Guess who’s coming to dinner

We had a visitor last night. It isn’t unusual because we live in the middle of nowhere and have fed the wildlife since we moved in nearly twenty years ago. We get everything – from deer and foxes, to weasels, rabbits, snakes, frogs, toads, lizards and bats. The bird life is varied too – with owls, sparrow hawks, honey buzzards, woodpeckers and just about every little bird you can imagine. We don’t have hedgehogs though and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the family of badgers living only yards away from the garden. They come round every night for the jug of peanuts we scatter on the path and during the summer I have a clear view through the study window as I sit in front of the computer.

Many years ago we had a phone call from our neighbour one Easter Sunday morning. He had something to show us, so we got in the car and drove up the lane. (Yes… we really are that remote!) He took us round the back of the farm to an old horse-box parked outside the barn. With a big smile on his face, he opened the little groom’s door to reveal…

…two tiny badger cubs! It seems he found one while out on his quad bike checking the sheep. He did the sensible thing and left it alone, but went back much later and it was still there. There was no sign of Mum and during the search, he found a sibling, so he took them both home and contacted a badger expert for advice. Over the next few months he and his family raised both cubs before digging an artificial sett for them, although we heard later that they often made the journey back to the farm where they would simply stroll into another neighbour’s kitchen looking for a free meal. Eventually the updates stopped, but I will always remember the time he motioned for us to climb into that horse-box and play with the cubs.

It was only after we had been feeding the badgers for a good few years when we realised they actually came from two separate groups. One lived very close to our garden and consisted of anything up to seven members. There may well have been more, but that was the maximum number we ever saw at one time. (It was also about then that we started buying peanuts in 25 kilo sacks!) The other group only seemed to contain a pair, who could sometimes be spotted heading along the edge of our fields from the direction of the river. These two were older and much more friendly and with time we were able to get within a few feet. I called one Scruffy and the other Nessy and it was on the longest day of the year that Scruff turned up well before sunset. I rushed inside to grab my camera and this was the best image taken from a distance of only six feet.

Scruffy

Life isn’t always easy for a wild animal and the last few winters have been very hard. The last time I saw Scruffy he was looking his age and appeared to be lame on one hind leg, but as he ate his supper directly from the peanut jug, he let me tickle him under the chin. That was well over 18 months ago and Nessy too vanished a few months later. Since then I have often wondered if they were the two cubs we played with one Sunday morning so very long ago. Imagine our surprise when we found an elderly badger on our path yesterday in broad daylight. I rushed inside to get my camera again and the featured image here was taken from a distance of only four feet. The badger had settled down, as they often do when eating, but when he had finished and started to wander off, it was clear he had a pronounced limp. Having got to the peanuts first, he had a full stomach and was a very happy badger.

And I’m a happy bunny…

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