild animal, raw and untamed. I just hope I haven’t frightened him off for good …
Update: October 2012
I have learned that since writing this badgers have a poor sense of sight, which I found quite surprising considering they are mostly nocturnal animals. Because they live most of their live within the deep dark depths of their setts, their eyesight falls short, but from this they have a very keen sense of smell and hearing, in the instance above, perhaps the badger has just seen sudden movement which spooked him.
Thursday 19th July 2012
I have been wondering about our badger friend. Where exactly does he come from? Where is his sett? Does he travel far, perhaps crossing roads in the dark? How many gardens does he root through before he gets to mine? I live on the green belt, and no doubt there are badger setts out there amidst the wooded slopes and thickets, but I am surprised that after living here for nearly twenty years that I have never seen a badger before until now, and to have one paying me personal visits for peanut treats is a true wonder to me! I believe it was the attraction of the birdseed and peanuts which the Starlings, Collared Doves, Woodpigeons and other birds who attend my feeders had dropped or scattered upon the ground beneath which initially got him interested. When I heard the fence panels banging in the depths of the night back in May, thinking somebody was trying to break into the house at first, he must have been expanding his foraging territories, and I just about stopped him before he broke through the larchlap panels into my neighbour’s garden by disturbing him that night. Of course, badgers can cause damage to gardens as they dig and root around for earthworms and grubs, especially to lawns. And if you get them moving into your garden and building a sett, well you may have some troubles there. But I don’t fear this for my garden is quite small, and the terrain would not be suitable for such a structure …. not unless they have mastered the use of pop-up tents! But no, apart from the odd squashed lavender bush or down-trodden daisy, I am very happy – overjoyed, in fact – regarding his nocturnal visits. The only other mammal to visit my garden apart from the neighbourhood cats and a few foxes (which are also a delight to see), was a Field Vole which scampered across my gravel to disappear amongst some ground covering plants. Anyway, the badger I had unwisely scared off did not return that night to claim his nuts as I saw the next morning, but would he visit the next night?
Well, this night I set myself up again as before, but taking extra care with the patio blinds to ensure they concealed me more, and despite the fridge rattling and thrumming behind me in the kitchen area, and the young brown cat making a star appearance again, again, and again (just what was so interesting in my garden to him/her? unless it was just his preferred latrine …), it wasn’t long before I saw some shuffling bushes at the bottom of the garden. It was around 10:30, and although there was a little wind, and a cool one at that, there was no rain. There were also plenty of moths fluttering by the shed light, and the odd snail could be seen sliding slowly along the paving slabs, doing some food foraging of their own. I instantly turned on the outside light and concealed myself behind the vertical blinds. I saw the elongated black and white and head with small ears appear beneath my birdtable as the badger snuffled about for discarded seed and peanuts. There appeared little grace in these creatures, I observed, as he made quite a lot of noise amongst the bushes and border perennials, shaking and rocking them as he passed through or near them. Yet they were a very graceful work of nature to behold! He seemed to do his scout thing there beneath the feeder before disappearing amongst the dark shadows, and to my utter disappointment I heard the quite familiar scraping of fur on board as he exited my garden via a narrow gap in the fence. He did not even venture close to where the dish of peanuts were waiting for him, and although he may have not heard or seen me, perhaps he had smelt me … not that I smell bad or anything, but such is the acuteness of their senses. Thinking he had gone for the night, and feeling quite tired I locked up and went to watch a DVD in the lounge for a while.
At around midnight I clicked on the kitchen light which gave enough illumination to my patio and where I had placed his dish of peanuts, and guess what? Yep, it was empty! The crafty devil had crept back within the hour, at least, when I wasn’t looking to scoff the lot! I was happy of course, more than happy, but how was I to get those better photographs without scaring him off?I guess it was all about patience and gaining trust … one will see …
Friday 20th July 2012
I decided to do things different tonight with my set up, and did it all go wrong … and for the best in the end to some degree! I laid down the peanuts Hansel and Gretel style on the path from where the badger comes into the garden and onto the main patio area where his dish of nuts would be. I also scattered out a few juicy red grapes. I decided to draw the patio blinds completely and poke the lens of my camera through a gap in them, with the door slid open. My watch would mainly be from the kitchen window adjoining the dining room, and from here I could reach around and switch on the outside light without detection and switch on my camera. It was about 10:40 when I heard nuts being chomped, and as I looked through the window I couldn’t see anything.
The night was dry and there was a slight breeze which rattled the vertical blinds a little. The outside shed light was on to give me some light, and yes, there he was appearing on the verge of it! I switched on the main outer light and my camera, but accidentally switched off again the next instant fumbling in the dark. Ok, camera on again, here I am hunkered down behind the tripod looking through a narrow gap in the bind, and I could hear the sound of nuts popping and being crunched just ahead of me to the left of the garden. I watch our badger friend with fascination as he was all nose down, sniffing ad gobbling up those peanuts like there was no tomorrow, but he was too far away and still in the gloom of the night to get a focus and a shot off the camera of him. I was full of expectation then, until he faded back in the gloom and I heard that scrape of fur on wood again. He was gone, but will he be back? I thought.
Saturday 21st July 2012
I knew he had come back not long after doing his disappearing act the night before, so I was patient and began my wait again. About ten minutes later I thought I would just pop outside and change the position of his nut dish when, out in the middle of my garden, with the main floodlight on, I heard him in the bushes a few feet away! I thought, oh my, I am doing all the wrong things here, blinds open, out in the complete open like a complete fool, my heart pumping like an old steam engine. I heard him coming, and I crept inside the house, just let the blinds be and switched on my camera. I just had to take a chance and hope for the best. And how ‘the’ best it surely was! I heard and saw him bumble his way through my flowerbeds until he got to the birdtable where he spent at least a good five to ten minutes snuffling and searching out seed, nuts, slugs and snails. I was sure I could see him pluck out a big shelled snail and crunch it down. The garden was lit up like Blackpool at Christmas, and I was exposed in an open doorway with no blinds for cover, and my heart was pounding with sheer joy as I just simply watched the badger with avid curiosity. He seemed quite bold, and maybe his taste buds was fired up or something, but I watched him sniff my flowerpots, and shuffle around and under my garden bench, and that was when a big white and tawny cat appeared from over my fence. It went over to the nut dish and seemed quite disinterested in its contents, and I thought maybe there could be some trouble here, so why the badger was still snooping around under my bench I would give the cat a big arms out and a gaping expression on my face. I must have looked such an idiot if any of the neighbours had seen my antics, but it did the trick and the cat scattered off down the garden and out.
Meanwhile, still not being able to get a shot off the camera yet, the badger was back in the bushes and basically still foraging and eating until he appeared by my shed. He apparently picked up the trail of nuts again and there was no stopping him this time! And it was now time for his photo shoot. He must have seen, heard, and smelt me as I hunkered down in the open and exposed doorway as I started taking photos of him. I had silenced all the sound settings, muting the bleeps it would normally make, but the motor whirled as I changed the focus. But Mr Badger seemed not to have a care in the world as he began clearing the patio of nuts and grapes, found his dish and scoffed the lot! He almost came right up to my door and was but 6 feet away (2m), snuffling and shuffling away, poking his long nose in bushes and plants. Eventually he made his way back down the garden, apparently quite satisfied with his night’s foraging so far. I was certainly satisfied with my night’s vigil, I can tell you. I crept down the garden to turn off the shed light for the night, and I could still hear him in the undergrowth there, and I stopped and listened to him for at least ten minutes, wondering what an earth he was up to. Although I could still hear him in the corner of the garden, I pulled out the shed door key, and went back to the house so very, very happy!
Sunday 22nd July 2012
Mr Badger appears to have a routine. The last few nights he has been appearing just after 10:00, doing a general scout around but not coming to the patio area before leaving again. About 10-15 minutes after, or so, he will return again and do another scout, eating what tit-bits he can find. Now on the third occasion, usually within the hour, he will return and appears more adventurous for he will come to the patio area where his peanuts and red grapes are, and can be less than six feet (2m) away from me where I am crouched in my dining room.
The previous night he was disturbed by a neighbour making some noise whilst he was busing himself around my birdtable. And oh my, I had never seen him move so fast! There was a streak of his fur, and a rustle and a thrash of the bushes as he dashed through them to exit my garden. But he did return later that night and ate up everything left out for him, and no doubt any creepy-crawlies he could sniff out.
Tonight I observed him for the first time to sit and scratch his chin, a little like a dog does. He did this a few times, and I could even hear him later further down the garden. I could also see up closer how powerful his legs and claws were. I managed to get quite a few photos off with the Nikon this night, and also decided to take them without the restriction of the tripod. Even I was bolder and was not concealed from him for quite a while as I snapped away, and he seemed not to be bothered by me. He just ambled around my garden in the full glare of the floodlight, kitchen light and shed light, like he was out in the daylight with hardly a care. I got a bit wary and nervous myself when he came sniffing quite close to my patio step, but he sniffed his way back, and did another tour of the whole garden before vanishing in one of the deepest, darkest corners.
Tuesday 24th July 2012
Apples seem to go down well Monday night. I had diced an apple and left it out, and watched him as he appeared just after 10:00. There was no mooching around in the bushes tonight, he was straight down the path, munching and crunching as he came, spotting a piece of apple and then it was gone within his open maw, being crunched in no time at all. But he seem disinterested in the rest of the apple, he tentatively sniffed it as I sat in the doorway, and then searched around for more peanuts which seem to be his preference, sniffed the apple pieces again then wandered off as he does. Yet, in the early hours he must have returned for the bits of apple had all gone.
It was a hot and humid late evening tonight, and boy, he was early arriving – 9:40 – catching me out in the midst of my garden, not for the first time. He looked in my direction whilst I played statues by my back gate, and then chomped on a couple of peanuts before wandering off to his hidey-hole. About 10:10 he appeared again whilst I was in place for my vigil. He wandered the garden, sniffing ad shaking bushes, and then appeared on the patio to eat more peanuts and a few juicy red grapes. The previous night I had placed a dog bowl full of water out for him, but he seemed wary for some reason. It was brand new, so no trace of dog scent was upon it. Maybe he had a bad experience with a dog bowl when snooping and sniffing around somebody else’s garden, I don’t know. I will have to try something different, to see how that goes.
Thursday 26th July 2012
It is said that not many people have seen a badger, even those who live in rural settings, such is their nocturnal way of life. Mr Badger here seems to have got set in a routine of early arrival around about 10:00 now, and he has enjoyed more apples and red grapes, green grapes, and is quite partial to the odd strawberry and handful of raisins. Of course he has his peanuts, which he sniffs out with ease as he toddles about my garden, and gobbles down quite audibly. Some folk have suggested I try him on a diet of cat food, but oh boy, all that will do is attract more cat to my garden! I notice he has a strange little way when he is uncertain of things, or picks up a smell on the night air which makes him a little nervous. He kind of does a little tentative gallop as he approaches, say his dish of peanuts on occasion, skipping back a little before edging forward. I also notice that when he is spooked he will run off, but not far or out of the garden as before, but will continue to have a snoop around and about. I tried a different container for the water instead of the dog bowl, a tupperware dish, and this does not seem to bother him, although I have not actually seen him drink out of it, he does seem more comfortable going near it. I can’t help thinking that when I set myself to watch for him, whether he will come or not this night, or any other night, that something may happen to him on his nocturnal journeys. So one must be grateful at each time he ventures a visit, for one never knows when it might be his last.
Saturday 28th August 2012
Well, it has been just over a month since my last diary entry, and I have also been away on holiday for a week, during which time I was unable to put any food out for Mr Badger, and I wondered whether he would be there the night I returned home. And to my great relief he was! I had placed out his nuts and some pieces of apple, and that first night back he ate the lot. He must have been popping in and out just to see if there was any food available for him, which proves that indeed my garden has become a regular haunt of his. He seems to eat most things apart from his peanuts and fruit. He has also eaten left over dinners, cheese, bread, and even some pancakes! Mr Badger is always a delight to see, and he appears as lively and as curious as ever.
Sunday 28th April 2013
After having enjoyed regular visits from our black and white-striped friend during the summer and autumn months of last year, the last time he had visited was Boxing Day, and since then there had been no sign of him until recently. At the beginning of April there were the tell-tale signs of digging in the garden amongst the flowerbeds, and of stones being upturned in the water feature. These were signs of joy as they indicated that Mr Badger was back. Peanuts I had been placing out the night before began disappearing, and alas, I spied him from my patio window from where I took these recent photographs.
Mr Badger continued to visit right up until late December of 2013, until he vanished until the following spring once again. I saw him briefly in March 2014, and have not seen him since. In the spring of 2014 Mr Badger had apparently been displaced by a Mr or Mrs Fox, who appeared to take up his spot for the remainder of the year, eating peanuts I placed out, until he or she vanished never to be seen as 2015 opened its doors.
This was an experience which will stay with me always, and I will always be grateful for the times Mr Badger came and visited me in my own backyard.
For more photographs and information on this magnificent mammal please view my posts below: